I’ve been saying that a lot in this process. I’ve said it to my designers, to the actors during auditions, even to the playwright. I know it sounds bad, but hear me out. I think I’m on to something.
I know a lot about the world INVASION! lives in, because… well… it’s mine. I’m a first generation immigrant from Turkey and have only recently become a citizen. The play, in simplistic terms, deals with Middle Eastern identity in the Western world. It gives voice to those of us living in the middle of two worlds and struggling with the fact that we do not belong fully to either one. Home is a hard place to define for us immigrant-folk (and those of us whose parents are immigrants) and this play paints a painfully truthful portrait of that experience. So yes, I know that.
But the play is also about the complexity of language and about not knowing. It’s about mistakenly and purposefully misunderstanding, mistranslating, and misplacing the truth. Not just of the facts, but of a person’s identity. It’s a mystery play, where the audience goes on a hunt for the true identity of this figure named Abulkasem. Clues lead to other clues, stories lead to other stories, and truths lead to other truths.So this question of not-knowing, which is a significant force in the play, has become a significant tool for me. I have forced myself to slow down my decision making and let that scary gray area to expand. I’ve enjoyed this
permission to not necessarily be right and to relish admitting my ignorance. Simply saying “I don’t know” as an answer to questions has opened up many possibilities that has surprised and delighted me. My not-knowing has sparked many lively conversations full of many truths, all of which will be in this play. Because this is the kind of piece where two contradicting truths can live side by side without negating either one. If you’ve ever visited theMiddle East, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about with that last sentence.
One thing I should be clear about is that INVASION! does all this political and emotional heavy lifting in the most humorous and irreverently flippant way possible. Because if the people of theMiddle East agree on one thing (and we don’t agree on a lot), it’s that one can and must laugh at everything. Maybe because the play makes me laugh so hard (and so often) that I’ve been able to allow for the discomfort of not-knowing. And now, I feel like I know a lot, and all of the things I’ve discovered about the play through this process feel significant. Not a bad way to start the rehearsal process!
–Evren Odcikin, director of INVASION!