‘1001’ hopes to encourage discussion on Islamophobia

October 10, 2016

Rachel Librach

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     Everyone’s life is a compilation of stories; it’s what makes a person who they are.

     The UCCS Theatre Company hopes to portray controversial issues in their upcoming student production with two sides of a topic that has a strong relevance in today’s national events.

     The student-run organization will perform Jason Grote’s “1001” at 7:30 p.m. from Oct. 28-Nov. 13 in the Osborne Studio Theater. The production is a modern adaptation of the classic stories of “Arabian Nights” with added 9/11 and Islamophobia themes.

     The first half of the production, based off of “Arabian Nights,” follows Shahriyar (Keegan Bockhorst), king of Persia, after he exacts his revenge on his cheating wife by beheading her and 1,001 other women in the kingdom.

     The second half follows Alan (Bockhorst), a modern-day Jewish graduate student living in Manhattan. Bockhorst, a junior theater major, will portray Shahriyar and Alan, who mirror each other’s stories.

     The two narratives intertwine throughout the play. Storytelling and the effects of how reality is shaped through it is one of the prominent themes of the play, according to Bockhorst.

     “‘What are any of us but a collection of stories? You change the story of a nation and you change that nation,’” said Bockhorst, quoting Alan’s love interest Dahna.

     The play deals with some uncomfortable topics, but Autumn Silva, director and junior theater major, feels it is her duty as a storyteller to relay these issues truthfully.

     “While (the play) never addresses 9/11 directly, it’s a disservice to ignore those overtones, and it’s completely and unavoidably just wrong to avoid the discussion around Islamophobia and orientalism,” said Silva.

     “1001” illustrates Islamic culture through each story, which includes Shahriyar’s dehumanizing treatment of women compared to the increase of Islamophobia after 9/11, according to Bockhorst.

     “The main theme is how stories shape reality, and the overall story that is told indicates a sort of condemnation of Islam and the Muslim population. But it’s not without showing the ugly side and the harsh realities that still exist in this Islamic culture today,” said Bockhorst.

     It was hard to bridge the gap between these two controversial issues, but Silva believes that this play was made possible by the brilliant and devoted production cast and crew.

     “When my prejudices stop me, someone else’s ability to go forward is what’s taking this show to the next level.”

     Opening a discussion on the topic of Islamophobia is important, according to Silva.

     “I think that we as college students are the next generation of thinkers and artists; we have an obligation to open our eyes to what’s going on around us, and it’s wrong to ignore those discussions,” said Silva.

     The student theater company will provide free dessert and host audience conversations every Friday after the play, which will give students an opportunity to share their feedback with the director and cast members.

     Silva said that audience conversations started this year, and she invites people to disagree with her and to voice their feedback.

     Junior VAPA major Pedro Leos plays an orthodox Jewish man who is disgusted by the idea of Muslims living in America. Leos believes the issue of Islamophobia needs to be addressed.

     “I think this story emphasizes this one culture that is stigmatized and shunned. The play explores and educates people on the background of this culture, where these people come from and where the hatred or Islamophobia stems from,” Leos said.

     There are many relatable scenes in “1001” which presents different perspectives on the Islamic culture and Islamophobia, according to Leos.

     “We are all people. We all have pain and happiness. We all have done something we aren’t proud of, and to see these themes acted out in front of you with such intensity and power really puts it into perspective,” said Leos.

     Understanding both sides of the conversation is what is important to reduce fear, according to Leos.

     “Some of this stuff is uncomfortable and scary to talk about, because it gets messy, but it gets people talking and thinking. Through this process we may come to understand a little bit more about how both sides are affected.”