• Mar 15, 2014

The Invisible Hand: First Day of Rehearsal Meet and Greet

The first day of rehearsal for any play usually begins with a welcome greeting from the artistic director of the company, followed by the director and the designers sharing their vision for the play before the cast reads through the play for the first time.

Jasson Minadakis, Marin Theatre Company Artistic Director and Director of The Invisible Hand:

One of the reasons I’ve been so excited about this piece in general is that it’s been a while since we’ve done a thriller. It’s the kind of play where you really don’t know where things are headed, and there are real twists and turns along the way. I’m particularly in love with this play because it gives voice to people who are otherwise voiceless in our society.

Something amazing jumped out at me three weeks ago when talking to Safi [Manzoor, Cultural Consultant on The Invisible Hand] about the research images that [Costume Designer ]Callie [Floor] had pulled. We’d been looking at different photos of the play from other productions and other images from various Google searches. Safi looked at image after image and identified them as being from Afghanistan, or India, or a Hollywood image of a terrorist—everything except Pakistan and the sort of group that Imam Saleem [Barzin Akhavan] is running. It is a group that is working for cultural change and is working to improve the lives of the people in their area.

I hope that the design elements for our production will avoid the sensational nature of where this play could go so that we can really hear about both the Western influence on this region, and also what the availability of money does to the best intentioned people. We are trying to decode the play and let the language and the actors do more work than the images that we are going to show audiences.

Callie Floor, Costume Designer:

I called a Muslim cultural center here in the Bay Area and I explained what we were doing. This really sweet guy said, “Would you like to talk to a Sunni imam from Pakistan?” Neither of the men I talked to asked me about the play, or its tone. I said, “I don’t want to besmirch your culture by getting this stuff wrong. I want to get it right.” They were incredibly generous and responded to that.

In Pakistan the men wear a very simple set of clothes and just about everybody wears them. The clothing in this area has a very restrained color palette, and overall the clothes are very simple and very clean. Even someone like the imam is not ostentatious, but is very elegant.

Kat Conley, Scenic Designer:

Jasson and I talked about the claustrophobia of this particular space that Nick [Craig Marker] is being held in. It is a very small room and we are thrust very far downstage and are right in the audience’s faces. This is a room that’s possibly been around for a hundred years, with handmade brick that is mostly one color. We have a single barred window that we’ll see light coming through or hear sounds from the outside coming through.

York Kennedy, Lighting Designer: 

The play is a really powerful suspense thriller that happens in a simple room. There’s a dramaturgical book, [authored by Bert O. States], about Shakespeare. The stuff that goes down between these few little characters in these small little rooms has reverberations that are unbelievable and palpably horrifying, Light and sound will really help us feel that sense of compression and danger, just by what the room looks like or sounds like.

One of the things I love about [Marin Theatre Company’s Boyer stage] is how much stage space there is versus how many audience members there are. It might be tough on Marketing, but it’s great for a designer because you‘ve got a show right up on the audience that you can really put in their face.

Chris Houston, Sound Designer:

In a claustrophobic world, the sound design is going to allude to the exterior. It gives a sense—not just of the immediate place, this room and this building—but the threat of a drone strike or a distant war. This a play that is very obviously influenced by film and television, with many scene changes, and the question is, what story are we telling the scene changes? We might use no music at all, or we might give a sense of the exterior of the world.

I love that the play is set in Pakistan because Pakistan is an in-between kind of world. Is it India? No. Is it Afghanistan? No. It’s very specific and it’s also kind of a mystery. And that sense of mystery is definitely going to play in my design.

Lydia Garcia, Marin Theatre Company Literary Manager and Resident Dramaturg:

This play is part of a larger body of work that Ayad Akhtar is in the midst of creating. It includes 3 plays [the Pulitzer-Prize winning DisgracedThe Who and the What and The Invisible Hand], 3 novels [only one, American Dervish , has been completed] and a film [The War Within]. It is in the spirit of August Wilson’s Century Cycle, and through this work Ayad is trying to capture what it means to be Muslim American in the world today, and what it means to live in a world that is so in the thrall of military and economic relationships, and what the impact of that is on individual lives.

This play is a really wonderful exploration of a world in which ideology—whether it’s religious ideology or capitalist ideology—suddenly becomes very real. I’m so glad we are diving into the complexities of the situation and that no one in the play comes off clean. There are no heroes, there are no villains, there is no one who is uncompromised on one way or another. But they are all engaged in some higher ideal.