The Who and The What
At the beginning of April, when it seemed winter would never end in New York, I traveled to uber-sunny Naples, Florida to work on a show at the beautiful Gulfshore Playhouse. The Who and The What is a play about family and secrets, written by Ayad Akhtar (he won the Pulitzer for another of his plays – Disgraced – so, you know, he’s kind of a big deal) and directed by Emily Wells.
When I first read the script for The Who and The What (in 2013) I was struck by the clever writing and the brilliantly complex female characters. It’s so refreshing to read a play that doesn’t present women – let alone women of color – in monotone. These women, the sisters Zarina and Mahwish, are both headstrong and intelligent and flawed and charming. I HAD to do this play!
Thus began a slew of auditions, callbacks, rejections- I’m fairly certain I auditioned for every production of this show! I’d get called in for Mahwish, called back for Zarina, and vice versa. Gulfshore Playhouse called me in for Zarina, called me back for Mahwish and then…nothing. For a month. I figured it wasn’t meant to be. But then Super Agent Man Jim Daly called me the day before Thanksgiving to tell me I booked it!
I spent six glorious weeks in Naples, loving every second we worked on the show and getting my fill of hashtag beach life (ahem the theatre was EIGHT blocks from the beach). It was wonderful to reunite with Rasha Zamamiri, the actress playing my big sister Zarina- the last time we worked together it was 2007 and I was a baby in college, a noob to the theatre world. Rajesh Bose played our father Afzal- he and I have worked together several times through Theatre 167; how fun to have a friend with whom to explore a new city! Eric Clem rounded out our cast as Zarina’s love interest Eli- we only had one scene together (it went like this: “Hey Mahwish.” “Hey Eli.”), so we bonded over our mutual worship of R.E.I. (Mecca!). Friendship sealed 🙂
Closing a show is always bittersweet- it feels good to be back home in New York, but I will truly miss telling this story every night with my wonderful Gulfshore Playhouse family- I can’t wait to return. Enjoy some photos from our production at the bottom of this post!