After I had the pleasure of reading Paradise last year, I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to direct it. When I read a play, I am always hoping for some connection to the story and the characters, a way in that compels or even requires me to be a part of its life. Reading Paradise for the first time, I was immediately drawn into these two characters and this moment in their lives. I felt like I was invited into the most intimate of experiences: connection and discovery. I was hooked.
I was thrilled that Underground Railway Theater had programmed it as part of its CC@MIT collaboration and believed that this gem of a story, this quiet exploration of two people confronting deep truths about themselves, could be a universal story about what it means to grow up, to recover, to trust, to fail and get up again, to reach out to someone, or to allow someone into your innermost life.
It is all of those things and more, but when November 8, 2016 happened, this play became necessary in a way I hadn’t expected.
From that point on, telling the story of two people engaged in the important work of science, of rigor and discovery and truth, a story about a first generation Yemeni-American girl who is fully devoted to the American dream and simultaneously fully devoted to her faith, a story about a man wrestling with where his past has landed him and fighting for a future he can find meaningful became a way to struggle with where we are, how to maintain my own ideals, and how to continue to build toward a future of which I can be proud.
My relationship to the play is more than a connection. It’s a haven.
You will decide what the luminous Laura Maria Censabella intended when she titled this play Paradise. It is my hope that it speaks to your own version of paradise and will give you a moment of respite before you leave the theater to get back to the important work of creating such a place.