Monthly Archives: October 2010

Notes From the Cast: Joseph Thornhill

Joseph Thornhill (L) and Maboud Ebrahimzadeh (R)

 

How does someone move on from war…?

Imagine waking up one morning, and something feels different.  You get out of bed, put some clothes on, then step outside and look around your neighborhood.  All the windows of neighboring houses are shut, maybe even boarded up.  Many of your neighbors are packing all their earthly possessions into their cars, some only taking what they can easily carry. There’s actually a traffic jam on your street, with cars backed up in every adjoining street as well. The whole world seems to be trying to get on the interstate, trying to get away.  You approach your next door neighbor’s house, but it’s clear no one is home. You go further down the street to ask anyone who you encounter what exactly is going on. Before you even get to the next house, however, you see it….

Across the street. What once was the house of a neighbor is now a burned out husk. You approach the charred wreckage, stunned by the sight of it all, the acrid smell stinging your nostrils. You desperately try to remember if you heard sirens in the night from fire engines.  You don’t see any sign of the home’s inhabitants, but clearly make out the scrawls of graffiti painted on the lawn and driveway. “This is no longer your neighborhood. Get out. Or you are next.”

You run home. The world is now upside down. “Where are the police? Why haven’t they come? How did this happen? How long do I have before the attackers of my neighbors house come back?”  You do as your neighbors do: you don’t think, you grab everything you can, pack up your car, and join the throngs of people fleeing. You aren’t sure where to go, maybe a relative’s house, maybe a friend’s.  The roads are packed, cars barely moving, the traffic jam stretching for miles.  People step out of their vehicles while they wait, discuss what they know. You hear stories of attacks by groups of armed men on sleeping families. Roadblocks. Executions.  Angry civilians seeking retribution for wrongs done to their families, to their neighborhoods. Overnight, the established order is gone, and the birth pains of a new order are beginning.

I’ll stop here, and I’ll ask my initial question again. How does someone move on from war? What exactly is that adjustment like from war to peace? Especially in situations where the war was a war of neighbors, a war of families.  When all is said and done, when the cease fire is called, when the treaties are signed, how do get up and go to work the next day remembering what your neighbors did to you, to each other, or what you did to them?

For one character I play in the show, the janitor Fahim, those questions were central to how I would portray him on stage.  He committed a terrible crime against humanity, and never suffered any consequences for it.  He wasn’t a commander or leader, he was a grunt, someone who followed orders. However, in spite of his apparent powerlessness, his one moment of redemption reveals that he was never without power.  He could have made different choices, he didn’t have to go along with crowd.  How does that weigh on a man’s soul? How does he wake up day after day for decades after and accept what he did.  Can his life ever feel fulfilled knowing that the greatest thing he ever did was the worst thing a man could possibly do?

Can the victims of violence ever forgive? Can people learn to overcome the cycle of hate and violence which tears apart so much of our world’s surface? Can those of us in the United States ever come to understand that we too play a role in our own cycle? As of September 2010, there were approximately 1.5 million internally displaced people in the country of Iraq. 1.5 million people who fled their homes following the overthrow of the old order, and the advent of the new.  1.5 million stories, all different, yet all the same. 1.5 million memories of anger, victimization, and loss. 1.5 million cries to make sense of it all. 1.5 million Fahims.

–Joseph

 

Notes From the Cast: Tina Ghandchilar

What Scorched Means to Me….
When Dove first brought this script to my attention so many thoughts were racing through my mind….what a brilliant masterpiece…not only was Wajidi able to depict the different daily life struggles of individuals through his eloquent usage of language, imagery, and concepts….he gave me the sense that no matter what race, gender, cultural background we come from, the harsh brutality of life’s everyday events will forever exist. I remember crying my eyes out as I was reading this page-turning play and immediately being able to identify, to some capacity with each character’s emotional journey.  Scorched read as a screenplay for me….sure enough, the day came when all of us in the cast were jumping out of our pants as Dove showed us the trailer for the international film version premiering in Toronto.
To tie in with what Maboud was saying, and in accordance with the character, Janine’s standpoint, all of us wonder about our own identity and how we fit into a specific shape or sequence pattern in life.  Where and how do we stand as individuals? And how do we connect with others in our families, or with the world in general? As an Iranian-American, born and raised in the Northern Va area, I have always been exposed to yet sheltered within the DC-metro pop, and political cultural streams of life, completely blinded to the fact that what the media wants us to see or hear merely paints a picturesque image of the realities of war….war is global and it affects us all. Sometimes we tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses and tunnel vision because it is difficult to even fathom the physical, emotional, and mental/psychological tolls war can take on all of us, and what the inhumane outcomes can be. I can easily say that for the first time in my life, I feel like I am starting to really get a true sense and meaning of my own background as I have been “interviewing” my immediate relatives.  Both my parents are from Iran, and were involved within the Shaw regime as political revolutionists back in the mid-late 70’s. After coming to the states and receiving their graduate education at American University, they were forced to remain in the area, (since my father’s Iranian citizenship was officially “blacklisted”) and build their new lives in northern Va on a whopping $200.
Scorched is truly a diamond in the rough and by being a part of this incredible experience, it has been an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity allowing for all of us to unite in some way shape or form by stripping away Hollywood glamour and leaving us with simplicity and honesty.
–Tina

Notes From the Cast: Rachel Beauregard

Rachel Beauregard as Janine

 

 

 

 

 

The most popular question people ask me is “what’s it like doing this play [Scorched]?” This is usually after they have seen it and are still somewhat dazed and contemplative. I like to throw the question back, “What’s it like seeing this play!?!”

I fell in love with it the first time I read it, and can remember how I felt- the awareness of swallowing and breathing. Ask anyone and they will tell you: IT’S INTENSE. But now that we’ve opened and are performing it several times a week, it’s taken on a new life to me. I am so protective of it. I want the audience to have the same reaction I did when I first followed the journey of these people. We’ve all experienced war and understand its cruelty, but most of us in America have no idea what it’s like to have your house burnt down, to have witnessed a family member murdered in front of you, to walk in fear all the time. This play takes us there. It’s not afraid to spell things out. It’s not afraid even though I am, and I’m thankful for that.

A woman from Lebanon approached several of us last week after seeing the show with eyes full of tears, “so much of that play was my family’s story- the refugees, the burnt buses, the barefoot mother” she said. “I was the first to get an education.” I didn’t know what to say. She said “thank you,” I smiled and thought to myself, “NO! Thank you! YOUR courage to fight and continue and seek life is not comprehensible to me! I’m an actor! YOU’RE A LEGEND.” I didn’t say that, though, because I was at a loss for words. I probably will be until this play is over, and I’m thankful for that, too.

–Rachel

 

Notes From the Cast: Maboud Ebrahimzadeh

In a series of blog entries from some of the Scorched cast and creative team members, we introduce Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, who plays Ralph/Militiaman/Nihad. Here are his thoughts on “What Scorched means to me.”

To Anybody-

When Michael “hasn’t-been-called-Mike-since-middle-school” Dove asked what I would be able to talk about in an interview regarding Scorched, I knew that what worried him was not what I’d say, but how many spoilers it would contain. So, in lieu of not ruining the ending, let me tell you about what this play means to me.

In my mind, one of the key ideas this rumbling storm cloud of a play presents is identity- more succinctly put, personal identity. Most would describe an identity as the make up of who we are. A series of seconds, thoughts, the details of our origins, and emotions that are present, then embraced, and then annihilated the moment another arises, which is immediate if not entirely understood at once. We- humans, people- change constantly, but one thing we cling to is our sense of identity- which series of moments, thoughts, et cetera that we choose to define as our “identity”. And herein lies the crux of my attachment to this play.

When you come to the realization that one of the fundamental cores of your perceived identity is under fire- a belief, your heritage, your real name, your true age are found to be untrue, who does that make you- what effect does this conflicting information do to ones sense of identity.

My past can be described as hazy at best- the memory of my past, even worse. All I know is what I was told. My memory fails me because I was too young to know that the earliest moments of my life were lived under extreme duress. I was a child. Barely two years old when my parents fled the country not in the quiet comfort of an airplane, but on horseback under the cover of the night, through the mountains and deserts, to the tunes of mass protests, gunfire, and explosions.

This summer during a road trip across the country, I passed through the mountains of Colorado, into the deserts and mesas of Utah, before reaching a gaping canyon in Arizona when I realized that my parents made this very same journey, saw the same awe inspiring sights more than twenty years prior. But they were not in Colorado, Utah, or Arizona- or in awe for that matter- they were in fear.

This story never connected quite so deeply with me until I realized this. I was driving on a beautifully paved modern road, playing a podcast through my iPod into the cars blaring stereo, eating a sandwich with organic peanut butter and honey on a beautiful sunny day where the only real danger was having the windshield get dirty because a bug decided to take a break from beating his wings at a most inopportune time unbeknownst to him… or her… (Bugs have genders, right?) This is when I realized that this was my past. Or perhaps just my parents’ past. It wasn’t so much part of me as I was part of it.

Does that mean that it is or isn’t part of my identity. If it isn’t, then what is? The many years in Germany that I vaguely, and I mean vaguely, remember? Or the beginning of my memory. If nothing else than my identity is simply built on a story of my parents’ life until I was able to remember. Did my identity begin at the same time as my memory? When I discovered my favorite food? That can’t be because I still don’t know what that is. Or was it when I finally decided what I wanted to do with my time? Or is it the stuff I do between the times when I’m earning money and lying around?

This question, or should I say conversation, of my identity has always been in the back of my mind. Is our identity based on how we relate to other peoples perceptions of our and their identity? Are we bubbles of people and the definition of our identity based on the surfaces in contact with the surrounding bubbles?

Picture a Venn diagram- the kind with the overlapping circles. Except in this one there’s several circles and they all overlap just a smidgen. The center circle being you. Now push the bubbles just far enough away so that they touch each other, but not you. That’s what my diagram has always felt like.

Because for one reason or another, I’m not sure where I can start building my identity on the timeline of my life. Did it start with my birth, the horseback ride fleeing the country, or during that trip across the country twenty-eight years later?

Who am I in the Venn diagram of identity in social society? Am I nobody? Am I anybody?

Scorched forced me to look at this question again. And I think it’s something we don’t look at enough. Whether it causes us to examine who we are, why we are who we think we are, or why we want to be who we’d like to be, it’s questions that force us outside of ourselves- outside of the self we believe we know- to look back inside and find the thing that makes us identifiable… even if that means rambling on about nothing to anybody.

-Somebody

 

Maboud Ebrahimzadeh and Joseph Thrornhill

 

OpenAccess – Episode 3!

In our third episode of OpenAccess, we interview Dana Levanovsky, Amy McWilliams, and Rena Cherry Brown…who all play the character of Nawal in SCORCHED.

‘Wajdi Mouawad Discusses Scorched’

From a CBC News article on playwright Wajdi Mouawad, writer of Scorched.

The Lebanese civil war “was a very shameful war, where fathers killed sons, where sons killed their brothers, where sons raped their mothers,” Mouawad says. “They didn’t want to explain to my generation what had happened. Strangers had to tell me my own story.” — Wajdi Mouawad

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/theatre/story/2008/09/19/f-wajdi-mouawad-scorched.html#ixzz1197NwN4n