220 W. Boardman St., Youngstown
IF YOU GO
What: “Back of the Throat”
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and June 18 and 19; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Oakland Center for the Arts, 220 W. Boardman St., Youngstown
Tickets: For reservations, call 330-746-0404
By MILAN PAURICH
Plays don’t get any more topical — or contentious — than Yussef El Guindi’s “Back of the Throat.”
Since premiering in February 2006, the 9/11-themed drama has become a favorite of regional theaters across the country. The Oakland Center for the Arts’ production of “Throat” that begins a two-weekend run tomorrow evening also marks the show’s local premiere.
In a recent interview, director Nathan Beagle discussed the play and why he was so affected by the material.
Q. Could you tell us a little bit about your theatrical background?
A. I come from a family of performers. My sister (Amanda) is a singer and actress, and my brother’s a director, so naturally they had a lot to do with my career path. I began my education at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. In 2005, I returned home to pursue my bachelor’s in theater at Youngstown State University, and have performed in 14 productions throughout my college career including “The Cripple Of Inishmaan,” “Almost Maine,” “Around The World In 80 Days” and “Seussical, The Musical.” I’ve also worked in regional theater at the Northern Lights Playhouse in Hazelhurst, Wis., and Kalliope Stage in Cleveland.
Q. “Back of the Throat” is your (YSU) senior project. How did the Oakland become involved?
A. The senior project has to be anything related to theater, and doesn’t need to be produced at YSU. I’d originally proposed the play for YSU’s Blackbox Theater, and it wasn’t selected. My classmate and close friend, Joel Stigliano, who was on the play-selection committee for the Oakland, encouraged me to propose the show for this season. “Back of the Throat” isn’t a collaboration between YSU and the Oakland; it’s strictly an “Oakland Production.” YSU is strongly represented, though, since all of the crew and cast (Anthony Genovese, Cheney Morgan, Courtney Nicole Auman, Sheridan Sullivan, Joseph Pascarella) are YSU students and graduates.
Q. What’s the play about?
A. Khaled is an Arab-American writer who is being visited by two government officials for an undisclosed reason. As they search his apartment, they build suspicion against him based on what he owns and how he looks. The plot then takes a series of twists and turns through a number of scenarios that could be truth or fiction, leaving the audience to draw its own conclusion about what lies ahead for Khaled.
Q. “Throat” is an extremely timely and socially- conscious work. What was it about the material that spoke to you as a director?
A. I’m always interested in what’s going on in the world, and at the time of reading the play rendition, Guantanamo Bay, torture and racial profiling were hot-button issues. These issues are still relevant, and a subject of great controversy and debate. I believe theater is at its best when the play being performed is reflective of the times we’re living in. Since these issues aren’t going away anytime soon, it’s important that we address them with honesty. And that’s exactly what this play does.
Q. What would you say to entice prospective theatergoers who might be suffering from post-9/11 fatigue”?
A. Personally, I believe the play has a message that we can all benefit from in a time where racism, racial profiling and religious bias are still everywhere. Theater is a tool that can help change hearts and minds and encourage people to think differently about these issues. In the end, no matter what religion or race you are, we’re all in this together.