Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. – Kahlil Gibran
In many ways, Noor, the strong Arab woman at the center of this story, reminds me of my Sito (Arabic for grandmother), who passed away in August of this year – a week after I signed on to direct Hamtown Races. I think of Noor as a lighthouse – providing guidance, safety, and strength for everyone who encounters her. My Sito was the same way. She was at every concert, performance, holiday, and school ceremony my siblings, cousins, and I ever had. She cheered us on and, as an aspiring singer in her youth, always encouraged me to follow my heart toward the theatre. After Sito’s death, meeting Noor was a gift. This show gave me an opportunity to do something productive with my grief. Hamtown Races became a way to channel my family and my experiences as an Arab-American, a way to honor my grandmother and her legacy. At the heart of this play is a family fighting to stay together, a family fighting to mend their scars, a family fighting for survival. This show came at a perfect time for me.
Before we opened, a woman I looked up to all my life was defeated by racism, hate, frustration, and fear. In the days following the election, Hamtown Races once again provided an outlet for my pain and grief. Theatre-maker Augusto Boal called the theatre a rehearsal for revolution. Each day at rehearsal I felt that I was making a productive piece of the resistance. Inside Margaret’s gorgeous and hilarious words, the cast and I were able to do something hopeful with our anxiety, exasperation, and heartache. We took this examination of Hamtramck, the world in two square miles, and rehearsed mending our wounds, gathering our families, rebelling against the systems of oppression that compel us to criticize each other. This show came at the perfect time for us.
It is my hope that this show might help form a community of theatre-makers and theatergoers who can come together as the ‘massive characters’ needed to begin to effect the positive change needed in our larger story.