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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright, Screenwriter and Novelist Ayad Akhtar in a Conversation on Faith, Culture and Identity

Writer who lives in many worlds between East and West, Islam and Secularism, White and Asian talks with Lewis Center Chair Michael Cadden


Steve Runk     
Director of Communications
Lewis Center for the Arts

Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, screenwriter and novelist, will discuss his views on faith, culture and identity in a conversation to be held with Lewis Center for the Arts Chair Michael Cadden on Tuesday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Carl Fields Center at 58 Prospect Avenue on the Princeton University campus.  Presented by the Muslim Life Program in the Office of Religious Life, the Program in American Studies, Carl Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, the Department of English, and the Lewis Center, the event is free and open to the public.

Akhtar won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, Disgraced, the story of a successful Pakistani-American lawyer whose dinner party spins out of control amid a heated discussion on identity and religion.  The play also earned the Jeff  Equity Award for Best New Play.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed, poignant, coming-of-age novel, American Dervish, which centers on one family’s struggle to identify both as Muslim and American, one boy’s devotion to his faith, and the sometimes tragic implications of extremism.  The book was voted a 2012 Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Shelf-Awareness, and O (Oprah) Magazine.  As a screenwriter Akhtar was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for The War Within.  He has received commissions from Lincoln Center and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Born in New York City and raised in Milwaukee, he graduated from Brown and Columbia Universities with degrees in theater and film directing.  He teaches acting on his own and with Andre Gregory in New York City.  

The conversation between Akhtar and Cadden will focus on faith, culture and identity as manifested in the writer’s work across genres.  Earlier in the day Akhtar will meet with several members of the university faculty and provide a workshop for Princeton students on writing a first novel or play.

“Ayad lives in many worlds between East and West, Islam and secularism, white and Asian,” notes Sohaib Sultan, a Princeton University Chaplain and Coordinator for the Muslim Life Program.   

“Akhtar has observed that his breakthrough as an artist came when he realized that for him ‘art was no longer about self-expression, but about creative engagement with the world.’   In fact, he engages with many worlds in ways that his audiences find both eye-opening and immensely pleasurable," adds Cadden.

The Lewis Center for the Arts encompasses Princeton University's academic programs in creative writing, dance, theater, and visual arts, as well as the interdisciplinary Princeton Atelier. The Center represents a major initiative of the University to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton. Over 100 diverse public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings and lectures are offered each year, most of them free or at a nominal ticket price. 

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