HANDAN OZBILGIN Community Spotlight

Handan Ozbilgin is a theatre maker and the Assistant Director of LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City, Queens, New York. She’s been involved with Ping Chong + Company’s outreach efforts and LPAC workshops as the company has created our latest in the Undesirable Elements series, “Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity.” “Beyond Sacred” is running now until May 9th at LPAC. More info and tickets HERE.

handan photo 1
Handan Ozbilgin at work in her role as Assistant Director of LaGuardia Performing Arts Center.

How did you first come to engage with PC+C?

I engaged with the company when they were at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center for the development/workshop process of “Inside/Out… Voices from the Disability Community” in 2008. I was helping them with different aspects of the development workshop, from outreach to making sure that the theater space was accessible and secure for disabled community members.

What has been a meaningful moment or take-away from your experience with PC+C?

With “Inside/Out,” [part of PC+C’s Undesirable Elements series], I remember thinking how simple the staging was and yet how powerful was the impact. I remember going through different emotions as the participants were telling their stories. Some lines have stayed with me after all these years. For instance, a participant in a wheelchair saying how she didn’t like the word “disabled.” The first part of the word “dis” has a negative equation and dismissed her from the rest of the society.

How does your experience with PC+C influence what you’re doing today?

It occurred to me then that when you work with real people and with their real life stories, you can create something so honest and powerful that it really makes an impact.

At this time the company is back at LPAC with “Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity.” PC+C has chosen again a very challenging subject to explore. Their risk-taking influences me in my artistic life.

Advertisements

AMIR KHAFAGY Community Spotlight

Amir Khafagy is a member of the ensemble of Ping Chong + Company’s “Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity,” the company’s latest work in its Undesirable Elements series, opening tonight at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Queens. Amir describes himself as an Arab Rican, born and raised in Jackson Heights.

How did you come to engage with Ping Chong + Company?

I first learned about Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity when I was a student at LaGuardia Community College. At first I was hesitant to participate in the show because of my hectic school and work schedule.  A friend of mine who worked at school convinced me to sign up for the initial interview with Ping Chong + Company.  I soon realized that it was important for me to be part of this show, because I feel that as a Muslim, I am obligated to be a part of something that can help destroy the barriers that many Muslims face every day. Many of the barriers are not overt; they are barriers that many non-Muslims already have in their heads. The prejudice and misinformation that people harbor can really make it a challenge for Muslims trying to make this country a home.

Amir in rehearsal Adam Nadel
Amir in rehearsal for “Beyond Sacred,” with, from left, ensemble members Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani and Maha Syed. (Photo by Adam C. Nadel)

What has been a meaningful moment or take-away from your experience with PC+C?

Working with such a talented and diverse cast in Beyond Sacred has helped me gain an even wider understanding of how rich and complex humanity as a whole is. In this country we try to fit everything into one category or another. We lump all Muslims into one group and call it “the Muslim community.” The reality is that there is no such thing as an all-encompassing  “Muslim community,” like there is not an all-encompassing Christian community. Muslims make up an incredibly abundant mix of people and cultures. I have learned so much about the world from my cast-mates that is so different from my experience.

How has your time with PC+C influenced how you feel about your path today, and/or your plans for your future?

Working with Ping Chong + Company has given me the theater bug. I have truly fallen in love with the whole process of creating something powerful from scratch. Ping Chong’s unique style of documentary theater has inspired me to incorporate theater into the organizing work I do in low-income communities. I would one day like to somehow incorporate theater in the fight for social justice. Theater can be a tool that can engage communities of color on all sorts of issues that affect their lives.

Amir headshot Adam Nadel
Amir Khafagy. (Photo by Adam C. Nadel)