Working in the Theatre: In the Field – Munaf Alsafi


My name is Munaf Alsafi; I am an actor and a musician. I was born in Basra, Iraq. I am from a little suburb of Basra called Gurmat Ali. We came here in 1978. My dad was not too friendly with the incoming
Sadam Hussein regime. So, we left in a panic; we left in a hurry
and ended up in Tuskegee, Alabama. Which was actually a pretty cool place to land. I mean, it’s a rich history and I got to
learn the blues. This history of Tuskegee, Alabama is the first
all-black university. Still the same, they weren’t quite sure
what to do with me. I wasn’t Mexican, I wasn’t black, there
were a lot of stereotypes but the music spoke to me so much I didn’t even consider them. I just kept going. In 1991, there was a war with Iraq and the
United States and it became clear that we weren’t going back home. Major cities would put on these “For the
Troop” parades and there would be these yellow ribbons on trees everywhere, except
when the news would cut over to San Francisco. The news cut over to San Francisco, there’d
be people lying down on the bridge, people blocking the airport. There’d be people climbing the Golden Gate
Bridge, saying “No War, No War! Peace and Love!” And I thought to myself, “That’s where
I want to go!” That feeling, of like, letting your shoulders
down, and just being who you are. That is difficult to find in other places. San Francisco always makes me feel like that. It’s home. Theatre saved my life. I was going through a very difficult time,
a lot of personal changes and turmoil in my life. I was in a play for this first time, and I
felt so alive, beautiful, and empowered. I felt hope in the world, and I felt for the
first time in a long time that I could do something about the things that are important
to me, through this medium. Whether you’re Muslim or Christian, I think
the Middle-Eastern experience living in the United States can be controversial, no? You’re always on the news for not-so-good reasons. But then again you live here, but you love
there, but then you live here and you love there, too. Theatre, and Golden Thread in particular,
talks about that. It allows you to express that. With Theatre it’s the overall story, so
I may be playing a particular character but the story is this beautiful story of this
group from the Middle East who are just a group from the Middle East. They’re fathers, they’re sons, they’re
in love, they’re doctors- it tells the audience, “Look. These are human beings.” We’re just human beings.

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