This is Eavesdrop, a series of conversations between artists, playwrights and audience members.
Earlier this week, Local Theater Company Artistic Director Pesha Rudnick and visiting actor Kunal Prasad wandered through Boulder discussing theater, travel, and the importance of authentically casting our upcoming production of Wisdom From Everything at Dairy Arts Center.
See the show during previews March 1-3 for just $15. All seats reserved. Click here to buy.
Pesha Rudnick: It’s great to have you in Boulder, Kunal! It’s sunny but freezing today—let’s grab coffee. Homer will lead the way...
Kunal Prasad: Adorable dog.
Pesha: We love him.
As I’ve sat in rehearsals this past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we assembled this cast. Before joining Wisdom From Everything, we had mutual colleagues in common but had never met. I’m curious what drew you to the play? Why did you say yes to this project?
Kunal: I love that the play centers on a 19-year-old woman, and questions what agency she has in creating a future for herself. The play also takes a glimpse at the Filipino and Indian diaspora in the Middle East, which I had heard about but had never seen in an American play.
It’s exciting for me to play a character of South Asian descent that has so much complexity—my character, Dallin, is a real and full and flawed human being. I always jump at the chance to play such a role.
Pesha: I agree—Dallin is complex, and we rarely hear about the Indian diaspora in the Middle East. I am also moved that our playwright Mia [McCullough] manages to explore human migration from many angles in the play, from refugees in Zaatari to legal and illegal migrants in Amman, Jordan. The issue is universal and immediate—at this time in world history, and for generations to come.
I suppose even our relatively safe and privileged life in the arts requires us to be itinerant. What do you love about being an artist? What are the challenges?
Kunal: I love working with different types of people and exploring different ideas and themes. I love traveling too! It’s important to have a change of scenery and be part of different communities. Being an artist allows me to learn new things and feel what it means to be human. It can be challenging to be away from family and it makes forming long-term relationships a little more difficult, but it is worth it. What draws you to working in the theater?
Pesha: Same. I love the people, and that theater requires us to investigate humanity in real time. I love the shared pulse of an audience experiencing a one-time performance. I can’t help but feel how incredibly timely this particular play is.
Oh, and casting. I love assembling a new community of artists for each show. Generally, we work with a casting director or use the old-fashioned ritual of asking colleagues to recommend colleagues, which can be limiting. For Wisdom From Everything, I found you through a terrific group called Maia Directors. They offer support to companies, like Local, engaging in Middle Eastern stories that aim to cast appropriately and authentically.
One of the big questions for us when choosing to produce this world premiere was: How do we cast authentically in Colorado when our pool of actors is excellent but not diverse for the story we were choosing to tell. Some might wonder whether we cast authentically or locally. Ideally, the answer can be both. The team we’ve assembled for Wisdom includes brilliant Colorado-based actors like Mehry Eslaminia (who keeps getting cast out of town these days) and actors like you who we were introduced to us because we tried something new in the way we cast.
Kunal: That’s something we need more of in the American theater.
Pesha: How do you know the Maia Directors? Help me track how we found you—our very own version of six degrees of separation, if you will.
Kunal: I was in a production at Golden Thread Productions in San Francisco in which Evren Odicikin was managing, and he’s a part of the Maia Directors. They saw me in action and kept my info on file. How do you know the Maia Directors?
Pesha: Pirronne Yousefzadeh. She’s a Maia director who worked with us during Local Lab 2017, our annual new play festival, and the two of us were both Drama League Fellows in New York City years ago. Two degrees of separation—not too shoddy.
We’re so glad you are here, Kunal. It’s freezing. Let’s walk to Alpine Modern Café, one of my favorites in Boulder.