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Jamil Khory, visiting playwright, and Neil Blackadder, professor of theatre, workshop an early draft of "Mosque Alert."


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Students Play Important Role in Development of New Play

Jamil Khory, visiting playwright, and Neil Blackadder, professor of theatre, workshop an early draft of "Mosque Alert."

by Niki Acton '16

The residency of playwright Jamil Khoury is giving Knox students the chance to be at the front line of the development of Khoury's new play, Mosque Alert. Students have workshopped the play, attended discussions, and are now in rehearsal for its world premiere.

Directed by professor of theatre Neil Blackadder, Mosque Alert imagines a proposed Islamic Library and Community Center in downtown Naperville, Illinois, that incites local residents into heated debate as a City Council vote looms.

Khoury, visiting playwright and the artistic director of Chicago theatre company Silk Road Rising, has already hosted several workshops and presentations at Knox in an effort to start a dialogue about the issues examined in Mosque Alert. He has screened short films "Meet Mosque Alert" and "Multi Meets Poly: Multiculturalism and Polyculturalism Go on a First Date," and hosted talk-backs with the Knox community.

"There are a lot of conversations happening across the country about Islam and about Muslim diasporas," said Khoury, who thinks the play is important to bring to Knox students. "There's curiosity, there's fear, there's ignorance -- there's a whole spectrum of ideas and perceptions."

Inspired to write the play by the 2010 backlash against a proposed Islamic community center set to be built near the site of the World Trade Center attacks, Khoury believes that it's important to unpack and untangle the perception of the Muslim community.

"The overwhelming majority of a community isn't involved in these heinous crimes, and yet these crimes are being committed in the name of that community," said Khoury. "What is the responsibility of those individuals and institutions and communities to respond to that? There are really tough questions -- questions that don't have firm answers."

Knox students have already started thinking about these questions as they workshopped early drafts of Mosque Alert. Over the course of fall term, Blackadder and Khoury hosted four workshops that were attended by a variety of Knox students. Khoury brought material that the students read and responded to, asking questions and helping Khoury determine what was and wasn't working in the piece.

"Each workshop really informed and accelerated my own process of rewriting and revising," said Khoury, who is still at work revising the play.

Khoury will return to Knox on February 2 to host another film screening and talk-back. He will stay for a week of rehearsals before returning to Chicago. He'll be back again for the performances to host talkbacks after each show.

His artist's fee for the production of Mosque Alert has been supported by an Illinois Arts Council Agency grant. Funded through the StARTS (Short Term Artists Residencies) program and matched by Knox College, the grant has helped to fund the on-campus activities of Khoury.

Mosque Alert will open on Wednesday, February 25 and run through Saturday, February 28. Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for senior citizens and Knox College alumni; and free to all Knox students, faculty, and staff. Tickets are available at the door one hour before each performance, or by making advance reservations at 309-341-7472.

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Printed on Monday, November 29, 2021