East Indie: For those new to The Motherf**ker with the Hat, what’s it all about?
Awesta Zarif: The Motherf**ker with the Hat follows our protagonist Jackie as he attempts to rebuild his life having been released from prison and having committed to a life of sobriety. When he suspects his girlfriend, Veronica, of infidelity it all comes crashing down. It’s down to his AA sponsor Ralph and his cousin Julio to stop Jackie from reverting to his old habits.
EI: What drew you to this particular production?
AZ: We’ve also produced quite a few modern productions, including new writing! However, we were drawn to this play for a number of reasons—primarily because it questions our notion of good verses bad and our idea of what it means to be a moral person. It also brings forth the concept of relative truth. If you’re happy in a particular moment, but find out later you were being lied to, does that take away from the honest joy you felt originally. This play is contemporary, relatable, and very funny. We also thought it would be appropriate to do this play in Shanghai as this is an urban, concrete jungle, just as much as New York City is.
It questions our notion of good verses bad and our idea of what it means to be a moral person.
EI: What can audiences expect to see from this version of the play?
AZ: The play is highly engaging because the writing is explosive, witty, and quick. It’s also written in a contemporary vernacular, which makes it easy and fun to listen to.
EI: Cursing is a prominent feature of the play. What does the strong choice of language bring to the show?
AZ: For these characters, cursing is a part of their everyday language and not a big deal at all. I think it brings a level of realness, grit, and relatability to the show. These characters aren’t exactly the happiest people in the world, so it’s also a reflection of that.
EI: Swearing can be cathartic, has the cast enjoyed the lack of verbal restraint?
AZ: Absolutely. It’s fun to play with these words and find the rhythm in them. The challenge is to keep the delivery authentic and not emphasize the fact that we’re swearing too much.
EI: What challenges did you face bringing such a visceral production to stage?
AZ: The challenges these characters go through are very real and painful. At times it was difficult for the actors to disconnect their own opinions of how they would react in certain situations and react from a new perspective. That’s one of the exciting things about performing—you get to experiment with a point of view different than your own. And, you get to have experiences through a whole new lens, based on your character’s back-story and circumstances.
That’s one of the exciting things about performing—you get experiment with a point of view different than your own.
EI: How else has the show been adapted for Shanghai’s multicultural audiences?
AZ: This show contains themes that all humans can relate to, no matter which cultural background they come from. It’s especially applicable to the modern urban resident—whether that concrete jungle is in America or Asia.
EI: Is there anything special or unique that stands out in this particular production?
AZ: The surrealistic set we use was designed for us by the Shanghai-based artist, Redic. It’s designed to reflect the chaos and journey of our character’s inner journeys throughout the play.
EI: The play blends darkness and humor throughout. Was there anything in particular you were looking for in the actors during the audition process?
AZ: We were especially looking for actors who could bring a special element to the production—ones that could handle heavy emotional situations with the seriousness they deserve, but also bring a special element of lightness.
EI: Has exploring these themes affected you and the crew in any way?
AZ: It has made all of us question times when we could’ve acted as better moral versions of ourselves. As well, it has reminded us of times when we might have deceived loved ones and got away with it.
It has made all of us question times when we could’ve acted as better moral versions of ourselves.
EI: The playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis said that he hopes audiences will see themselves in characters on stage. Which characters did you relate to the most?
AZ: Jackie—our hero. Life is throwing seriously unexpected curveballs at him and he has to learn to roll with the punches in order to keep going.
EI: The show’s title is definitely guaranteed to draw a reaction, but what would you like to see from audiences as they leave the theatre?
AZ: We hope they will leave with a feeling of catharsis. Things in life don’t always work out the way we hope they will. Happy endings aren’t always assured, but what is important is acceptance and the ability to reprioritize our goals.
EI: What can we look expect to see from East West Theatre in the future?
AZ: We’re working on a very exciting production; an all-female version of Romeo and Juliet. Also, we have a Cabaret night planned if you like Broadway music.
The second week of East West Theatre’s two-week run of The Motherf**ker with the Hat goes from Thursday, October 25 to Sunday, October 28, 2018, at Mixpace in Changning District in Shanghai. Check the poster below for details or click here to get your tickets.