Race & Culture in New SHU Play “Disgraced”

 BY Nicola Paerg

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University theatre arts program is performing “Disgraced” by Ayad Akhtar.

The storyline revolves around an American born-Pakistani lawyer Amir, who is living in Manhattan with his wife Emily. Amir struggles to find a balance between his American culture and his Muslim heritage.

“I visited an Islamic center to help get into character which was interesting because I am Catholic, and was not brought up Muslim,” said junior Andrew Peloquin who portrays the lead character, Amir. “This allows me to let Amir’s voice be heard in the show and I am his vessel while I am onstage, preaching everything that he wants the audience to know.”

The show is open to the general public as well as campus community members. One of the audience attendees was the University President Dr. John Petillo.

“I think it is provocative and it is powerful, and it really forces the audience to deal with their own stereotypes,” said President Dr. John Petillo. “Its showing is important precisely because of the baggage many of us may have regarding these particular stereotypes and the justice or injustices that result from that.”

The Edgerton’s play summary states that Amir is unsettled by the racial injustices that he experiences along with the prejudices suggested by those in his company. 

“It is interesting to see cultural dissonance put into action in such a normalized American setting,” said junior Christina Magliocco. “It clearly shows the differences between the American and Muslim culture, and also shows that you don’t always know what happens behind closed doors.”  

“Disgraced” had its worldwide debut in 2012 at the American Film Company in Chicago. 

In the play, Amir and Emily host a dinner party with another couple. The wife, Jory, is Amir’s coworker, while the husband, Isaac, is Emily’s art dealer.

The four enter a controversial conversation that escalates into a heated argument.

“Justin Weigel (who plays Isaac), said it is like a chess match that is very subtle. My character specifically is very torn between the pride of being Muslim and the desire to fit in as an American,” said Peloquin. 

The play touches upon the topics of religion, race and terrorism.

“This piece speaks to a lot of the topical issues that we are experiencing in the world right now. It leaves you thinking, wondering and questioning your perspectives on things,” said junior Grace Falvey, who portrays Amir’s wife, Emily. 

In 2013, the play won the Pulitzer Prize in the category of drama. 

“It is tough to relate to Amir’s character since I am not Muslim, but I see it as I am acting as his vessel and while I am on stage, I am preaching everything that he wants people to understand about himself,” said Peloquin.

With the exclusion of the intermissions, the play has an approximate runtime of 70 minutes. Within this time, the audience is able to follow Amir and see how his actions pan out through the show.

“The play is racially charged and addresses a lot of topics that many people are uncomfortable with talking about,” said Magliocco. “Amir is unpredictable in his actions and you can not really tell what is going to happen next. It keeps you actively engaged.”

“Disgraced,” will be performed in the “Little Theater” March 28-31. Tickets are available online or at the box office located in the Edgerton. 

About the author

Leave a Reply