In Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Disgraced (previews tonight, January 8, and continuing through January 31), a New York lawyer named Amir struggles with identity issues after his Muslim heritage is questioned. Amir and his wife, Emily, an artist, host a small dinner party where conversational sparring on politics and culture seem to be the center of the menu. It’s fast and witty dialog, where secrets are spilled and relationships begin to crack.
I read the script of Disgraced in anticipation of seeing the play at Seattle Rep (it was one of my favorite reads of 2015). There’s a lot to talk about after seeing (or reading) this play, and I found myself grappling with some of the same questions that the Rep is using to start wider community conversations in post-play discussions:
1) Is it right for artists to create art about a culture to which they do not belong?
2) What is the reality of being a Muslim American at this moment in time?
3) In a multicultural world, how does your race define you?
A few books I found while exploring those themes:
Velazquez by Rosa Giorgi: Disgraced opens with a scene of Amir posing for Emily, who is working on a painting based on Velazquez’s “Portrait of Juan de Pareja.” Emily uses the same palette and composition in her painting.
Islamic Geometric Design by Eric Brough: Emily incorporates the tiling tradition of Islamic art, design and architecture into her paintings.
No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan: Internationally acclaimed scholar Aslan (author of Zealot: The Life and times of Jesus of Nazareth), covers the origins and evolution of Islam and addresses events that influence Islam’s position in modern culture.
This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror by Moustafa Bayoumi: A new book (published in 2015) of essays on how contemporary politics, movies, novels and the media have produced a culture of fear and suspicion.
In addition to post-play discussions, the Rep is presenting Speak Ups! — moderated panels with activists, scholars and artists — at the theatre, University of Washington and Town Hall Seattle.
Monday, January 11, 7:30 p.m. at University of Washington
Saturday, January 16 following 2 p.m. show at Seattle Rep
Sunday, January 17 at at 7 p.m. at Town Hall Seattle
Saturday, January 23 following 2 p.m. show at Seattle Rep
Can’t make it to a community conversation or panel discussion? Here are more books and videos: Seattle Rep’s DISGRACED: Beyond the Theatre.