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February 23, 2015
After months of workshops, revision, and rehearsals, Mosque Alert will see its world premiere this week. For the students involved in the production, the play has been an exciting opportunity to work with a professional playwright and engage with national issues.
Written by visiting playwright Jamil Khoury and 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, who is the artistic director of Chicago theatre company Silk Road Rising, hosted several workshops and presentations at Knox in an effort to start a dialogue about the issues examined in Mosque Alert. He 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. Together with Blackadder, he also led several readings and workshops of early drafts of Mosque Alert in order to get student feedback. Read more about Khoury's work on-campus.
For first-year Jayel Gant, who will portray Hadiya Hussein in the upcoming production, the development process was an exciting learning experience. Gant is interested in playwriting herself, and decided to go to the fall term workshops after the screening of Khoury's video, Not Quite White.
"It was amazing to see the process Jamil went through," she said. "As an actor, I find it very useful to have the background knowledge from the workshops, along with being able to talk with Jamil directly about what he wants from a character."
Above, photos from rehearsal and production meetings; more photos in an album at the Knox College Flickr channel.
Senior Ayesha Fariz will play Amina Hussein in her first mainstage production at Knox. Fariz, who is Muslim, thinks that the play is important to bring to the students of Knox and the surrounding Galesburg community. She hopes that the complexity of the play's treatment of the many social, cultural, and political issues that arise within the Muslim community will encourage the audience to engage with Islam and leave them with a lot of big questions.
"I am curious as to how my peers and the rest of the Knox community are going to react," said Fariz. "It definitely provoked reactions from the cast when we read through the script, but it just goes to show how opinionated people can get on religious and political subject matters in real life."
Like Fariz, senior Alexia Vasilopoulos believes that the issues at play in Mosque Alert are essential to bring to Knox. "Jamil Khoury holds great passion for a pertinent topic," said Vasilopoulos, who plays Ayesha Khan in the production. "I have had a great time working with such a cultivated and intelligent playwright.
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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