This senior thesis production of Said Ahmed Mohamed's Amezidi is based on a new translation by Christopher Simpson '09, who has also directed tonight's performance. In addition to pursuing a Certificate in Theater and Dance, Chris majors in Comparative Literature. Swahili is one of his languages and it was Swahili that led him to Mohamed's play.
Amezidi was first published in Kenya in 1995 as part of the author's ongoing exploration of the social and cultural factors that have led to postcolonial Africa's current state, including the continent's continuing reliance on the West. It follows two characters' struggles to hide from their own dire situation by delving into their memories, fantasies and perceptions. Those of you who know Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot will recognize one of Mohamed's chief influences, but his story is more deeply rooted in a recognizable landscape.
It is a landscape that Chris knows firsthand, having spent three months in Kenya in the fall of 2007 working with local health and development organizations. "I witnessed the devastating effects of poverty, hunger and corruption," he said in an interview, "and saw the pain of a society that at times values foreign cultures over its own, and heard firsthand accounts of the suffering caused by misallocated resources and ill-conceived foreign aid efforts." Describing his experience in Kenya, Simpson said, "It was a three-month crash course on the various issues presented in this play."
The Program in Theater and Dance is proud to be associated with what we believe is the American premiere of this work.Christopher J. Simpson '09*, Translator and Director, Amezidi
For me, Amezidi has been a process unlike any other. The play has had a special allure since my first encounter with it two years ago in a Swahili literature course. It requires such a diverse array of performance styles and enormous amount of creative energy in order to make sense of its seemingly overwhelming language. But the story is a strong one, the elements do indeed contribute to an overarching narrative, and the characters are both endearing and enduring. It is a challenging play, but one that deserves to be produced. It was on that belief that I made the commitment to bring this show to the Princeton stage, and it is that goal that has driven my past year's efforts in theater, Swahili, and translation.
As for our production, I think it is fair to say that we truly started with nothing; this text has no previous English-language production history, and the translation was still in an unfinished condition. Our first read through-on September 14th felt more like a game of mad-libs than a play. But Steve and Shawn and Courtney accepted the challenge and got to work. Even in the most arduous times, the three of them never failed to reach back for something more, and inspire each other - often to new ideas and greater heights. I've never been involved in a process that has required more continuous creativity and revision, and I've never encountered a pair of actors more willing and able to sustain that level of commitment and energy throughout. This show is theirs. They are this show.