This past Saturday, March 21 Millersville hosted American Place Theater’s adaptation of the novel The Kite Runner.
Actor Sorab Wadia gave a 55 minute one-man show, playing seven characters at one point or another.
MU’s Cultural Affairs Committee introduced The Kite Runner, explaining that their goal is to introduce students and the community to events “you won’t see anywhere else.”
Chris Snock, a teaching artist with American Place Theater, began the evening with an introduction of the storyline and asked the audience a series of questions intended to stimulate thought and prep them for the performance.
The American Place Theater’s Literature to Life performances are done in three parts: pre-show, performance and post-show.
The first and last portions are conducted by the teaching artist who initially engages the audience and ends the evening with a candid session of gathering feedback, answering questions and asking a few of his own.
Although many of their performances are done for high school groups, this format was a refreshing change to theater’s normal performer/audience set-up. Snock quoted Chorus from Shakespeare’s Henry V, “On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls Are now confined two mighty monarchies, Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder: Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts; Into a thousand parts divide on man, And make imaginary puissance; Think when we talk of horses, that you see them Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth; For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times, Turning the accomplishment of many years into an hour-glass:”
Wadia’s performance was done in Shakespearean style, with minimal lights and sound.
The set had only a stool draped in a brightly striped cloth.
Wadia changed costume once, from an American style fleece that represented the protagonist Amir as an adult living in San Francisco in 2001, to an embroidered vest worn by 12 year old Amir growing up in 1970’s Afghanistan.
Fifty years after the country’s liberation from Great Britain, the caste system is still distinct. There are four castes in Afghanistan, two of which are featured in the play.
Amir is a member of the highest caste, the Pashtuns. Hassan is Amir’s servant and a member of the lowest caste, the Hazaras. Amir is one year older than Hassan.
They are both motherless and grew up as friends. Hassan, whose first word was “Amir” is devoted to his young master.
The story is about friendship and betrayal, loyalty and lies, brutality and kindness, guilt and redemption.
After Wadia’s performance ended, the audience in Lyte auditorium was enthusiastic.
During the post-show, Snock encouraged the audience to share their gut responses.
Most of the audience members had read the book and several people used the word “marvelous” to describe the play.
Another person said, “It is clear that each character had a home in (Wadia’s) core; he captured the spirit of the characters.”
American Place Theater opened in Manhattan in 1963, the city’s first official off-Broadway theater.
It operates as a not-for-profit theater with ten Literature to Life® plays currently in production.
Literature to Life is a performance-based literacy program that stages adaptations of “significant American literary works.”
Wynn Handman is the theater’s artistic director and co-founder. He started Literature to Life as a way to inspire young people to read.
He feels there are many American authors with “voices worth hearing” and American Place Theater is dedicated to giving them a stage from which their voices can be heard.
Dr. Khaled Hosseini began writing The Kite Runner, his first novel, in 2001 and it was published in 2003.
It is 432 pages long, but American Place Theater’s adaptation is from the original 120 page novella Hosseini wrote and took to a writing group.
They encouraged him to expand the story, which he did, intending for the book to “open a window of compassion for Afghanistan.”
Snock has been the teaching artist for The Kite Runner for three and a half years. Wadia has been performing it for nearly two years.
He is the third actor to play this role and has performances booked until May 19.
For more information on this play or American Place Theater, visit www.americanplacetheater.org.