Interview with Playwright Yussef El Guindiposted by Eric Pargac at 11:26 AM
It is always exciting to have direct contact with a playwright during the rehearsal process, and we were lucky enough to be able to bring Back of the Throat playwright Yussef El Guindi out to LA for dress rehearsals through opening weekend. Yussef got into town Saturday night and has been at all our rehearsals and previews, giving feedback and helping to sharpen the play. It's been a pleasure to work with him. We were also able to have journalist Ina Rometsch interview Yussef about Back of the Throat prior to his coming to LA. Here is an excerpt from that interview. Enjoy!
Ina: Yussef, what triggered your writing of Back of the Throat?
Yussef: I started work on this play a couple of months after 9/11. The mood in the country was full of anxiety and fear, and it became slightly surreal at times. There was this story around, I don’t even remember where I read it, about a man whose wife was having a heart attack. He called the paramedics, and they saw his books and found them suspicious. So they called the police, and they came and arrested him. And I remember thinking: "This is like the thought police! You could get arrested for the books you read!"
Ina: That gave you the idea for the play?
Yussef: It started out as a thought game. What would happen if agents paid a visit to my house and looked around? What can you say about a person from what he owns? Ina: What would they find on your bookshelves? Yussef: I have the Koran, I have books on Islam, I have a book on assassins. And I almost bought a book on guns just in case I needed a reference book for a play or story I might write.
Ina: Were there moments of paranoia after 9/11 that you remember particularly well?
Yussef: I had to fly to San Francisco from Seattle. It was a big deal. Even the person who took me in the airport shuttle was commenting on it. And after take-off I was sitting there wanting to get up and go to the restroom. And I thought: I better not. I had better not go to the restroom, because people might get a little nervous. I remember sitting there and thinking: "This is insane. I want to go to the restroom, but I’m not getting up because I’m worried that I might unsettle my fellow passengers." Generally, after 9/11, I began to feel a bit outside the pale, a bit alienated, because my ethnic group was being scrutinized. It was like a spotlight being turned on one for all the wrong reasons. People were just very suspicious.