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‘Disgraced’ tackles racism, prejudices onstage in Calgary

Shawn Lall plays the role of Amir Kapoor, an American-Pakistani lawyer who tries to hide his religion and nationality.
Shawn Lall plays the role of Amir Kapoor, an American-Pakistani lawyer who tries to hide his religion and nationality. Global News

Alberta Theatre Projects is tackling hot button issues playing out on the political stage with its latest production.

Disgraced hit the Martha Cohen Theatre in Calgary on Wednesday.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Ayad Akhtar deals with race, religion, prejudices and the cost of assimilation.

“Disgraced” is in Calgary until Nov. 3.
“Disgraced” is in Calgary until Nov. 3. Global News

Shawn Lall plays the role of Amir Kapoor, an American-Pakistani lawyer who tries to hide his religion and nationality.

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“The play really starts to want to ask us questions about what is it that we do to be part of the American Dream, to assimilate into culture?” said director Nigel Shawn Williams on Wednesday.

“So Amir ends up trying to hide being a Muslim, to hide being from Pakistan, because of the fear and the resentment that happens around that. But there’s a cost to us hiding who we are. The play starts to ask questions about ruptures and tribalism, and why we are in such tribes that we mistrust and have fears and hate.”

Once we admit our prejudices, we can move past them, Williams said, adding that the play is topical because it tackles issues of immigration and diversity.

“If you are on planet Earth, you can learn from this play,” he said.

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“Disgraced” is in Calgary until Nov. 3.
“Disgraced” is in Calgary until Nov. 3. Global News

Lall’s character is a man who chooses to suppress his cultural identity to fit into Western society. He said the play offers an opportunity to check in with how our assumptions inhibit connections.

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“We all tie opinions to our identity, but just realizing how that gets in the way of genuine communication and sometimes gets in the way of seeing other people as who they actually are,” he said.

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He thinks the play is more relevant now than when it premiered in 2012.

“I think this play is a nice opportunity for audiences to really just do some introspection and just see what biases, prejudices they might hold and how that might affect how they interact with other people, the decisions they make in their lives and ultimately, the leaders they choose to vote into power,” he said.

Disgraced, recommended for adult audiences, runs until Nov. 3.