BWW Interview: Haysam Kadri of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS at Arena Stage
There is nothing unusual about actors reprising roles. The late Carol Channing and Yul Brynner made a career out of doing just that. In the case of Haysam Kadri and A Thousand Splendid Suns at Arena Stage, this production is more than just a chance to revisit the role of Rasheed. It is an opportunity to return to a play he not only finds deeply moving, but one he has experienced as both an actor, director, and now as an actor, again.
"It [A Thousand Splendid Suns] is really the gift that keeps on giving," says Kadri in a phone interview after rehearsals. "I've been able to be on both sides of the stage, which has given me an incredible perspective when it comes to both acting and directing the piece."
Adapted for the stage by Ursula Rani Sarma, A Thousand Splendid Suns is based on the best seller of the same name by Khaled Hosseini. It is about the story of two women and the bond that connects them amid war-ravaged Afghanistan.
"The play is a story of love, loss, and the human spirit told through the lives of these two women. While the play is based on the book, it has a different trajectory. However what really stands out in the play is that it feels like Afghanistan is itself a character," says Kadri.
His relationship with the play dates back to the 2017 world-premiere production at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. "Interestingly enough, I wasn't supposed to be in the show but the part of Rasheed had yet to be cast. So I sent in a video, and our director, Carey Perloff, saw it and cast me," said Kadri.
After touring regionally with the play, performing it at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, Seattle Rep., and Theatre Calgary, Kadri was offered a unique opportunity to direct a production in his native Canada. What followed were productions in London, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia, featuring Kadri's direction.
"Directing Carey's original stage production in Canada, it was really quite an illuminating experience," says Kadri. "When you see a different actor in a part you play, they obviously have a different energy, a different cadence, a different relationship to the play. However, seeing that is an invaluable opportunity because you get to experience the character, and the play itself, in a different way."
Kadri adds, "In this production I go back to playing Rasheed. He is quite vitriolic, and at first glance you look at him as the transparent villain. But having played him now, and having directed another actor in the role, I've continued to work and evolve the character. He's much more 3-D than when I first started."
Reuniting with Kadri in Arena's production is Director Carey Perloff who helmed the world premiere production. He credits her with not only shaping the play, but giving it the opportunity to develop.
"Why this play is so successful is because it is not only epic in scope, but in how it is structured as well. The play has had some time to reflect and ruminate and that's all Carey. She has been the one who has been committed to improving the story and telling it the best way she can," says Kadri.
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. War in Afghanistan. It is a milestone Kadri is well aware of and one of the reasons why he wanted to perform the play in Washington, DC
"Part of the reason I wanted to come here was because of Molly Smith's programing and Carey's direction. But the other reason is because DC is quite a discerning theatre audience. Even though we are approaching the 20th anniversary of the war, Afghanistan is still a topical part of the American landscape. And, I feel that this beautiful story of hope and resiliency is going to resonate big time with this city," says Kadri.
A Thousand Splendid Suns runs thru March 1st at Arena Stage - 1101 6th St SW, Washington, DC 20024. For tickets please call (202) 488-3300 or click here.
Photo: Haysam Kadri. Credit: Arena Stage.