Melis Aker & Khris Davis to Lead Arena Stage's LOVE IN AFGHANISTAN World Premiere; Full Cast Announced

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Melis Aker & Khris Davis to Lead Arena Stage's LOVE IN AFGHANISTAN World Premiere; Full Cast Announced

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announces the full company for Charles Randolph-Wright's world premiere drama Love in Afghanistan. Randolph-Wright, a Resident Playwright through Arena Stage's American Voices New Play Institute and director of Motown the Musical currently on Broadway, joins forces with director Lucie Tiberghien (MCC Theater's Don't Go Gentle) to bring to life the tale of two fantastically different people discovering love in the most unlikely of places: war-torn Afghanistan. One, an emerging hip-hop artist, the other, a high-level Afghan interpreter, both fight to navigate the pitfalls of romance, religious differences and political unrest. Love in Afghanistan runs October 11-November 17, 2013 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle.

Arena Stage introduces Melis Aker as young interpreter Roya and Khris Davis as American music star Duke. Aker, a recent graduate of Tufts University and native of Turkey, and Davis, a Philadelphia-based actor, make their D.C.-area debuts. They are joined by Joseph Kamal (last seen at Arena Stage in Anthems: Culture Clash in the District directed by Randolph-Wright) as Roya's father Sadeed and D.C.-area actress Dawn Ursula (Woolly Mammoth's The Convert) in her Arena Stage debut as Duke's mother Desiree.

"Arena Stage is a home for American voices, and it is exhilarating to see Charles' remarkable new play come to fruition here as part of his playwright residency," says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "Charles has established himself both as a strong playwright and terrific director, and we're thrilled to share this unique depiction of Afghanistan as his ninth production at Arena Stage."

"I could not be more thrilled to have embarked on this journey with Charles at Arena Stage," adds Tiberghien. "The story he is telling in Love in Afghanistan, as well as the themes he is exploring, are exhilarating and uniquely thought-provoking. They will undoubtedly generate most extraordinary conversations with Arena's audience. What does it take to thrive as a young woman in Afghanistan today? What does it mean to be a rap star in the United States? How do these two compare? These are only a few of the questions we will be asking and discussing in this play and I am honored to be a part of the conversation."

Randolph-Wright began his three-year residency with Arena Stage in January 2011, and through his research for Love in Afghanistan took the opportunity to connect with numerous individuals and organizations to deepen the authenticity of the script. To further explore themes in the play, Arena Stage will host panel discussions focused on Afghan women's issues, the potential effect of U.S. troops pulling out of Afghanistan and Afghan culture beyond what is portrayed in the media. Details for these events are included in the Public Arena section below.

"Over the years, Arena Stage has given me an amazing gift-the gift of possibility," shares Randolph-Wright. "There have been no limits to what I could try, as a director and now as a resident playwright. I read stories about families in Afghanistan that stunned, fascinated and inspired me, and immediately knew that inspiration would weave somehow into a play. The resulting Love in Afghanistan is a surprising love story in the midst of war. I'm elated to premiere it in the Kogod Cradle-a thrilling space with incredible energy where I've wanted to work since I first saw it."

Melis Aker (Roya) makes her Arena Stage debut. Previous regional credits include I Capture the Castle (Cassandra), Double Indemnity (Lola), These Shining Lives (Pearl) at Stoneham Theatre and Vinegar Tom (Betty) with Whistler in the Dark Theatre. Melis is from Turkey, holds a BA in Drama and minor in Philosophy from Tufts University and a summer certificate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Tufts highlights include Oedipus & Antigone (Antigone), Macbeth (Lady Macbeth), The Importance of Being Earnest (Lady Bracknell) and Elektra (Elektra). Melis also attended the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Proof (Catherine) and appeared in Simon Studio's Bard at the Bar at The Players Club in New York.

Khris Davis (Duke) makes his D.C.-area debut. He has worked primarily out of Philadelphia at theaters including the Quintessence Theatre Group (Othello, Antigone and various other classics) and the Adrienne Theater (First Breeze of Summer). Khris has worked regionally at The Philadelphia Theatre Company (Ruined), The Walnut Street Theatre and the Arden Theatre Company and has also appeared in an episode of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Joseph Kamal (Sadeed) returns to Arena Stage where he was last seen in Anthems: Culture Clash directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. He has also worked at Shakespeare Theatre Company and at Center Stage in Baltimore. He recently completed a production of Prometheus Bound at The Getty Villa in Los Angeles. He has appeared on Broadway in Dinner at Eight at Lincoln Center and off-Broadway at several theaters including New York Theater Workshop, The New Group, The Atlantic Theater and The Culture Project; regionally at La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Rep, The Huntington Theater and ACT Seattle, among others. Film and television credits includePreaching to the Choir (directed by Charles) and guest star appearances on NCIS, 24, Law & Order, The Unit and Lincoln Heights (directed by Charles). He currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Dawn Ursula (Desiree) makes her first appearance at Arena Stage. Other Washington area appearances include Prudence in The Convert at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, where she is a company member, and Ruth in A Raisin in the Sun at Everyman Theatre, where she is also a company member. She earned a 2011 Helen Hayes nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress (and Ensemble) and a 2011 Baltimore City Paper Best Actress Award for the aforementioned roles, respectively. Dawn has performed locally and regionally with such theatres as Hangar, True Colors, The Kennedy Center, Rep Stage, Imagination Stage, Round House and African Continuum. TV credits include HBO's The Wire and PBS' Prince Among Slaves. She is a founding member of Galvanize.

The creative team for Love in Afghanistan includes Set Designer Daniel Conway, Costume Designer Kathleen Geldard, Lighting Designer Mark Lanks, Sound DesignerElisheba Ittoop, Institute Dramaturg Jocelyn Clarke and Stage Manager Christi Spann.

TICKETS: Tickets for Love in Afghanistan are $40-$90, subject to change and based on availability, plus applicable fees. For information on savings programs such as student discounts, Southwest Nights, Pay-Your-Age tickets, HOTTIX and Hero's Discounts, visit arenastage.org/shows-tickets/single-tickets/savings-programs/. Tickets may be purchased online at arenastage.org, by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 Sixth St., SW, D.C.

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