by Katrina Forsythe, dramaturg
It’s been over nine months now since Professor Hollingshaus introduced me to A Second Birth and asked if I would be interested in working on it as the dramaturg. Has it only been that long? I loved the script from the start, and have continued to love it even more as it has changed over all this time. Ariel has been such an inspiration, and she is always so unstinting with her praise.
There have been a lot of details I have had to hunt down in the process of bringing this play to life. For example: “How do you tie a head scarf?” “How does one go about breaking an engagement?” or “What kind of bag would you get from a store in Kabul?” Sometimes I gave the wrong answer and had to come back with new information, and everyone has been very patient with me. It’s a daunting task to try to understand a culture as rich and varied as Afghanistan’s, and it has been an interesting challenge for me.
The first thing I tried to do when I was assigned the task of researching for A Second Birth was to understand the spirit of the Afghan people. I read memoirs and autobiographies, notably The Favored Daughter by Fawzia Koofi, and The Dressmaker of Khair Khanna by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. I was fascinated by the culture and the history of these people, but mostly by their spirit. The people of Afghanistan have seen thirty years of almost constant war, and it has destroyed so much, but so many of them have not let it destroy their spirit or their pride. I loved that A Second Birth respected that pride. Yes, there are problems in their society, as there are in ours, but they don’t apologize for their faith or their heritage, and each character is fighting for what they want.
Fawzia Koofi, a member of the Afghan Parliament, said it best.
“If there comes a day in your life that the fear takes hold of you so hard and it squeezes the fight out of you, then I want you to remember these words: Giving up is not what we do. We fight. We live. We survive.”
That is the spirit of Afghanistan, and that is what I hope I won’t forget from this experience.