“Disgraced,” a new play by Ayad Akhtar, won the 2013 Prize for Drama.
Originally produced at Chicago’s American Theater Company in 2012, it ran at Lincoln Center Theater’s new Claire Tow Theater , the home of the cutting-edge LCT3, directed by Kimberly Senior, “Disgraced “tells the story of Amir Kapoor (The Daily Show’sAasif Mandvi), a successful Pakistani-American lawyer who is rapidly moving up the corporate ladder while distancing himself from his cultural roots. When Amir and his wife Emily (Heidi Armbruster), a white artist influenced by Islamic imagery, host a dinner party, what starts out as a friendly conversation escalates into something far more damaging.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” by Gina Gionfriddo, a searing comedy that examines the psyches of two women in midlife as they ruefully question the differing choices they have made; and “4000 Miles,” by Amy Herzog, a drama that shows acute understanding of human idiosyncrasy as a spiky 91-year-old locks horns with her rudderless 21-year-old grandson who shows up at her Greenwich Village apartment after a disastrous cross-country bike trip.
“4000 Miles” was also a production of LCT3.
Akhtar, 42, is a New Yorker who is the son of immigrants from Pakistan. “It’s such a huge honor. I’m still in shock, actually,” he told the Associated Press, which writes:
The dinner party at the heart of the play brings together two couples and several religious and ethnic identities over pork tenderloin and chorizo. When chitchat touches on Islamic and Judaic tradition, the Quran and the Talmud, racial profiling and Sept. 11 and the Taliban and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Benjamin Netanyahu — along with the requisite alcohol intake — chaos is achieved.
“I really wanted to write a play that was going to have a legitimately tragic dimension for a contemporary audience,” Akhtar said. “I wanted the play to have immediacy and aliveness of engagement that harkened back to a tragic form but a mass form, something that would have audiences gasping.”
He told the Telegraph in London, where he is currently overseeing a UK production of Disgraced: “I’ve been working in the business as a writer for 20 years. I spent a long time in my twenties wanting to write in some universal way. I did that for a while but I couldn’t seem to find any vitality to what I was doing let alone interest in it. It took me 10 years to realise that I was avoiding significant things and the moment I took pause and started asking the question “What am I avoiding?“ that initiated a process that led to so much of the work that’s coming about now. I wrote this and the novel American Dervish around the same time. They just came out of me. They’re opposite sides of the same argument — Amir is the self-loathing sceptic and American Dervish is about a young boy who’s devoutly believing.”