OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego will present “Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity,” an interview-style production that illuminates the daily experiences of five young Muslim Americans who came of age in a post-9/11 society, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27, in Sheldon Hall ballroom.
Part of Artswego’s Performing Arts Series, “Beyond Sacred” will offer theatre and image projection. The production was developed by theatrical innovator Ping Chong and his New York City-based company.
He and collaborators conducted extensive interviews with potential participants, who then became the performers, sharing their true stories with audiences.
“It’s powerful; very moving,” said Miranda Traudt, the college’s arts presentation director, who saw a performance of “Beyond Sacred” in Albany last November.
The company also will present “Beyond Sacred” to the entire sophomore class of Oswego High School in a special performance supported by the Richard S. Shineman Foundation at 10 a.m. Feb. 27 at SUNY Oswego.
Artswego worked with Ping Chong + Company and social studies teachers at the high school to make this available to the more than 300 tenth graders, Traudt said.
“It may be a story and narrative that’s new to the students,” she said. “It’s not fiction. These are five real people.”
In order to encourage conversation about social challenges posed by cultural, ethnic and religious identity, there will be post-performance talkback and question-and-answer sessions at the evening performance for the general public and the morning one for the 10th graders.
Written by Ping Chong and Sara Zatz, with Ryan Conarro, “Beyond Sacred” features cast members from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds who reflect a wide range of Muslim identities. The cast — Tiffany Yasmin Hosein, Ferdous Dehqan, Kadin Herring, Amir Khafagy and Maha Syed — includes those who have converted to Islam, those who were raised Muslim but have since left the faith, those who identify as “culturally” Muslim, and those who are observant on a daily basis.
The New York Times called the production, “A chorus of voices gently demolishing the notion of Muslim culture as monolithic. ‘Beyond Sacred’ is an exercise in empathy, not polemics: a lesson in human understanding, drawn from real lives.”
PingChong.org says, “Together their true stories create a beautiful, funny and intensely poignant cry for tolerance at a time when such sentiments are more necessary than ever. ‘Beyond Sacred’ transports audiences from ignorance to knowledge, from estrangement to connection, and from wariness and fear to acceptance and love.”
Ping Chong + Company, founded in 1975, produces theatrical works “addressing the important cultural and civic issues of our times, striving to reach the widest audiences with the greatest level of artistic innovation and social integrity.”
“Beyond Sacred” is a part of the company’s “Undesirable Elements” series, an ongoing series of oral history theatre works exploring the effects of history, culture and ethnicity on the lives of individuals in a community. Each work — often commissioned for specific locales — is intended as “a moving testimonial to the unexpected connections that can unite seemingly different people.”
The upcoming production has generated considerable interest among faculty at SUNY Oswego. Instructors in at least six courses plan to send students to “Beyond Sacred,” Traudt said.
The Artswego presentation was funded in part by grants from the Shineman Foundation; Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities; and Stewart’s Shops.
Tickets are $20 ($5 for students kindergarten through college; $18 each for groups of 10 or more adults) and are available at SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-3073.
Patrons needing assistance to attend should call 315-312-3073 in advance of the performance.
Parking is included in the price of a ticket and is available in the employee and commuter lots adjacent to and across Washington Boulevard from Sheldon Hall.
For more information on fine and performing arts presentations at SUNY Oswego, visit arts.oswego.edu.