Last night I saw Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Disgraced” at the Seattle Repertory Theater. I don’t get to the theater often but a recommendation from church members that “you HAVE to see this – there is loads of sermon material here” will sometimes, like this time, get me on line and ordering tickets.
Here’s a shout-out to go see it if you can (it’s here through January 31).
In the post-play discussion (held after each performance) an actor noted, “The play will speak to you differently tomorrow, a week, a month from now” and indeed today, I see things I didn’t in the aftermath of this incredible play.
“What is the play about?” the facilitator asks.
“Racism..Prejudice..Violence..Religion…Duplicity…” Indeed, it’s all here.
There’s Amir a successful Pakistani-American lawyer and his white wife, Emily, an artist with a fascination with Islamic art. Abe, Amir’s nephew and a young immigrant from Pakistan. Isaac, a Jewish art dealer and Jory, his African-American wife and a successful lawyer.
The small dinner party turns ugly as each acts against each other and against themselves. Each in turn, questioning stereotypes and acting according to them. Denouncing fears and manifesting fears. Taking their own particular experiences and assuming that they are true for everyone else. There is so much right out of the conversations we are having or need to be having in our families, churches and communities here. But no, not in the way it all plays out on stage.
The issues are all here in today’s morning paper…..
A 73-year-old woman sees something she hadn’t since she was a little girl: her father’s grave. Dorothy Nixon Williams was 6 years old when she saw her father, a black farmer, shot by two white men on the day of the primary election for Georgia governor in 1949. In a one day trial, an all-white jury acquitted his assailants. Thanks to the Emory University’s “Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project” that investigates Jim Crow-era murders of black people in Georgia, Dorothy Nixon Williams was able to visit her father’s grave and take one more step on that long road towards justice and healing.
Donald Trump tops the polls with a “style that degrades people and public discourse” according to Pete Wehner, a former White House adviser and speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
Oxford University responds to demands that the university expunge its history with Cecil Rhodes, including removing a statue of its imperialist graduate and benefactor who as a young 24-year-old declared at a dinner party, “Gentleman, the object of which I intend to devote my life is the defense and extension of the British Empire…we are the finest race in the world and the more of it we inhabit, the better for the human race.”
In Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation of some 30 million people, police arrested seven people with suspected links to Islamic State. (News clips from The Wall Street Journal, Monday, January 25, 2016)
What might have made the dinner party in the play go differently?
It the key in embracing and accepting our differences?
How do we learn to see the gifts in those who have different experiences than our own?
Is the key detachment? Maybe indeed it is true that “attachment” is life’s greatest self-cruelty – our attachment to OUR ideas, our ways, our prejudices.
Where is the White Anglo Saxon Protestant in the play? Is he intentionally missing? Is he the one that through history has set in motion the “wasp’s nest” we see lived out on stage? And what’s his, read “my” responsibilities today? I can so easily assume that everyone else will always be able to get and hold a job, get picked up by a cab, and be treated with respect most anywhere they go. And what does it mean to put down that assumption, look at my own privilege and be open to really listening to another’s experience?
Do I want to be open to being changed?
Can I risk being curious and not rush to condemnation?
“Sitting with the pain and joy of being a human, while refusing to run for any exits, is the only way to become a real human being. Brave is a decision,” Glennon Doyle Melton writes.
After seeing “Disgraced” I recommitted to being brave.
I want to be brave and take one step forward today and move from all that causes “disgrace” to honor and respect for the “others” I meet. I want to be open to a different kind of connection and imagine a dinner party with a happier ending.