Long Wharf Theatre to Open 2015-16 Season with DISGRACED

Long Wharf Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein and Managing Director Joshua Borenstein, begins its 2015-16 season with Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Edelstein, in association with Huntington Theatre Company.

The production takes place from October 14 through November 8, 2015 on the Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck III Theatre. Tickets are $25-$85.

The cast includes Shirine Babb (Jory), Benim Foster (Isaac), Mohit Gautam (Abe), Nicole Lowrance (Emily), and Arash Mokhtar (Amir). The creative team is comprised of Lee Savage (sets), Ilona Somogyi (costumes), Eric Southern (lights), David Van Tieghem (sound), and Jeff Brancato (stage manager).

Amir and his beautiful wife Emily enjoy their charmed life in New York - he's poised to make partner at a white-shoe law firm while her painting is being considered for a prestigious gallery exhibit. When Amir's teenaged nephew asks for help in defending an imam accused of funding terrorists, a series of emotionally shattering events upends their perfect world, and forces them to confront the compromises they endured to stake out their own piece of the American dream. Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer

Prize, Disgraced is a compelling and provocative tale about the consequences of denying one's own identity.

"One of the most significant themes of the past 20 years in Western culture is the confrontation of Judeo-Christianity with Islam," Edelstein said. "This is a play that deals face to face with the cost of assimilation - what do you lose when you are part of a minority culture and your goal is to assimilate fully into the dominant culture."

"Amir represents a fundamental tension: He is somebody who has been brought up in one direction and is working consciously as an agent of the enlightenment in the opposite direction," Akhtar said in an interview with Broadway Direct. "Everyone at the table has this tension, and when push comes to shove, things devolve to a point where the tribal fealties reveal themselves, basically, in everyone's character."

The seeds of Disgraced were planted in 2006, during a dinner party discussion. The talk turned to Islam and the difficulties European countries were having with integration. When Akhtar expressed his opinions on the topic, he felt his friends were surprised by his position on the matter. "What I saw, subtly, was the way in which folks' idea of me, even people who knew me very well, changed because I articulated certain things about my experience of being Muslim. And that struck me as an inherently powerful vehicle, or idea for a story," Akhtar said in a 2014 interview with Guernica magazine.

This conversation, coupled with Akhtar's interest in writing about the affluent intelligentsia in New York City, gestated for several years before he began work on the piece. The play premiered in Chicago in 2012 and ascended to Broadway in 2014.

"I think that, at its best, what the theatre does is, its gathers us together. We, social herding animals, arrive together in a room and we behold something that actually happens before us, not something mediated to us by a screen, but the presence of live performers, which hearkens us back to a kind of experience of a ritual, and an experience of one mind, one body, a kind of communion that happens in the audience between audience and performers that allows us, reaches into us, where we can experience more deeply than we can individually," he said.

Akhtar, also a novelist, screenwriter, and actor, is currently working on an adaptation of the play for HBO. "I think of myself as a narrative artist. I don't think of myself as a novelist or screenwriter or playwright. All of those modalities of processing and experiencing narrative are obviously very different, and I'm not sure that I prefer any one to the other," Akhtar said.

For more information about Long Wharf Theatre's 2015-16 season, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

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