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Michael Najjar & Zeina Salame Co-Direct “Zafira and the Resistance.”

Theatre Arts professor Michael Najjar and Theatre Arts PhD candidate Zeina Salame are currently in Minneapolis directing Zafira and the Resistance.
Check out details and highlights of their amazing undertaking here:

New Arab American Theater Works’ production of Zafira and the Resistance, written by Minnesota playwright Kathryn Haddad and directed by Malek Najjar and Zeina Salame, will play October 11–27, 2019 at the Dowling Studio.

The country has come under the spell of a despotic leader and rising anti-immigrant and Islamophobic sentiment.  Arab American school teacher Zafira Khoury and her community get swept into the chaos. What will happen when the local high school becomes a center for the government’s new agenda?

This compelling play takes a critical look at Arab American identity, institutional racism, the generational struggles and fears of Arabs and Muslims and the possibility of collective punishment.

 

Interview with Michael & Zeina, conducted by New Arab American Theatre Works.

What drew you to the show? 
Zeina: I am especially interested in the ways this play takes on exclusionary feminisms that often reduce Arab and Muslim women to woeful caricatures. It features an alternate portrait of such women – one in which hope, joy, resilience, celebration, and chosen family shape their own images in spite of the “resistance” (plot pun intended) of the oppressive society in which it is set.
Malek: What drew me to this show was that it exposes us to a dystopian future that is a frightening mirror of what American looks like today. Also, Kathy Haddad is one of our finest Arab American playwrights, and the opportunity to work with her was thrilling to me.
What do you think audiences need to get from theater in our current political moment?
Malek: Audiences today are hungry for an antidote to the bitter, partisan and fearful atmosphere we are facing as a country now. The hateful, xenophobic rhetoric that is espoused by our politicians is contradicted by theatre that focuses on humanity, empathy, and a more co-existence.

Zeina: Theatre is an inherently political art form – we combine bodies with text and story, layering deeply complex narratives. As such, it offers the most immediate opportunities for audiences, through empathy, to be awakened to apathy and hopefully, activated into allyship.

What does it mean to be working with New Arab American Theater Works? 

Zeina: I had never been a part of the majority in the room until this project. That is a profound moment – to look around the room and realize yourself in so many others. Most especially for me, to be able to freely exchange tales of overlapping and similar lived experiences with women across Arab and/or Muslim backgrounds, layering languages, swapping familiar cultural anecdotes, inside jokes, and family stories without the fear of being misunderstood … it feels radical, nurturing, and like a kind of coming home.

Malek: It means a great deal to me co-directing this production because I have always wanted to work with New Arab American Theatre Works. It is one of the few companies specifically devoted to Arab American theatre, which is my artistic and scholarly focus.

What would you want an audience member to think about before they enter the performance? 

Zeina: I offer a few questions to consider: What biases do we carry that are implicit, that we don’t even realize are there? How do seemingly harmless/benign comments and actions, over time, add up to complicity in the marginalization of others? How are joy, community, and story revolutionary acts?

Malek: Audiences should come to the performance with an open mind, an open heart, and with a desire to see a play they might not expect.

More information: Zafira and the Resistance