Las Vegas Muslim-Americans: Eliminating the Distance
I make theatre because I want to eliminate the distance between people, to make the unknown known.
When I produced the play VEILS last Spring, I was intimidated by what I didn't know. I reached out for help to the UNLV Muslim Students Association and they reached back. They introduced me to Afsha Bawany, who then connected me to Aslam Abdullah. He invited me to this mosque to attend his prayer service and meet him, and I went. I was nervous. What would it be like? Would I be welcome? Would I look foolish? Would I offend anyone with my ignorance of their rituals? I had butterflies, but I can't stand the feeling of fear due to ignorance, so I went. I wanted to do the play, and the people it was about justice.
What I found when I got there were some looks of surprise followed immediately by welcoming smiles and hands outstretched. I feel silly in retrospect. As usual the fear of a stranger was instantly erased by the warmth of kindness and compassion, and a chance to make new friends. I was with my actor Julet A. Lindo, and we were electrified by the offer to rehearse the play at the mosque. I came back with my company. Natalie Senecal and Julet gave the gift of their vulnerability by rehearsing in front of others, knowing we had a long way to go, so that people could correct any mistakes about dialect, language, and prayer ritual. What a relief to have their help!
They returned the gift of vulnerability and came to the theatre to see the play, and share in the open and deep discussion with playwright Tom Coash about Islam, women, and political struggle. It was a marvelous experience. I have since seen my friends suffer the pain of all that has unfolded in recent days. They are reaching out to the rest of the Vegas community to eliminate the distance between us once again. I hope that everyone who can will reach back.