Playwright George Pfirrmann was recently in New York City on one of the hottest days of the year. But after hours of sitting under fluorescent lights in a chilled air-conditioned studio for two full days auditioning actors with his new director, Katrina Hilbe, the two were anxious to get to the street and warm up. And while I chatted with Ms. Hilbe about marketing, actors, and the direction of the play, for Pfirrmann, it's all about the story (his new play, THE BROTHERS KHAN: AN AMERICAN STORY) and its journey to the stage at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival!
LocalTheatreNY.com: What's the story behind the story of THE BROTHERS KHAN: AN AMERICAN STORY? Where did the idea to write this play come from?
George Pfirrmann: When the Boston bombing happened and the story unfolded about the brothers who committed this act of violence in their adopted country I began a journey that led to THE BROTHERS KHAN: AN AMERICAN STORY. I was interested in understanding the psychology behind their actions and how their relationship factored into the choices they made. As I researched their story and the story of others who acted in similar ways i.e.; 911, Paris, London, San Bernardino, etc., what emerged was an interesting mix of emotional and behavioral problems, family dysfunction, substance abuse issues, and what used to be called alienation all woven into a deadly political cocktail. While religion was almost always part of the story it was not usually the driving force but a means to an end. That mix interested me.
LocalTheatreNY.com: This could be seen as a political theme, or a story about family. Which is it and why?
George Pfirrmann: At its heart, this is a story about two brothers whose legal immigration to America leads them to two very different places. It is the story of a once close and loving fraternal relationship that was blown up by a trauma that was directly tied to their ethnic background, in a country that prides itself as being built by immigrants. The politics of Jihad, while a factor in the play, is not the focus but an important detail in the lives of these characters.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Producing in New York can be tricky, what can you share about your experience in preparing for this festival?
George Pfirrmann: While I had not previously produced in New York, I did produce one of my plays in the San Francisco Fringe Festival so I had some understanding of what I was undertaking. Having said that, San Francisco is not New Yorkk. Everything in New York is supersized, often chaotic, and incredibly stimulating. Coming in as the producer/playwright and assembling a crew and a cast in New York City has, so far at least, been one of the most challenging and exciting things I've ever done in theatre. I feel that this is like a crash course, on a graduate level, in navigating a project of this nature in this environment.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Where do you see the play going after the BBTF? What's your vision and dream for it?
George Pfirrmann: I hope that the audience can see beyond the narrow focus of a play about terrorists to a universal story about how trauma and the shame and despair that comes from it can threaten the strong bonds of brotherhood. Also, as a retelling of the story of Cain and Able I hope it has a universal appeal and gets picked up by the community of Off/Off Broadway Theaters.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Tell us about your other work. What other plays have you written? Do you have a particular genre of form that you prefer in your writing?
George Pfirrmann: Having come to playwriting later in life I have spent the last ten years studying the genre, working with many nationally know playwrights through the Playwrights Foundation here in San Francisc and studying, for most of the past ten years, with a master teacher and playwright, Will Dunne, as part of his monthly weekend workshops which are limited to twelve writers. My most successful play to date is AROUSAL an award winning comedy that has enjoyed runs in SF, LA, and NY. It is a one act that I am currently expanding into a full length. In addition I am nearly done with a four character family drama, and in development with another full length comedy.
THE BROTHERS KHAN: AN AMERICAN STORY? can be seen at The Broadway Bound Theatre Festival beginning mid August. The dates are Wednesday, August 15th at 8:30pm, Friday, August 17th 8:30pm, and Saturday, August 18th 5:00pm.
The festival will take place at the Theater at The 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (at 14th Street and 1st Avenue), New York, NY 10003 (Front desk is 646-395-4310). Tickets can be purchased by linking here: https://bit.ly/2uFlA2h
The Story: Brothers Dzhabrail and Rustam, Muslim immigrants to America, have grown apart. While Rustam struggles and has been drawn into a jihadist cell, Dzhabrail has settled in but has lost touch with his religion. When he invites Rustam over to repair the relationship, he accepts, but for a very different reason that threatens to destroy them both.
General Admission: $25 online / $30 at the door ~ Running Time: 80 minutes, No Intermission
*Please note this production contains adult content such as violence, weapons, and terrorism. Recommended for ages 15 & older.*