Pictured: Molly Denninghoff as Emily and Alexander Salamat as Amir in Ayad Akhtar’s DISGRACED.
In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Unicorn Theatre’s production of DISGRACED through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past “Inside” articles click here.
By Sidonie Garrett
The relationships and the differences between the characters drew me to directing DISGRACED. Our community is part of the United States which is currently a much more openly divided nation in our beliefs regarding human rights, immigration, racial inequality, white privilege, patriotism and many other social and human issues. The life experiences of a group of diverse people determine and inform their interactions with people of cultures, races, and religions different than their own. The issues raised in this play and how the human beings relate and respond are reflective of and resonate with our community, NOW.
This story has an immediacy about it and touches people in Kansas City as it does in every town and city in the US. We are all discussing and grappling with these questions, issues, and feelings every day.
As a white female, I am being purposely mindful of each character’s cultural identity and religious upbringing as it differs from my own. It is important for me to really put myself in each character’s shoes and do my research, so I am informed. Then I am better able to hear the lines as they would impact me IF I was that character/person and help the actors respond and react honestly. I listen to the actors’ experiences and ask them to incorporate them into the creation of their characters.
This is a Pulitzer Prize-winning play; it’s well written and articulates well the importance of understanding others and how much we all desire to be understood. It explores that understanding, or lack thereof, in relationships between people from disparate backgrounds, cultures, races, and religions.
DISGRACED requires finely drawn characterizations and exacting and specific clarity to create the relationships and craft the interactions honestly and with the intention shown in the script. It’s intense work with an emotionally charged and challenging subject matter. Playing in an intimate theatre space requires that the production design team, the actors and I create a believable world for which we have a front-row seat. Finding truth in all the elements will be key to the success of our storytelling.
DISGRACED runs October 18th – November 12th. For more information visit unicorntheatre.org.
Sidonie Garrett is the Executive Artistic Director of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival where she recently directed the 25thanniversary production of Hamlet. She also directed the past three season’s productions, The Winter’s Tale, King Lear and Twelfth Night all awarded Best Play in Pitch Magazine’s BEST OF KC as well as 15 other Shakespeare plays. At Unicorn Theatre she’s directed, How to Use a Knife, The Whale, I’ll Eat You Last, Other Desert Cities, The Motherf*&#%er With the Hat, Time Stands Still, In the Next Room: the vibrator play, Faith Healer, Rising Water, Iron Kisses, Retreat from Moscow, Omnium Gatherum, Thanatos, SubUrbia, The Waiting Room, Desert Holiday, Spinning Into Butter, SantaLand Diaries and co-directed Light/Damage with Cynthia Levin. Sidoine recently directed A Streetcar Named Desire for Kansas City Actors Theatre, and directing highlights at The Coterie include The Macbeth Project: In Spite of Thunder, After Juliet, Mr. A’s Amazing Maze Plays, Little House on the Prairie, Little House by the Shores of Silver Lake, and Of Mice and Men. Sidonie directed Rose’s Dilemma and Greater Tuna for the American Heartland Theatre, and co-directed Tony & Tina’s Wedding (Kansas City and St. Louis) for Fourth Wall Productions. Last year, she directed collaboration performances with the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony, the Art of Love at the Kansas City Museum, and a fully staged production of The African Company Presents with the Black Repertory Theatre of Kansas City. Sidonie also serves on the Board of Directors for the Midwest Dramatist Center. Next up, she will direct Much Ado About Nothing for HASF’s 26thseason, June 12 – July 1, 2018, in Southmoreland Park.