I recently had the great privilege of interviewing Ayad Akhtar, who won last year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Disgraced at LCT3 (it just announced a Broadway run!). He is a superb playwright and thinker and if you have the chance to see The Who and the What, you should! Read the piece over at fabulous-as-ever TDF Stages.
Inside the new play from Pulitzer winner Ayad Akhtar
Ayad Akhtar got the idea for his new play in the back of a taxi cab. An advertisement for Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter’s musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, flashed on the backseat TV screen, and it got him thinking.
“I sort of wondered to myself, ‘What is the obsession with The Taming of the Shrew that folks have?’” he recalls. “The gender politics in that play don’t really speak to the contemporary gender politics at work in the culture.”
But then he realized there is indeed a culture in which extremely conservative ideas about men and women still resonate: Islam. “I recognized an old world attitude toward gender politics, with a very clearly defined masculine, a very clearly defined feminine, and the dramatic conflict that inherently arises from that power struggle,” Akhtar says.
Drawing from his Pakistani-American upbringing, he places this dramatic tension at the center of The Who and the What, a dark comedy directed by Kimberly Senior that’s now playing in Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3 series.