Theatre & Film

 From a 2012 reading of  In The House We Haven't Built  at U.C. Berkeley. That's Ansel himself on the screen.

From a 2012 reading of In The House We Haven't Built at U.C. Berkeley. That's Ansel himself on the screen.

I am a writer, director, dramaturg and occasional reluctant performer. My work is eclectic and a lot changes from project to project but much of what I do comes out of a fascination with the peculiarities of history and an immersion in the particularities of place. I'm also often preoccupied, in my creative as well as my academic work, with how our relationship with our non-human others impinges on our ideas of social justice and the futures we imagine for ourselves.

For a sense of my work as a director and dramaturg on projects like Philip Kan Gotanda's I Dream of Chang and Eng, Eugène Ionesco's Rhinoceros and Ebrahim Hussein's Kinjeketile, see the Portfolio tab above. I am also the co-founder and one of the original directors of U.C. Berkeley’s New Play Reading Series, which brings outstanding playwrights like Larissa FastHorse and Lauren Yee to the Berkeley campus for public readings of work in progress.

 On location with the cast and crew of  Zoey and the Wind-Up Boy . Photo by Anthony Mogli Maureal.

On location with the cast and crew of Zoey and the Wind-Up Boy. Photo by Anthony Mogli Maureal.

My main role in the theatre, however, is that of writer. Some of my recent plays and performance texts include At Buffalo, a musical exploration of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition that I am developing with Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin and Khalil Sullivan; The Bonapartes, an absurdist retelling of the incredible true story of Napoleon Bonaparte, his wife Josephine and the orangutan they raised as a human child; Foreign Bodies, an explosive look at the intersection of germophobia and xenophobia in the global crisis of drug-resistant tuberculosis; In The House We Haven't Built, an immersive reimagining of the time that Ansel Adams spent photographing the University of California in the 1960s; Pretty Please (A Puppet Play), a domestic drama about race and sexual violence; Ornithology, a theatrical memento mori of the taxidermy lessons that the young Charles Darwin received from John Edmonstone, a Guyanese ex-slave; and The Snows of Kilimanjaro, a two-part work that I am devising (with Dar Es Salaam's Lumumba Theatre Group) around the Hemingway story and the apocalyptic threat of climate change in East Africa.

I have also begun to work in film. In 2005-2006 I made a documentary about Swahili street theatre for AIDS education called Kelele. More recently, I built on my long-standing collaboration with the Oakland performance troupe Radix on the short film Zoey and the Wind-Up Boy, which is inspired by my play Zoey in the Snow.

Images below (and on the main page), from left to right: Kokomo Jr., the "talking chimpanzee" who appeared on The Tonight Show and other television programs in the 1950s, © Getty Images; an (as far as I know) anonymous ape who features in many illustrations of the Infinite Monkey Theorem; and a dapper chimpanzee, likely named Consul, in a turn-of-the-century photograph © Hulton Archive / Getty Images.