To give you some insight into the show and our actors’ take on it, we asked each cast member two questions relating to the roles they play in Disgraced and about returning to the live stage. In this issue, we present responses from Omar LaTiri who plays Amir, Amber Champ who plays Jori, and Hamza ElNaggar who plays Abe.
Omar La Tiri
PMTC: What drew you to the role of Amir in Disgraced? OL: There were many elements to Amir that I relate to, and not just the deep-seated insecurity that many performers have! Like Amir, I am a first-generation American who was raised Muslim. While my immediate family may not have been as vehemently prejudiced as Amir's, the tribalism that I experienced (and subsequently distanced myself from) was very similar to Amir's. He is a character who, like me, wants to be seen as an individual and not primarily as a representative of a certain culture. From a performance perspective, the role of Amir has allowed me to play a range of emotions that can only be done in a theatrical setting. I hope the audience finds it as cathartic as I do. PMTC: Besides acting, you have been involved in many other aspects of theater production, including music director, assistant director, and sound operator; you even host your own podcast. What do these different perspectives bring to you on the stage? OL: The perspectives that I learned in theatre production is something that I carried with and was reinforced during my participation in another kind of organization: the military. The similarities between the structures of the military and theatre are striking, and members of both types of organizations can sometimes forget that they're not the most important aspect of the "mission," whether it's conducting an aerial battle or producing a show. No single aspect of a production is trivial, and they are there in service of the audience; audiences validate the work, and art is nothing without an audience.
PMTC: How does your role as a Black female attorney impact this play? AC: The impact my role has is that of a juxtaposition of two people of color (Jory and Amir) who've both had vastly different lived experiences, and yet share some beliefs. They're also at risk of being used to validate their spouse's public image in society. PMTC: What kinds of things do you do to keep your acting skills sharp during this long period when stages have been dark? AC: Since the start of the pandemic last year, I've been fortunate enough to act in over 20 virtual performances in both principal and ensemble roles. I've also taken classes in film acting, technique, and voice over, plus read a few books.
PMTC: In Disgraced, you play Abe, the younger brother of Amir. How do you feel about him and the path he has chosen in his life? HE: Abe seems like a genuine kid doing his best to be a prim and proper Muslim who doesn’t take sides in a way that may jeopardize his relationship with God. Of course that’s very difficult to do in a world like this, and it’s only more tragic to see him get dragged into it. PMTC: You have performed in many virtual productions since you began acting. What do you see as the primary differences in preparing for live performances? HE: How much easier it is to show emotion. Online it’s possible to give more facial expressions and quiet performances, but the yelling, the quick banter, and the suddenness of emotional outbreaks are far easier in person.