As a young American born Orthodox Muslim, Amir Abdullah noticed a virtual absence of Islam in the American artistic narrative. He has set out to change that with his new play, Pray to Ball, which makes its world premiere debut at the Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles on April 26, 2014.
“Many in our faith argue that being an artist is un-Islamic or unstable. I felt in a sense that it was actually my duty as an artist, and as a Muslim American, to explore the experience and face head on any struggles I had with my identity or my faith. Through the process of writing this piece I found that it is a universal theme among all who practice a faith, to struggle with it… whether they admit it or not. Couldn’t this actually bring more stability to my commitment? The journey to find my voice as a playwright is part of all this too. It has begun with this play, and the opportunity has opened so many wondrous and unexpected new doors,” says Amir.
As an African American, Amir felt the importance of creating work that rang true to the complexity of his daily life. A story with humor, and characters that were much more complicated than at first glance. He hoped to go beyond the stereotypes and structures we now hold to be genuine, and create something that would give audiences a whole new perspective. Equally important, as a developing writer, Amir wanted his story to be accepted by theatre purists, focusing on structure and conflicted characters, in addition to pleasing the atypical theatergoers.
Working through the INKubator Series, a monthly play reading and development program at the Skylight Theatre Company, Amir presented a first glimpse of his new play. The artistic team there, and audiences, share their insightful impressions after these readings, during what is called an INKonversation session. This helps to shape the future of the play and potentially allow it to become a main stage production. The collaboration process creates clues as to how the piece might be fully staged. The focus stays on developing challenging new work while supporting and nurturing the artists that create it.
“My journey towards Pray to Ball began in a lonely one room apartment in MacArthur Park. At that moment, I couldn’t have imagined where it would end up. But, a huge step in the process was being able to experience it through INKubator, with good actors giving voice to those characters. All of a sudden I know if the relationships are working, if the characters ring true, and where I’m going to go from there.”
How about now, where does it go from here? Amir gives an enthusiastic laugh which indicates that he’s way ahead of the question, “hopefully, out to regional theaters, and then to New York! I am planning to further develop this story into a film.” Does that mean that the journey would begin all over again in that lonely one room apartment in MacArthur Park?
Pray to Ball opens April 26thand runsFridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through May 25, 2014. The Skylight Theatre Complex is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont, LA, 90027. Tickets are $30 - $34. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online.