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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Interview- Playwright Nastaran Ahmadi (Strangers)

The Fab Marquee interview by Antonio Minino.

Film noir, green card marriages, movie musical fantasies, and the romance of escapism. This is how the Shalimar theatre company describes Nastaran Ahmadi's new play Strangers, created in collaboration with Shalimar, incorporating interviews to green card marriages, expatriots and immigration lawyers. We wanted to ask Nastaran a couple of questions before her play opens May 28th at The Ontological Theatre.
  • Talk to us about Strangers:
Strangers is a play about a small group of friends and foreigners who gather at a party to celebrate a marriage. On the day leading up to the party, doubts arise on the part of the wedded couple about their future, and spread like a virus through the invite list. But the invite list is small, and the way the virus spreads seems convenient--kinda like in "the movies." Strangers is a uniquely American tale, punctuated with song, a little dance and some film; it's about the obsessive American pursuit of the way life could be, how it ought to be - as opposed to what it is.
  • Have you been involved with The Shalimar Theatre Company before?
The Shalimar has previously commissioned two short plays from me, both of which were produced in ther annual short play festival. For Art, inspired by Susan Sontag's On Photography, was seen in 'Seven Short plays On Photography' in 2006, and Splinter, which was a Finalist for the Actors Theatre of Lousiville 2008 Heideman Award, was seen in their festival 'You People' in 2007.
  • Playwriting has always been your calling.
I am a storyteller, and I knew at a fairly early age that theatre would be my chosen medium. But truth be told, I thought I wanted to be an actor for a long time. In fact, I met most of the members of The Shalimar in September 2000, when we were all members of the Acting Apprentice Company at The Actors Theatre of Louisville. During that season, I submitted a ten-minute play to the In-House Playwriting Competition and won first prize, which resulted in my first production as a playwright. I was hooked after that, and a year later found myself applying to graduate schools for Playwriting rather than Acting.
  • The show description says this play is based on real people and interviews. How did you go about finding green card marriages- it's not necessarily a situation that is flaunted.
I can't take the credit for finding the interviewees. Part of the reason the company wanted to commission a work based on this topic is because they have close relationships with people who have dealt with this issue. I brought my own research to the table, but the company members did all the interviews. Some of these interviews are incredible; you'd be surprised at how willing people are to open up about their experiences once asked. Sometimes, just the presence of an eager audience in the form of an interviewer is enough for a person to reveal a part of her life story that she rarely has the opportunity to tell. It's incredible.
  • Film Noir & multi-media, unconventional ways to share realistic stories. How did you come about mixing this concoction of elements?
At some point during the workshop process, we came across an interview in which someone juxtaposed his impression of America, which was created through the lens of films he'd seen, with his actual experience of the place once he got here. So, in the interviews that had yet to be conducted, we decided to end with some form of the question "What do you think is an iconic American film?" And as we moved forward with the workshop process, we found that in fact, we were curious about our own relationship to film - and how the movies dictate our own impression of contemporary culture. And I specifically became really curious about how much (if at all) we allow movies to dictate what we want an how we live. And, in the end, this element of desire vs. reality has become the crux of the play--Film Noir and multi-media are really used in this piece to underscore, highlight and intensify that core conflict.
  • What is the most important thing you hope the audience takes away from Strangers?
Laughter, tears and a tune in their heads to hum to as they leave the theatre - what else is there?

Show runs through June 6th

The Shalimar presents
Nastaran Ahmadi's
May 28-June 6, 2009
The Ontological Theatre

Tickets: $17 adults/$12 students; To purchase click here or by calling TheaterMania at 212-352-3101

The Ontological Theater | St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street (at 2nd Ave.) | Manhattan.

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