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Behind The Stacks

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Dark Humorist To Teach Play Writing Workshop

A tragic junior high butchering of “Our Town,” mercifully debuted in an era preceding viral videos, may have been the last play I read cover to cover until recently devouring “Sons of the Prophet” by Stephen Karam. Less than 100 pages, the play promised to be a light reading commitment, yet either well-deserved stage fright or the good sense that some things are best left to professionals just about prevented me from reading it. Nevertheless, knowing that the playwright would be visiting our library in February, and that both the Pulitzer Prize Nominating Committee and TheatreSquared had given their stamps of approval, curiosity overcame hesitation, and I found myself immersed within the first chapter, or should I say, act. By the end, I didn’t know my stage right from my every day right.

Quick, poignant humor endeared me to this dark comedy. On the wake of a tragic family accident, Joseph Douaihy and his younger brother Charles draw from their Lebanese-American family’s values of forgiveness, responsibility and Maronite Catholic suffering as they forge ahead with their lives. Joseph and his brother are both young, albeit opposite spectrums of 20, yet their reactions to difficulties possess the insight and restraint of the venerable.  

The play skillfully balances sidesplitting humor with weighty themes, leaving the reader wanting to hear more from its creator. Well, that’s quite fortunate because Stephen Karam will be at the Fayetteville Public Library on Feb. 2 at 3 p.m. as the featured guest playwright for a special T2 Artists’ Forum.

Karam will join Robert Ford, TheatreSquared Artistic Director and director of the upcoming T2 production of his play, along with cast members, in a conversation led by KUAF’s Kyle Kellams on the creation of “Sons of the Prophet” and the craft of writing. Cast members will also perform a short excerpt from the play. Questions and comments from the audience will be welcomed.

In addition to T2 Artists’ Forum, Karam will lead a playwriting workshop aimed at those who have never written a play before, as well as the more experienced writer, to remind us that ‘we’re all writers.’

He hopes that by the end of the workshop, through simple and fun exercises aimed at ‘freeing up our minds and getting us out of our heads,’ everyone will leave having written their very first short play.
Karam’s other works include “Speech & Debate, Columbinus;” “Girl on Girl;” and “Emma” (a modern, musical version of Jane Austen’s novel). Stephen has been a guest teacher at Brown University, NYU, University of Scranton, The New School and was a 2012 writer-in-residence at the Fieldston School in New York City.

His latest play “Sons of the Prophet,” winner of the 2012 Lucille Lortel and New York Drama Critics Circle awards for Best Play, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and TheatreSquared will bring the first national production since its critically acclaimed New York debut to Fayetteville (Feb. 15-March 3).

I highly encourage you to check out a copy of this play and read it before meeting Karam (the library has several copies).

Don’t be intimidated by the play format because you’ll miss out on a number of beautiful works of literature that tell provocative stories, introduce engaging characters and cover meaningful themes.

While not a substitute for watching skilled actors bring a play to life, reading allows for introspection, re-examination and revived appreciation for theatre.

Many plays, such as Karam’s, encourage contemplation and conversation, and the library offers opportunities for this. By the time this prints, you may have missed TheatreSquared’s play reading group (book club with plays), but mark your calendars for March 27 to discuss the next T2 play on the roster Next to Normal by Tom Kitt. For now though, give “Sons of the Prophet” a read and join our discussion with the playwright Feb. 2.

For more information or to register for the playwriting workshop visit www.faylib.org.

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