Veils and Themes

I am back home, and tired. The trip to see my brother was good. One of the goals was to see the play he produced, Veils by Tom Coash, and it was excellent. I had been working on a post about suspense, but that actually fits quite well into October’s theme about scary stories, and the play is making me itch to write something about it.

Between how mentally tired I am and how quickly this has to be done, in order to fit my four posts a month quota, this will be a short piece. That feels a bit unfair, as I think the play deserves reams of pages of praise, but a few hundred words will have to do.

Veils is about two young women in Cairo, one American and one Egyptian, one conservative and one boisterous and modern. Contrary to most American’s expectations, Samar, the Egyptian, is the one who is more liberal and defiant of tradition, while Intisar, the American, is more conservative in her personality and wears the hijab. Neither of them, however, is a weak-willed woman. They are both activists who fight for themselves and their values, they are both capable of thinking outside the confines of their personal ideologies, and they both have blind spots. On the drive back, my boyfriend and I enjoyed picking apart their personalities, the way their lives lead to their perspectives and what caused their disagreements. The complexity of their characterization is essential to the play, because they are the only characters. Every scene is purely between the pair of them.

I think a story can build a theme in three different ways. One; they can directly talk about a specific issue. Two; they can form an indirect allegory for that issue. Or third, to borrow Tolkien’s word, they can be applicable. You can glean ideas from them that apply to many issues. It’s this last one that I think is most valuable, and that creates the most enduring stories. From its description, Veils at first seemed like the first kind of story, but it was really more of the third. It was about Egypt, but it was About people who disagree while caring deeply about each other. It was about the struggle to have a dialog that allows multiple points of view to be heard. It was about learning to rethinking your own ideas, and see human beings on the other side, instead of just talking points that enrage you because of how Obviously Wrong they are.

So yes, I feel very strongly that this is not only a good play but an important one. I happened to catch the closing night performance of my brother’s production, but it is being picked up in cities across the country. If any of you happen to get a chance to see a showing, take that chance! It is too excellent to miss.

And while you’re it, if you’re in the Atlanta area, keep an eye out for New Origins Theater Company. They are putting together great stuff.

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