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Under This Light Podcast Series

“We are Mysteries to Ourselves” with Yussef El Guindi


Episode 7 - We are Mysteries to Ourselves

In this episode with playwright Yuseff El Guindi, we miss an opportunity to meet Samuel Beckett, demystify the acting process with a backstage fart, talk Shakespeare in Cairo, illustrate the rudiments of storytelling, and learn the truth from a djinn.

Yussef El Guindi
Yuseff El Guindi

Yuseff El Guindi

Born in Egypt, raised in London and now based in Seattle, Yussef El Guindi’s work frequently examines the collision of ethnicities, cultures and politics that face immigrants, Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans in particular. Productions include “People of the Book” at ACT in Seattle, “The Talented Ones” at Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, and “Threesome” at Portland Center Stage. Bloomsbury/ Methuen Drama recently published “ The Selected Works of Yussef El Guindi.” He is the recipient of many honors, including the “Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award”, American Blues Theater’s “Blue Ink Playwriting Award”, “L.A. Weekly’s Excellence in Playwriting Award”, “Seattle’s Gregory Award” and the “Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award”.

Speaker 1 (00:00):


Lamar Legend (00:06):

You are listening to Under This Light, A Revelation of Shakespeare and Self. I am your host Lamar Legend. This is brought to you by Seattle Shakespeare Company. And today we have Yussef El Guindi. He was born in Egypt and raised in London. And now based in Seattle Yussef’s work frequently examines the collision of ethnicities, cultures and politics that immigrants face, particularly Arab and Muslim Americans. His plays include People of the Book at ACT in Seattle, The Talented Ones at Artists Repertory Theater in Portland and Threesome at Portland Center Stage. He is the recipient of the Steinberg ATCA New Play Award, American Blues Theaters’ Blue Ink Playwriting Award, LA Weekly’s Excellence in Playwriting Award, a Seattle Gregory Award, the Middle East America Distinguished Playwriting Award and Bloomsbury Muthuen Drama recently published the selected works of Yussef El Guindi. Yussef, it’s so good to have you here with us today,

Yussef El Guindi (01:09):

Thank you for inviting me Lamar it’s it’s very kind of you. Thank you.

Lamar Legend (01:14):

Absolutely. Will you walk us through your relationship with theater. How did it begin?

Yussef El Guindi (01:21):

Well, it began way back in I think I was 13 in England and boarding school and I was a bit of a clown and class and somebody dropped out of a play. We were doing school plays and somebody dropped out of the play and said, Hey, would you step in and play this role? We’re in a bit of a bit of a bind and we know how you love to just ham it up in class. I said, sure. So I jumped in and it was my first play and I think my first performance was a three character play. And one of the actors, this young actors, I mean, it was like 13, 14 year old that age. He just blurted out in the middle of the play. He just said, I’m fed up with this play and I’m just fed up with this play.

Yussef El Guindi (02:20):

And I just looked at him and go, what, you know, he was just declaring his opinion about how he was feeling at that moment, which I suppose is a kind of honest acting, but I just, and then the co actor who was a little more experienced at the presence of mind to just kind of pick it up, we just kind of looked at him stunned and then he just kind of picked it up. And we carried on and it was such a weird experience, but that was my first ever experience. And, and, and then I just, I kind of fell in love with acting and I fell in love with the whole process learning lines and getting involved in this kind of storytelling and I’m yeah. I’m so I was passionate about becoming an actor much to the horror of my father. Even though my, on my mother’s side, we come from a family of my grandmother was an actress then became a publisher.

Yussef El Guindi (03:21):

My grandfather was a theater director, so it wasn’t completely a foreign idea in the family, but, you know, because I mean, they was successful, but they also knew what a tough road it was. And yeah, it’s just, it’s it’s so that was my first, you know growing up and just growing up in England, you know, I just I won’t date myself, but you know, just, I, I only appreciate now what I had access to as a teenager growing up in England and just, you know, we lived in London and just going to see … Going to see a play for me was as … It was just like, should I go see a movie? Should I go see a play and, you know, going, we had the National Theatre, so I’d just go see, well, what’s this new player by Harold Pinter, you know, No Man’s Land, let me check that out because I was a teenager…

Yussef El Guindi (04:21):

I’d get like, the tickets were like five pounds or something like that. And I’d get like second row seats and see John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in this kind of weird play called No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter. I’d go see the new play by Tom Stoppard. Or I go see,uall these, you know, Paul Schoefield, Ben Kingsley and John Gielgud.. Volpone! You know, I remember seeing Volpone at the National Theatre and, you know, being an, an and having the spittle of,uJohn Gielgud sort of,uyou know, raining down on me as I was sat in the second row. And so this was all just, this was my sort of, without realizing I was just absorbing a whole lot as a, as a, as a kid. And that was my real first introduction to theater

Speaker 1 (05:16):


Yussef El Guindi (05:25):

I was exposed to a whole lot without my realizing, you know, what an education it was. So I so I basically, I wanted to be an actor and,uuand without going to do much detail, I applied, I did my undergraduate degree. I went back to Cairo to do my undergraduate degree. I did lots of acting in,uin Cairo and then I applied to six acting schools. U’cause my, my father felt well, why won’t you, the future lies in the States at the time. Uand,uand he said, well, that’s, lets focuson that. So I applied to six acting schools,uand one playwriting. So

Lamar Legend (06:08):

The schools were in the U S and

Yussef El Guindi (06:10):

The U S yeah, I didn’t want to go back to England, you know, I, to a certain point, I just felt, I remember going to my father saying, I don’t want to be English … It wasn’t, that’s, that’s a whole other story. So he said, well fine, come back to Cairo.

Lamar Legend (06:26):

I’m curious if we can, we can meander a little bit. I actually want to go delve a little deeper more deeply into just a little bit about your father and if you don’t mind if that’s not too personal, but the dichotomy in terms of the support you were receiving from, you said your mother and your mother’s side of the family, because it was, they were just, well-versed in it in the arts and, and your father, I assume, correct me if I’m wrong, had a different path for you…no?.

Yussef El Guindi (06:55):

Yes. He wanted me to be a lawyer and, and he, and in fact, we, we want a one point, I was so fed up with England and, you know, even though I was a theater kid and I had all had this access to all this wonderful theater, I just also England in the sixties and seventies was not very hospitable to, to foreigners and, and, and just to, it was not a great environment and I just I’d had, I’d had enough. I wanted out. And and he said, well, let’s just switch to the American system then. And I had visited Paris to visit a friend. And I said, gosh, do you know, they have an American college in Paris. We need to be lovely if I went to to Paris. And I said, I said if you send me to this American college in Paris, I promised to become a lawyer.

Yussef El Guindi (07:51):

And I meant it at the time, at the time I meant it. And he said, all right. And that was like music to his ears. So I went to, I switched to the American college in Paris and it was, it was, I just loved the American system. All of a sudden I had access to all these different subjects. I spent seven years in boarding school and suddenly I was in Paris as a 17 year old kid. And there were, you know, bars, every the campus was sort of like all over the place, no bars in between. I, and even though they let you drink, you know, in boarding school, once you turned 16, they actually had an, a bar for the older boys. So it wasn’t, you know, drinking wasn’t a big deal. It was only beer that was allowed. But in Paris suddenly I was, you know, exposed to so much.

Yussef El Guindi (08:48):

And and my first I, the first guy I met was this American from Denver and, and his brother was a, a drug dealer. And he, he would send my friend. He was sent his brother and drugs for the mail. I remember I took a class. I know, I know I’m rambling, but I took this class in it was philosophy the philosophy with the old Testament by, and it was, it was, it was run by Jesuit. It was, the class was run by Jesuit priests. We had it at his home, you know, we …during break between, it was like three hours. We’d have a break and he’d have like wine and cheese for the students, you know, and during the break, which was great. And I remember one day he said, do ..the class ended in a few of us had remained behind us. So he said, so does anybody smoke here. And I thought cigarettes and I was smoking at the time, I think. And I said, yeah, I smoke. And he proceeded to bring out this bong, this, this marijuana. And he just kind of passed it around. Now. I was thinking, I love the American educational system. This is great.

Speaker 1 (10:06):


Lamar Legend (10:16):

Would you say, cause you were exposing yourself and were exposed to the, you know, the vast majority of, of professions within the performing arts. I mean, you were acting, I mean, and you were also writing poetry. Were you at any point thinking like, I want to land on one or the other?

Yussef El Guindi (10:33):

No, you see the thing is this. I, I, I, I was passionate about acting and I was just devastated. In fact, we were talking before the recording about psychics and readings and all that. And actually, what was interesting, my in Cairo, I had two readings, one reading was a tarot card reading, and I, I told them my interests were acting. And and I said writing and the tarot card reading said, writing 90% acting,ulike just 10%. And I said, no, no, I think you’ve got that mixed up. I’m going to be an actor. And,uso actually I probably 10% writing and 90% acting. And then the cards said the exact opposite. And then I had a second reading, a numerology reading, and they said, nothing’s going to happen for you, Yussef until much later in life. Now I th I thought much later, man, maybe five, 10 years, maybe like 20 years later, my career would start.

Yussef El Guindi (11:42):

But that was kind of interesting. So, no. So when I went to Carnegie Mellon, I still secretly harbored the desire to become an actor. And I was actually panicked about now being in conservatory learning this craft that I was interested in, but it wasn’t my passion. And I was worried that I was going to be surrounded by people for whom this was a passion. And how could I compete with that? Well, you know, I …I’m always very, I’m very studious and I apply myself to whatever, whatever I, I have to to stay afloat and get ahead. And I did decently and more importantly, I learned the craft of playwriting, which was very new for me. I admit all my studies and theater had been related to acting. And now I was being taught specifically the craft of playwriting and it was a very dry approach. You know, it wasn’t so much, what is your voice? It’s, these are the craft elements that make up the medium of plays. And you have to learn, you know, novel plays are different from novels are different from short stories from poems, et cetera. And, and, and you have to, you have to familiarize yourself with these techniques.

Lamar Legend (13:07):

Did that deepen your relationship to the art form or …

Yussef El Guindi (13:12):

Yes. What happened was my very first exercise I was given. I, you know, I just come out from my English and compare it, my English comparative Lit undergraduate degree. And so I was full with all these great writers and these artworks, and I was very much into the whole Bloomsbury group, Virginia Wolf and E.M. Forrester , and that whole Vanessa Bell. And so my first, very first exercise was, you know, I was trying to be, you know, profound and say something. And my parent and teacher could have sat me down and said, look, it’s, this is kind of boring. You know, there may be something interesting in there, but I’m not really interested in, you know, … Your take on this issue, that issue, what I need from you is I need to see you incorporate the techniques we talk about in class into the scene work.

Yussef El Guindi (14:15):

So if we’re talking about, for instance, exposition and how to get exposition successfully get information out to the audience in a way that doesn’t bore them, or, you know, make the action drag that’s, that’s your task, write a five page scene in which we get exposition in such a way that it moves the action forward, is relevant to the action and doesn’t stop anything as you …, What is, you know, write a five page scene incorporating as much theatricality as you can… Make it interesting…you know, in terms of theatricality is a very vague term for just sort of anything, you know, visually something visually that engages the audience visually, you know, you know, at the end of the day, the thing that’s going to grab your audience in terms of theatricality and everything is the dramatic conflict. What an and we read, we break down, well, what is, what is a conflict in drama? What are the basic elements? You know, it’s two mutually exclusive ones at its very basic at its very basic level. It’s, you know, two thirsty people and one glass of water and maybe just half a glass of water or just a drop of water. And it’s, who’s going to get that glass of water and the tactics they employ to try and secure that what they want. That is what constitutes the action.

Lamar Legend (16:08):

You experienced Shakespeare growing up in prep school in England. And so, and they were casting, you know, everybody in plays and stuff. So is that where you were first exposed to Shakespeare and will you tell us about your relationship to, to the man’s work at, from a playwright’s point of view?

Yussef El Guindi (16:27):

Well, I think, I mean, I remember being taught Shakespeare in my school in England. I don’t think, I don’t think we did a Shakespeare play when I was there. I think we did Moliere. And then we did a whole bunch of modern plays. This was always this is also the, the seventies and I think students were being bit rebellious and saying we want to do modern work and stuff like that. And so I, Shakespeare was mostly, I was doing it mostly in in the classroom. When did I, I don’t recall. I must have seen a Shakespeare play. I must’ve seen a Shakespeare …In Egypt..yes. We were doing Shakespeare. We did do Shakespeare plays in Egypt. So I was exposed to him there and Carnegie Mellon, I remember acting in Shakespeare too.

Yussef El Guindi (17:29):

I was doing the The Comedy of Errors. I remember my, you know, ….I was a playwriting. I still auditioned for plays and I auditioned for Comedy of Errors and got cast. And the part of the father of the guy who comes on, gives the exposition and buggers off, you know, it’s such a thankless part, but I remember the, I remember the my first performance of that play The Comedy of Errors. I was in the wings and it’s the father and the Duke. And, you know, I think, I believe the father comes on and chains, whatever, and, and has to explain himself cause it’s going to be extra. I think it’s going to be executed favor if I remember the call, I forget. But so me and the Duke.. The actor playing the Duke were in the wings and th the lights were going down and the Duke, The actor playing the Duke just lets out this huge, huge fart in the wings.

Yussef El Guindi (18:26):

And I just, I just, I just burst out laughing. I just I’m I’m hysterics. And then, and then, and then I go, oh, I can’t go on. I can’t go on now. I’m ma I’m laughing. I I’m, I’m supposed to be playing a tragic character. I’m the dad. And I’m the twins and my I’m the storm and, and, and, and the stage manager says on, on you’re on. And so I go on and I’m inside. I am just trying my hardest, not to burst out laughing, and I’m not going to keep telling myself, I keep telling myself, okay, you, this is you’re in graduate school. You don’t want to be kicked out. If you, if you break character and lose it, they will find a way to kick you out because you know, it’s all about, you know, conservatories, it’s all about thinning the herd. So I was just desperate to drag on.

Yussef El Guindi (19:20):

And at one point, tears were coming down my face because I was just hysterically. And afterwards, after I managed to get through, I couldn’t look at the Dukes face because I knew if I looked at the actor, I would just lose it. So it was away from him. And afterwards people came to me and going when, oh, my conscious, if that was so moving, that was just, I thought this was such a dry part. And you just imbued that exposition with so much feeling. And I was just going, yeah, I try. I just, you know, I gave it my all and, and I didn’t want to say, yeah, my motivation was a fart. And that was what gave us this great performance, which is why I always tell actors, it doesn’t matter what’s going through your mind. And of course, of course, acting, and somebody has said at one point said, well, of course that you, it came because you were fighting against something as an actor, you know, when you’re up against something that creates interest and engagement.

Yussef El Guindi (20:30):

And so my struggle at that moment made it, you know, nevermind what the struggle was about. It did provide a certain energy and engagement with what I was saying, even though the motivation was totally had nothing to do with the character. So that was just agree with that. You know, it was just, it was an interesting, it was as I move forward as an actor, that that was very interesting for me because I just, I realized that …stop worrying what the audience, cause, you know, you might have a good night and the audience would go and you might have a terrible night and the audience might love your performance. So you just don’t know, you don’t know. And so but anyway, back to Shakespeare, that was my, so I did at, in Cairo, I was exposed to Shakespeare in Carnegie Mellon I was exposed to Shakespeare and, you know, and it was just, you know, you know, Shakespeare’s everywhere.

Yussef El Guindi (21:29):

So I would just go to see this production, that production and, you know and after a while you’ll seeing the same play produced several times over and at a certain point, and certainly at this point in my life, I just said enough enough with Shakespeare that I have a limited time on this planet. I need to expose myself, I’ve exposed myself to Shakespeare enough and I just need to I don’t care if this a really unique take on a play or one of his plays I’ve seen countless takes, you know on all his plays, most of his plays. And I just don’t need to, and plus the film versions, I just don’t need to see another Shakespeare play because I really have a sense of my own sort of mortality and that I, I need to spend the time I would seeing Shakespeare plays, seeing something else. And I think also, I mean, there’s a reason Shakespeare’s done over and over is because he’s a, he’s a really good dramatist. It’s not his language that it’s not just his language that makes us want to produce him again. And again, is that he’s a really exciting playwright.

Lamar Legend (23:11):

When did you start finding your own voice? And I mean, encounter too, you know, what you were being taught at Carnegie Mellon from that one professor who was like, well, we were not interested in what you have to say. We’re interested in you learning the basic elements of playwriting, the craft of, of, of playwriting. When did you start, you know, taking that and then infusing it with your own voice and going out on your own and being like, this is now what I have to say. And actually also look, this is a larger question, but you know, what is it that you endeavor to say with your play?

Yussef El Guindi (23:44):

Well, you know, that’s interesting that whole notion of voice, and when it kicks in full a writer, I used to also teach playwriting later at Duke University the, I taught play writing. And what I found interesting was right as who would start out in one semester, you know, they would, I would teach them kind of what I was told and they would write the plays and, and then maybe second semester or third semester, I would suddenly notice a whole new flowering in terms of their output. And I would go, oh, look, that voice just kicked in. You know, it’s almost like, oh, they just reached puberty. It’s something would kick in. And it happens for it happens for people at different times and you never know. And so I never write it. I never wrote any of my students off, even the ones who seem to be clunky, but it was still passionate because I said, I don’t yet know when your voice will kick in …my voice kicked in.

Yussef El Guindi (24:48):

It took a very long time. I mean, there are several reasons why that was …when I came to America, I still heard, when characters spoke, I still heard British voices. And of course that was kind of weird to write British characters in an American setting. Also, they weren’t, as I, as I lived in Egypt and I’d, you know, and now I was in America, they weren’t, it was becoming a bit muddied that those voices. So there was this weird transition where I was transitioning from my British background into this new American setting. It took a long time for me to hear American voices and for them to naturally emerge as characters in my plays. So I did want to write plays for my audience here. I, I, I feel very strongly that I need to communicate with, with where wherever I am with the audience that I have.

Yussef El Guindi (25:47):

So that took, I remember it took me like seven years before I could ..Before, I wrote my first quote-unquote American play. That was one thing. The other thing is I was a bit lost in terms of where do I belong. Now for me as a writer, I need to feel like I belong somewhere in order to participate in the conversation of that place. You know, I I’m in my big success when I was in my adolescent, in my adolescence, in my he is right off the Carnegie Mellon. Was a play about a play called Hostages, which was about people two people stuck in any kind of no man’s land and nobody, which is what kind of where I was. And so it took a long time for me to finally connect to the U S and where I was.

Yussef El Guindi (26:45):

And actually that happened when I became a citizen. And it was a very interesting experience for me. And I actually wrote about it in a play called The Talented Ones where I remember coming out of that naturalization ceremony. This was in 96. And I remember thinking, oh, I’m now I am now a US citizen. And I, I am now part of the story of this country, the good and bad of it, of, of immigrants who come from somewhere else will come to this country and, and then make a home for themselves here. The thing about being brought up in England is they never let you forget that you weren’t English. You know, they wouldn’t, it wouldn’t matter if I’d stayed there up until now. It’s they were just, I don’t, I think since Brexit, it’s gone back, I think for a while, it got better then it got.. When they went back to the default setting of not being very welcoming, but they, they never let you forget that.

Yussef El Guindi (27:57):

And that was a problem for me. And I think coming to America on paper, at least not necessarily in daily interactions or, you know, some of the negativity in around you, but on paper officially, supposedly that this is, you know, immigrants are welcomed and, you know, integrated and become American. And supposedly a foreign born American has the same rights as a native born American, and they’re not, you know, psychologically, it was important for me to know that if some American came me and told me to, you know, bugger off, I could say, no, you bugger off. You know that the sense of belonging was I didn’t realize how much I needed it. And that’s the other thing I didn’t realize. I’d always considered myself a a citizen of the world, you know, kind of like, I’m one of those, you know, citizens of the world. I don’t belong anywhere, but actually when I became a citizen, I suddenly realized I suddenly realized it was answering a need. I didn’t even realize, I didn’t even realize I needed that.

Speaker 1 (29:14):


Lamar Legend (29:25):

You took your …, Your tuteledge, you took your research even further after you became a citizen of the United States and continue to read up on the untold stories of U S yes. Americans.

Yussef El Guindi (29:41):

Yes. In fact, I had, before I became a citizen that was of great interest to me. And I think, cause I just related to being up against it. And a lot of these stories were about individuals and peoples who are up against it, you know, who had to surmount certain obstacles who didn’t feel welcome, or who had, you know, challenges to say the least to, to, you know, negotiate their presence in this country. I mean, this country is pretty bloody and you know, it’s, it’s the, the history of the states is, is there’s a lot, there’s a lot of you know, blood and guts. I mean, it’s just, it’s a lot of, it’s not very unpleasant, but it has certain ideals. It purports to hold to certain ideals and to live up to. And a lot of the, a lot of the you know, the work of activists over the decades has been to say, look, you have these statements, you have to live up to these statements, you know, and I think that’s been the journey of this country living up to its ideals and the various people who have struggled and, and pushed to, to say you are failing the ideals of this country.

Yussef El Guindi (31:05):

You’re you’re nowhere close to it. And and so for me reading up about that and feeling, I was a part of that, this journey suddenly all my very personal issues, I felt plugged into a bigger struggle. And so all my plays now, I felt like they were part of a wider discussion

Lamar Legend (31:41):

For those who don’t know. Will you tell us in detail, what’s the experience like for a playwright having their work realized from conception to production

Yussef El Guindi (31:55):

[Inaudible] well, it’s, I will say this for aspiring playwrights, you have to, you have to practice, practice, practice, like with any discipline. So if you write something and you’ll sending it around, I’ll get to your question I promise. But if you, if you write something and send it around and you’re not getting any responses, you have to find a way to, you have to find a way to practice your craft. And the only way you’re going to do it, it’s not enough just to write something, you have to write it and you have to stage it and you have to learn from that. So, and one of the things that are during the nineties, I was writing these big plays. Once I stopped really, you know, … That I’m not an actor, I want to focus on plays happened around like late nineties.

Yussef El Guindi (32:52):

I, I, I, I realized I had to get with a group that would do what I, what I wrote. And so I would just, I was with this very small group, we, we would, every week we would come, we’d meet, we’d write something. Actors would take the script and there’d be a cold reading of that script. And we did this every week. And that was invaluable because you really can’t learn by just, yes, you can write, be as productive as you, as you can writing at home, but then you have to find a way to get it up on its feet, because then you you’ll begin to you’ll see. Well, okay, I need to, I just need to cut. I need to be more clear. I need, you’ll learn all the things you need to know by seeing it up on his feet

Lamar Legend (33:48):

And now to excite your curiosity and in the spirit of infusing the world with more joy, I present to you some magic questions.

Lamar Legend (34:02):

If you could master one skill that you don’t already have, what would it be?

Yussef El Guindi (34:09):

You know, I used to be a painter. I did a lot of painting. I used to choose to be a nice counterbalance to focusing on words, words, words. I liked I liked getting a canvas and painting, and I used to do that a lot during the nineties. I paint a lot. I didn’t have a television, so, I’d switch on the radio and late at night, I would paint, paint, paint, and I, and I had lots of paintings and I moved to Seattle and I continued painting. And then one day I got a television and I stopped painting and I’m so …so I don’t need the visual. I don’t need the visual element anymore. I’ve got my TV and I can watch that. But I think I would, I’ve often said if I didn’t, if I didn’t write, I’d paint. But you know, if I, if I have to master another I I’d love to be a musician, you know, that’s, I admire musicians and all types of music from classical to jazz to, you know, even pop songs. I think music is, and I think because I want to be talked about music being such an integral part of any, any storytelling, including playwriting and theater.

Yussef El Guindi (35:27):

So I suppose, skillsets, musical, or painting, that would be my two things.

Lamar Legend (35:34):

Okay. Okay. All right. Here’s a, here’s a biggie. This is your specific magic question. So a djinn for those who don’t know is, is a creature that is neither good, nor bad. It is typically associated with evil, but it actually is Arabic of origin and …and Islamic part of Islamic mythology. And would later be Anglicised into what we know as in the Western culture, as a genie. That’s right. And, but its original name is djinn. And so actually it has a few different names, especially in Arabic. So djinn so a djinn comes to this creature, a djinn comes to visit you and aid you in your work. And it seeks purely to help you by providing you with one of three truths from the past delivered to you in whichever way you wish. And these truths are, you can only pick one, one, a detailed account of the colonization of the United States from the souls of everyone who existed at that time or two a comprehensive, excuse me, a comprehensive account of your entire family lineage and their experiences up until the moment of your birth or three an exhaustive account of your own life.

Lamar Legend (37:19):

From the perspective of every single person you’ve come into contact with no matter how brief or seemingly inconsequential, which truth do you choose?

Yussef El Guindi (37:31):

That’s very interesting question. Well the, the first one, I, you know, I, there are history books and so I obviously it would be a very detailed and different take and that’s very tempting the first the last one, that’s also fascinating. You know what do people, how do people, how do people see me? Cause you know, we, we we were occasionally surprised by how people perceive us, but I, I’m not that fascinated by myself. So I would probably not choose that. The last one I’d have to go with the middle one, which is the family lineage. I’m totally fascinated. I’ve I periodically go, gosh, I, I wish I could go … We could go back. I could go back and back and back and back and back to to you know, both sides of my family and, and discover the journeys of you know, go back as far as I can. I mean how fascinating with that be to to so for ga djinn came along and said of those three, what would you pick? I would pick the middle one the about getting as much information about my family as I possibly could and just, you know, personal, that was the thing, right? That the djinn would give you, everything would be more than just factual. It would be sort of

Lamar Legend (39:20):

Yeah, it would be a comprehensive account from the souls of, you know, of everyone within your family lineage and delivered to you in whichever way you wish. So if you wanted to talk to them, you could, if you wanted to just hear, I don’t know, an audio book tape of a single person, or you could read a book.

Yussef El Guindi (39:40):

Yeah, I would, I would totally do that. What would you, what would your choice be?

Lamar Legend (39:44):

Oh, my choice, actually, it doesn’t factor in here cause we’ll just cut that out. I never answered these questions, but I appreciate your asking. Okay. So the last one, last question, final question. When you die, because we all will if people forget everything about you, what’s the one thing you want them to remember?

Yussef El Guindi (40:08):

You know, I mean, one, one writes in the hope. I mean, I don’t write for that reason, but I do hope I do hope that some of my stuff might be of interest. After I pause, you know, there’s a professor at in University of Oregon in Eugene Michael,[inaudible], who is archiving my papers. He said, he’s a, his he’s an art historian who’s focuses on. He’s a professor professor whose focus has been on Arab American drama through the decades. And he said, mt .. it has been so difficult for him to do, to do research because a lot of these, hriginal papers have disappeared and have been lost. And what I want to do is I want to archive your work. So some professor who’s going well, what was that movement of Arab American drama, at least American drama at the beginning of the 21st century, you know, hho was some of the players involved.

Yussef El Guindi (41:21):

And he says, I just want to create a record for future scholars to have access to some papers. And he’s doing a very good job of bringing to the forefront, some of these writers. So, you know you know, if I were to, you know, my, my fires, we all going to disappear, I, I would like that. I would like that to be some sort of record to say that, you know, so some Egyptian American or Arab American theater person a hundred years from now will go well, is there anybody, is there, are there any monologues from any plays that I can look and somebody can say, yes, there was, you know, we had our archives or, you know, there are some of these maybe you want to look at, if you’re looking for ancient texts, you know really old texts here are some old texts that you can choose from.

Yussef El Guindi (42:30):

And, you know yeah, I mean, that’s, I guess that’s, that’s a, that’s a hope. It’s not a, it’s not the reason why I write, I was telling the same professor. I was saying, look, I, I, he was saying, well, you, you, you do write a lot. And he said, yeah. And I said, yes, I’m trying to add to the canon. I’m trying to add to our Canon, which did not exist. You know, it’s, there are, it’s taken a long time, you know, you look at them and talking about, you know, how I studied up on the different, different groups. And, you know, when you look at the, you know, the African-American movement in drama and in there was perks, but I mean, it was percolating periodically throughout since, since African-Americans had been here. But you know, it really started taking, hold in the, I’d say fifties, and then really kicked in, in the sixties and then moved forward with Latin X nation Americans.

Yussef El Guindi (43:33):

It really started happening the late sixties, but really kicked in, in the seventies, in the seventies. That’s when a lot of the writers from the Asian-American a lot of the Dramatists from the Asian American and that next community started percolating up. With the native Americans, it started really happening in the nineties in terms of the mainstream culture and with the middle Eastern contingent. It really started happening in the late nineties. There were lots of organizations there, theatre troupes in New York, in San Francisco in Dearborn Michigan. And and then after 9/11, it really kicked up because that’s kind of how things happen in this country. The, a group becomes a problem group and suddenly this has a negative spotlight on that group. And so people from that group begin to respond. They have to respond, they’re forced to, and there’s this negative spotlight and they have to speak up.

Yussef El Guindi (44:36):

And this happens time off the time of group of the group. And, you know, usually you have comics, you know, emerge. And so you have sort of like comics from that group and then writers from that group and Dramatists and then filmmakers. And, you know, that’s sort of how it happens in this country. And that started really happening for the middle east and the American community in late nineties and then the two thousands. And so there are writers now who are writing and adding to that canon. And so I was, I would say, you know, part of what motivates me is, you know, I’m going to write because I, I just, I have to write, I try and write every day, but I’m also some little part of me is also aware of wanting to contribute to that canon. So there is, there all plays for those Arab American or middle east American actors who now, you know, who are present now and who come much later and who want to know, well, what plays are out there for me? You know, I mean, I can see myself represented on stage until my forties. You know, there was no representation whatsoever until in my forties. And so luckily that’s going to be changing for the middle Eastern actor coming up now. I think they they’ll have some place to choose from. There are other Dramatists, you know, many other Dramatists, both myself who are providing material for them. So that’s what I hope continues.

Speaker 1 (46:19):


Lamar Legend (46:19):

We thank you for your contribution.

Yussef El Guindi (46:21):

Thank You. Thank you. Thank you for your contribution.

Speaker 1 (46:25):


Lamar Legend (46:43):

Thank you for listening to Under This Light. A Revelation of Shakespeare and Self, the series is a project of Seattle Shakespeare Company. If you enjoy this discussion, we’d like to learn more about Seattle Shakespeare Company’s productions and programs. Please visit Seattle shakespeare.org. We’d love to hear from you. Seattle Shakespeare is located on lands, taken from the Duwamish Stillaguamish Muckleshoot Suquamish and all coast Salish people. We pay respect to them as this region’s original storytellers. The music you hear in this episode is provided and composed by Stephon Dorsey, artwork for our series was created by Marlin Bonner, I’m host and producer Lamar Legend. And we’ll be back in two weeks with another episode. So subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts, give us your hands. If we be friends and Lamar shall restore amends.