By Mary Boyle
Each season, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater chooses one production for their Community Conversations Program, which provides audiences the opportunity to discuss challenging topics, such as identity, religion, politics and Islamophobia, through panel discussions facilitated by leaders from the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion. This season, they wisely chose Disgraced, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Milwaukee Playwright and Rep Associate Artist, Ayad Akhtar. Timely, thought-provoking and, at times, shocking, Disgraced asks the questions that most people are afraid to ask about racism and religion in modern America.
Amir (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) appears to be living the American dream: he's a successful corporate lawyer, he has a classy apartment in the city, and he's married to his beautiful wife, Emily, (Janie Brookshire) who has a successful career of her own, as an artist. Of course, nothing is ever as perfect or simple as it appears on the outside; Amir has a secret: he is a Pakistani-American in a post 9/11 country that has some serious issues with people from the Middle East. While he tries to distance himself from his culture, his wife is inspired by the beauty of Islam, and his nephew, Abe (Imran Sheikh) is struggling with his own identity. Secrets are revealed at a dinner party with Amir's African American coworker, Jory (Austene Van), and her Jewish husband, Abe (Jason Babsinksy), that bring to light our most painful fears, our most close-held beliefs, and our most shameful thoughts.
Directed by Marcela Lorca, Disgraced compels conversation around these difficult topics in the way that only theater can, in a time when they are sorely needed. Playwright, Ayad Akhtar, is a novelist and author of American Dervish, which has been published in over 20 languages worldwide. Disgraced won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and was nominated for the 2015 Tony Award for best play. Akhtar was listed as the most produced playwright for the 2015/16 season by American Theatre.
Disgraced runs through February 12 in the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. Tickets can be purchased online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com, by phone at 414-224-9490, or in person at the Ticket Office, located at 108 E. Wells Street in Milwaukee.
Disgraced has been chosen as the one play this season for The Rep’s Community Conversations Program. This means that after every performance of Disgraced, The Rep will provide audiences the opportunity for facilitated dialogues with leaders form the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion, and Intercultural Dinners moderated by InterFaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. This program is sponsored in part by Cream City Foundation, Will Radler Fund. For more information and to join the conversation online visit www.TalkIdentity.com.