What was the post-Festival response to We Live in Cairo after the 2016 Festival?
Well, everyone was very nice to us, so at least to our face it was positive. But in all seriousness, we’ve been blessed to have been given opportunities after the NAMT Festival that have allowed us to continue to grow and develop the piece in exciting and innovative ways. I think those who saw the NAMT presentation saw potential in the story, and our collaborators have truly made We Live in Cairo
something beyond just a musical, but an opportunity to build a community of artists with a connection to and interest in the Middle East.
Did presenting We Live in Cairo at the Festival help you discover anything new about the show? What development have you done on the show since then?
We realized this was a story that needed to be told. We also realized we had a lot more work to do to tell this story with the truth and complexity that it necessitates. After the Festival, we had a productive workshop with the beautiful team at New York Theatre Workshop then travelled to Cairo to develop the piece with students who were involved in the revolution.
We Live in Cairo is about to have its world premiere with the A.R.T in Boston. What have you been doing to prepare for the production, and what has your partnership with the A.R.T. looked like?
Gah! A whole slew of rewrites, long days with our director (the brilliant Taibi Magar), sleeping (studies are now saying 7-9 hours in the sack, so we’re abiding by those), and listening to our creative impulses as well as the voices we trust. The A.R.T. is an incredible place because they lead with the art. For We Live in Cairo, it was of the upmost importance that the show be an exploration and celebration of Egyptian and Arab identity. Diane Paulus, Diane Borger, Mark Lunsford and Ryan McKittrick—the brilliant team that makes up the institution—have respected our hopes and desires and then some. They have been by our side in finding the voice for the show and have connected us with some of the great Egyptian thinkers and artists of our time.
What are you most excited to share with audiences when the show opens next month?
We’re most excited to remind people of one of the greatest revolutions in modern history—one sparked by young people who had a deep love for their country and quite literally put their lives on the line for dignity, respect and freedom. And while ‘excited’ is not the word for it, we’re eager to give American audiences more than just the comfortable narrative that stops with the pictures of millions in Tahrir Square. Today, Egyptians are living in a military dictatorship that is getting increasingly authoritarian, and yet these students, these revolutionaries, are living every day, finding ways to cope. We hope this show gives people a glimpse of lives beyond theirs and inspires further examination into Arab culture.
What do you hope is next for the show, and how can NAMT members who are interested in its future development get involved now?
We hope it has a robust future life. We hope Arabs and Arab-Americans will see it and will be inspired to make more theater about the Middle East. We hope the show starts a conversation and reminds people of the power of one voice.
Why should people plan a visit to Boston to check out the world premiere?
Because the A.R.T. is a magical place, and no matter what you think about the show, we promise you’ll feel the energy of a bunch of artists giving it their all to make something that matters.
For more information about We Live in Cairo and to buy tickets to the upcoming production, visit the A.R.T. website.