Who: Nikita Tewani
Stopped: Outside The Cort Theatre on 48th Street
What are you up to today?
NT: I’m heading over to rehearsals for A Muslim in the Midst, it’s a play premiering at the Hudson Guild Theatre on September 12. The story takes place three days after 9/11, which is interesting because it’s debut is a day after the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
What’s it about?
NT: It’s a play about Islamophobia from a perspective that hasn’t really been seen before. It’s about a poor Muslim couple that gets stranded in the streets of Bangalore, India, late at night. An affluent and Westernized Hindu couple offers them a ride and things take an unexpected turn. I can’t really give away more than that! It’s inspired by the real-life experiences of our playwright, Anand Rao.
What do you think New York audiences can learn from an Indian perspective on Islamophobia?
NT: The characters are dealing with their own prejudices, primal fears and limitations throughout the course of the play, in order to overcome ideological differences that they have and meet on this platform of understanding and stability. I think that’s something that anyone can learn from, no matter what the issue is or what’s going on in the world at the time. What is so beautiful about the play is that it addresses that humanity; no matter who you are, you can understand it and relate on a human level.
What are you learning from being in the show?
NT: I’m learning a lot about what was going on in India at the time—how people were affected by 9/11 not just here, but internationally. Also—I play a woman named Priya, an affluent Hindu woman, and as she learns about this opposite culture, I’ve learned. I’ve learned acceptance and the struggle of coming to an understanding with a person who’s different from you. It’s opened my eyes to the fact that you don’t know a person’s story until you really talk to them—so to not judge a book by its cover.
There’s a lot of that going on in the world right now. How does it feel to be involved in a show that is so relevant?
NT: I think it’s extremely important. That’s why we want people to come and see the show so badly. I think can everyone can learn from it, and that’s what art does—it teaches people about what’s going on in the world.
I’ve heard from Indian actors in the past that they feel under-represented on the New York stage. What are your thoughts on that?
NT: I would agree with that, but what’s great is that there has been such a push for diversity and inclusion. People are making their art and opinions known on the matter; an acceptance of that is growing. It’s positive.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
NT: I just wrapped up performances of The Fall at FringeNYC, which got accepted into the Fringe Encore Series. I actually play a Muslim-American woman in that, so it’s really interesting to be doing both. I feel like I’m learning so much about both cultures—it’s been eye-opening.
For details on A Muslim in the Midst visit Amusliminthemidst.com