Q. This is your first show here at Covenant — what initially compelled you to try out for an absurdist play of all things?
A. Originally I wanted to be in Matthew Mindeman’s SIP, Hamlet, as a weird way of saying goodbye. But then, I discovered Professor Hallstrom was doing a comedy, which is a very unique thing. So I tried out for both and got into The Bald Soprano.
Q. You shared that you acted a bit in high school — what shows were you in?
A. In high school, I was Sebastian in The Little Mermaid Musical and Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Q. I could see some of that Wonka funk carrying over into The Bald Soprano perhaps. So, tell me a little more about your upcoming part as the mysterious Arab houseguest, “Mr. Martin — what makes this guy tick?
A. Our production is going to be a tad bit different, but typically, he and the other male lead, Mr. Smith, are very close. It seems that Mr. Martin takes on Mr. Smith’s personality, especially when it comes to making fun of the women in the show. He always seems to side with him. Then again, I’ve always been drawn to side characters that people might not go to a show to see, but may walk out saying, ‘this other side character really made it all come together.’
Q. How does Mr. Martin do that?
A. Just by being goofy. The dynamic between Mr. Smith and his wife is very funny, but it is way more verbal, aristocratic funny. Even though my character is still high class, I think Mr. and Mrs. Martin’s humor is a lot more physical, body language humor—you see a lot more slapstick.
Q. And I understand his wife is somewhat of the southern belle type — how on earth did they meet?
A. Merely coincidence.
Q. Touché. I guess I’ll have to find that out later. So, I’d guess growing up in [ ] as a fluent [ ] speaker has helped you out with Mr. Martin’s accent quite a bit, eh?
A. Well, Mr. Martin is a cartoonish character, but a lot of [ ] accents are very monotonous—either all up or all down. You can’t vary. If the audience were Arab, I would’ve been able to do that, but since the audience is predominately American, I’ve asked Hallstrom if I needed to have that variation in there. It’s not authentic, but because of that, I’m still understandable and interesting.
Q. Out of curiosity, what are some other differences you’ve seen between [ ] and American theater?
A. I think [ ] theater uses accents a lot more, because a lot of our humor comes from verbal usage—what puns you use, what words you use for double meaning to be a “hit” where it might sound like the nicest thing ever but you’re actually insulting someone to their core. You need the variation and tone so that the audience knows ‘what I’m actually saying is not what I’m actually saying.’ Especially now. [ ] theater is very observant of the culture around them. Lebanese theater directors in particular tend to make their productions highly political even if the story has nothing to do with politics. You will always hear about how the politician is a liar in a serious play about romance and love.
Q. Could you me a little more about how your experience as an [ ] has helped you resonate with the play?
A. The Bald Soprano kind of like a game of mad-libs—that’s one way to see it. Another way I look at it is like learning a different language—you know the words, you know the vocab, but somehow, nothing is adding up. When I was first learning the English and listening to Americans talk fluently, the moment I zoned out for a second and then came back into the conversation, it sounded like a completely different subject. Everyone is still engaged, but I’m like, ‘I have no idea what just happened.’
Q. Do you think the play will recreate that “feeling” for the audience?
A. The play is going to look like a completely different culture to the audience. No one has the pauses we do in normal conversation—at least in the U.S. There are many things in this play that we would not do in our culture here, but it’s easy for me, because I’ve been doing that my entire time in the U.S. I’ve just been like, ‘Your culture is weird. It’s completely new to me, but it’s better to adapt than be an obstacle. So I adapt! And that’s what it’s like for me in this play too.