Kenyan Play has its American Debut in Princeton
Amezidi Opens at the Lewis Center for the Arts
(Princeton) Amezidi, a new translation of the work by Kenyan novelist, poet and playwright Said Ahmed Mohamed, will open this weekend at the Lewis Center for the Arts. Translated and directed by Christopher J. Simpson ’09, the tragicomic two-hander will be performed at the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at the Lewis Center for the Arts at 185 Nassau Street on October 10-11 and October 16-18.
Amezidi, first published in Kenya in 1995, is part of Mohamed’s ongoing exploration of the many different social and cultural factors that have led to postcolonial Africa’s underprivileged state, including the continent’s continuing reliance on the West. It follows two characters’ struggles to hide from their own poverty by delving into their memories, fantasies and perceptions. These scenes are punctuated with comic exaggeration and biting sarcasm until the bitter end, when the characters’ inability to face reality simply cannot go on. “It’s Waiting for Godot meets postcolonial Africa,” comments Theater and Dance director Michael Cadden.
Princeton’s production of Amezidi is believed to be the first time this play by one of the leading Swahili writers has been translated into English or brought to an American stage. Simpson, a Comparative Literature major pursuing a creative thesis in the Program in Theater and Dance, spent three months in Kenya in the fall of 2007 working with local health and development organizations, which gave him firsthand experience of the challenges to overcoming poverty and promoting development in East Africa. “I witnessed the devastating effects of poverty, hunger and corruption,” said Simpson, “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.”
Throughout his time in Kenya, Simpson held conversations with a wide variety of Kenyan citizens whose perspectives are not so different than those of the play’s only two characters, Ame and Zidi, who will be played by Shawn Fennell ’10 and Stephen Strenio’09 respectively. Describing his experience in Kenya, Simpson said, “It was a three-month crash course on the various issues presented in this play.”
All performances of Amezidi are at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the public and $8 for students. For advance tickets, please call University Ticketing 609.258.9220.
The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee.