Playwright Jamil Khoury creates plays as spaces that open up conversation across countries and cultures Ñ conversation not unlike that which takes place every day at Knox.
Khoury is the author of “Mosque Alert,” a play that will be produced at Knox during winter term and directed by Professor Neil Blackadder. This past Wednesday and Friday, Khoury held workshops on his play in which students added to and revised a draft of his work. On Tuesday night, the night before the first workshop, Khoury showed one of his company’s films, entitled “Not Quite White: Arabs, Slavs, and the Contours of Contested Whiteness.” After the film he led a discussion in which students defined and debated cultural identity in America. It was clear Khoury wasn’t just there to lecture; he relished the conversation. That dialogue is a pillar of the Chicago-based theater company Silk Road Rising, of which Khoury is co-founder and Artistic Director.
“We’re having conversations that we like to think transcend borders and boundaries and geography,” he said.
Blackadder said,“[Khoury’s] work is more about provoking lively and productive discussion about issues than putting on stage self-contained, carefully-wrapped-up stories. And I’m very interested in theatre that gets people to think about things.”
The same principle applies for the composition of “Mosque Alert.”
“That opportunity to hear and discuss and explore and revise I think is really essential,” Khoury said.
‘Mosque Alert’ surrounds three families living in Naperville, a western suburb of Chicago. It explores their collaborations and contentions in the proposed building of a local mosque. It was inspired by two real court cases from Naperville.
“What you had were communities that were not blocking the building of Christian churches or Hindu temples or Jewish synagogues that were blocking the building of mosques. It wasn’t one standard for all,” Khoury said.
“I thought it was really eye-opening and intriguing how Jamil was so open with his play and able to take different suggestions on his work,” said freshman Karen Lynch, who participated in Khoury’s Friday workshop.
It was the idea of defining inclusion across cultures that drew the theater department and Professor Blackadder to the play.
“It was a chance to build upon what Knox is all about,” Blackadder said.
‘Mosque Alert’ will run from Feb. 25 to Feb. 28 in Harbach Theater, where the students and faculty of Knox will be able to continue to converse and to broaden and deepen the dialogue of the world.