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

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.

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