FROM SHAME TO PRIDE

February 12, 2019 at 5:00 am

“The Band’s Visit” Tony Award-winning actor Ari’el Stachel reveals his post 9/11 shame about his Middle Eastern heritage and how he ultimately embraced his culture and found a sense of pride.

Aired February 11, 2019.

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>>> THE ACCLAIMED BROADWAY
MUSICAL "THE BAND'S VISIT" SWEPT
UP THE 2018 TONYS WITH 10
AWARDS, INCLUDING BEST MUSICAL.
THIS CHARMING SHOW TELLS THE
STORY OF AN EGYPTIAN POLICE BAND
THAT ACCIDENTALLY ENDS UP IN A
SMALL ISRAELI TOWN WHERE NOTHING
EVER HAPPENS.
THEY'RE THERE FOR ONE NIGHT.
AND IN THAT ONE NIGHT,
EVERYTHING HATCHES.
THE MUSICAL COMES WITH A
POWERFUL MESSAGE OF CULTURAL
UNDERSTANDING AND OVERCOMING
ETHNIC BARRIERS, AND FOR ACTOR
ARI'EL STACHEL, WHO WON THE TONY
FOR HIS ROLE AS THE FLIRTATION
EGYPTIAN TRUMPET PLAYER IN THE
BAND'S VISIT, IT HITS HOME.
WE'LL GET TO THAT IN A MOMENT.
BUT FIRST, A QUICK LOOK AT THE
SHOW.
§
§
>> YOU KNOW WHAT, GENERAL?
YOU CAN STAY HERE WITH US
TONIGHT, IF YOU WANT.
>> NO, NO.
YOU HAVE DONE TOO MUCH ALREADY.
>> OKAY.
>> UNDERSTANDING AND OVERCOMING
ETHNIC BARRIERS HAS BEEN A BIG
PART OF STACHEL'S LIFE.
FOREYEARS AFTER 9/11, HE HID HIS
MIDDLE EASTERN HERITAGE FROM
EVEN HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS AND
SCHOOLMATES GROWING UP IN
CALIFORNIA.
HE JOINS US NOW TO TELL US HOW
THE SHOW HELPED HIM COMES TO
TERMS WITH THAT WELCOME.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING
ME.
>> THIS IS YOUR BROADWAY DEBUT.
>> IT'S MY BROADWAY DEBUT.
>> AND YOU END UP WITH A TONY
AWARD.
WHAT DID YOU --
>> IT MAKES IT SOUND LIKE --
WHAT DID I THINK?
>> FIRST, WHAT DID YOU THINK
WHEN YOU WERE TOLD YOU'VE GOT
THE ROLE?
>> OH, I VIVIDLY, VIVIDLY
REMEMBER THAT MOMENT.
I WAS ON PINS AND NEEDLES.
IT TOOK ME NINE MONTHS TO
ACTUALLY GET THE ROLE, FROM THE
FIRST AUDITION TO THE LAST
AUDITION.
MY FIRST AUDITION WAS IN
DECEMBER OF 2015.
AND I REMEMBER WHEN I GOT THE
REJECTION E-MAIL FROM MY AGENT
AT THE TIME, AND I SUNK INTO MY
COUCH AND WAS CONVINCED THAT I
WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE DOING
THIS FOR A LIVING.
AND I'M REALLY SAYING THAT I'M
NOT SAYING THAT IN A FAKE KIND
OF WAY.
AND I LEARNED THROUGH THE
PROCESS THAT I WAS SCARED OF
LENDING MY HUMANITY TO A MIDDLE
EASTERN CHARACTER.
YOU SPOKE ABOUT IT A LITTLE BIT
IN THE INTRO.
THE FEAR OF BEING SEEN AS MY
ACTUAL SELF WAS SO GREAT THAT I
COULD NOT FIND A WAY TO ACTUALLY
CONNECT TO THE CORE OF THIS
CHARACTER.
>> ISN'T THAT INTERESTING?
I'M SURE PEOPLE SAID MAN, THIS
MUST HAVE BEEN EASY FOR YOU TO
MAKE THE CONNECTION.
>> NOT AT ALL.
THE OPPOSITE, BECAUSE I GREW UP
AS AN AMERICAN KID COMPLETELY
SHELTERED FROM MY MIDDLE EASTERN
CULTURE, AT LEAST IN MAINSTREAM
CULTURE, RIGHT?
SO I'M CELEBRATING ALL THESE
OTHER FORMS OF MUSIC, HIP-HOP.
BUT WHEN MY FRIENDS CAME HOME
AND HEARD THE MUSIC THAT MY
FATHER WAS PLAYING, I WAS
REALLY, REALLY EMBARRASSED.
SO I SORT OF THOUGHT OF MY
MIDDLE EASTERN IDENTITY OF BEING
THIS VERY SORT OF FAR OFF PART
OF ME.
AND SO THAT NINE-MONTH PROCESS
REALLY FORCED ME TO REALIZE,
WAIT, IF I'M GOING TO GET THIS
ROLE, I NEED TO FIGURE OUT WHO
AND WHAT THIS PERSON ACTUALLY
IS.
AND I REMEMBER GETTING THAT
TEXT, AND I CRIED, AND I SPOKE
TO MY DAD, AND I SAID DAD, LIKE
THIS THING HAPPENED.
AND AT THAT POINT, IT WAS JUST
AN OFFBROADWAY SHOW.
IT WASN'T A BROADWAY SHOW.
BUT IT WAS A SEISMIC SHIFT FOR
ME AS A HUMAN BEING.
AND THEN I WAS SAYING I CAN BE A
MIDDLE EASTERN PERSON AND BE
PROUD OF THAT, BUT ALSO PLAY
THIS REALLY DYNAMIC CHARACTER
THAT IS NOT LIMITED IN ANY WAY,
SHAPE OR FORM BY HIS RACE.
>> HE IS VERY INTERESTING.
AND PEOPLE WHO HAVE SEEN THIS
SHOW WILL UNDERSTAND.
PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO SEE THE
SHOW WILL UNDERSTAND.
>> RIGHT.
>> THAT YOU LOOK AT THE LINEUP
OF THE BAND IF YOU WILL.
>> RIGHT, RIGHT.
>> AND IMMEDIATELY YOU ARE THE
ONE WHO HAS BROKEN OUT OF
WHATEVER BOUNDARIES.
>> BROKEN OUT.
THE FIRST THING I'M DOING IS
WE'RE AT AN AIRPORT, AND I'M
LOOKING AT SOME GIRLS.
I'M NOT PLAYING A TERRORIST,
WHICH IS UNFORTUNATELY IN 2019
STILL KIND OF A BREAKTHROUGH
KIND OF A THING TO DO.
>> AND YOU'RE USING WHAT HAS
BECOME YOUR ASSOCIATED LINE,
WHICH I SAID I WASN'T GOING TO
USE IT BECAUSE EVERYBODY ALREADY
HAS, BUT I'M GOING TO DO IT
ANYWAY.
YOU LIKE TOCHET BAKER?
>> YOU LIKE CHET BAKER.
>> YOU SAY IT BETTER.
>> IT'S A BEAUTIFUL
JUXTAPOSITION ON SO MANY LEVELS.
ONE, WHY DOES THIS GUY IN THIS
VERY DEEP, THICK EGYPTIAN ACCENT
LOVE THIS AMERICAN JAZZ ICON?
BUT THE BEAUTY OF IT IS THAT IT
REALLY SHOWS AUDIENCE MEMBERS
WHO MIGHT THINK OF EGYPTIANS AS
THESE VERY SORT OF FAR OFF OR
THAT REGION IS OFTEN IN THE NEWS
FOR VERY NEGATIVE REASONS, THIS
GUY IS LIKE HEY, I LOVE THIS
JAZZ ICON THAT ALL OF YOU GUYS
LOVE TOO.
AND WE START TO PLAY LIKE THAT.
>> HEY, THERE IS A CONNECTION.
>> FROM THE VERY FIRST LINE.
>> THERE IS A EKZCONNECTION.
>> THE NOTION YOU HAD NOT OPENLY
EMBRACED YOUR OWN ANCESTRY.
WHY NOT?
>> VERY DIFFICULT FOR ME TO TALK
ABOUT.
I -- VERY, VERY HARD GROWING UP.
I FELT SOCIALLY INHIBITED BY
JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING.
I FELT LIKE IF I WANTED TO PLAY
BASKETBALL, LIKE I WASN'T
ALLOWED TO, ON SOME LEVEL.
LIKE THIS COVERT SOCIAL
PERMISSION THAT PEOPLE GET TO DO
THINGS.
>> IN A POST-9/11 WORLD.
>> I WAS 10 YEARS OLD.
I REMEMBER WHEN THE TOWERS CAME
DOWN, AND I REMEMBER GOING TO
SCHOOL, AND KIDS WONDERING IF I
WAS RELATED TO THE TERRORISTS.
AND IT BECAME A PRIORITY FOR ME
FROM SIXTH GRADE ON TO MAKE SURE
THAT NO ONE IDENTIFIED ME AS A
MIDDLE EASTERN AMERICAN PERSON.
AND SO THAT ACTUALLY MEANT -- AT
THE TONY AWARD, I SAID
SOMETHING.
I MISSED SO MANY EVENTS WITH MY
PARENTS.
WHAT I MEANTSY DIDN'T GO TO MY
MIDDLE SCHOOL, HIGH SCHOOL, OR
COLLEGE GRADUATION WITH MY
PARENTS BECAUSE I DID NOT WANT
TO BE SEEN AS A MIDDLE EASTERN
PERSON.
AND I THOUGHT BEING SEEN WITH MY
DAD WOULD REVEAL ME.
>> SO HERE YOU HAVE, THEN, A
JUXTAPOSITION, IF YOU WILL, OF
THIS GREAT BREAKTHROUGH FOR YOU.
>> YEAH.
>> PROFESSIONALLY.
>> YEAH.
>> NOT ONLY A ROLE, BUT A ROLE
THAT GARNERED YOU A TONY AWARD.
>> UH-HUH.
>> AND ALSO A GREAT BREAKTHROUGH
FOR YOU PERSONALLY?
>> YEAH.
>> THEY BOTH OCCUR AS A
CONSEQUENCE OF THIS ROLE?
IS THAT ACCURATE?
>> YEAH, I WOULD SAY SO.
AND THE THING THAT'S INTERESTING
IS THAT THE PERSONAL PART IS
TENFOLD MORE IMPORTANT TO ME
THAN THE PROFESSIONAL.
THE PROFESSIONAL BREAKTHROUGH IS
EXCITING.
BUT AS I'VE MADE SENSE OF WHAT
SUCCESS MEANS, I REALIZE THAT
IT'S REALLY SORT OF A FICKLE
HARD THING TO UNDERSTAND.
BUT WHAT I DO UNDERSTAND IS THAT
CONNECTION WITH PEOPLE AND
SERVING PEOPLE IS WHAT'S
IMPORTANT.
AND I FOUND ON SOME LEVEL BY
BEING A PIONEER AS THIS YOUNG
MIDDLE EASTERN GUY WHOSE JUST A
GUY, YOU KNOW, WHO GREW UP
REALLY WANTING TO BE A
BASKETBALL PLAYER, BUT THAT
BEING ABLE TO AFFECT SO MANY
KIDS, I GET DIRECT MESSAGES ON
MY INSTAGRAM AND MY TWITTER FROM
KIDS WHO ARE SAYING THERE IS
THIS PATHWAY THAT I DIDN'T KNOW
EXISTED BEFORE THAT NOW EXISTS
FOR ME.
>> IT'S ONE THING TO BE TOLD
PATHWAYS EXIST.
IT'S ANOTHER TO SEE IT.
§ YOU REALIZE YOU CAN'T GET
NEARER, AND THERE IS NOWHERE YOU
DON'T BE §
>> YOU MENTION THE NOTION OF
MESSAGES AND FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.
YOU GAVE ONE WHEN YOU ACCEPTED
THE TONY AWARD.
>> RIGHT.
>> I WANT TO USE YOUR WORDS.
>> YEAH.
>> YOU SAID YOU WANT ANY KID
WATCHING TO KNOW THAT YOUR
BIGGEST OBSTACLE MAY TURN INTO
YOUR PURPOSE.
>> YEAH.
>> WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?
>> THAT WE'RE RAISED WITH I
THINK VERY QUICKLY MOST OF US,
UNLESS OUR LIVES ARE PERFECT,
WHICH I THINK MAYBE .01% OF US
HAVE THOSE LIVE, IF AT ALL.
BUT WE'RE SORT OF RAISED WITH
WHAT WE THINK ARE IMPEDIMENTS,
WHETHER IT'S I'M TOO SHORT OR IN
MY CASE I'M MIDDLE EASTERN AND
MY NOSE IS BIG.
ALL THESE OTHER THINGS THAT I
THOUGHT WERE JUST EMBARRASSING
THINGS, THAT IF YOU REALLY TAKE
TIME TO CULTIVATE AND FIGURE OUT
WHY YOU FEEL ASHAMED OF THESE
THINGS OR WHY YOU THINK THIS
THING INHIBITS YOU, IT CAN BE
THE CATALYST FOR CREATIVE
ACTION.
FOR ME IT MADE ME WANT TO TELL
STORIES.
IT MADE ME WANT TO BE AN ACTOR.
AND SO THESE THINGS THAT WE FEEL
REALLY INHIBITED BY CAN ACTUALLY
BE THE FUEL AND CAN BE MORPHED
INTO A THING THAT MAKES IT VERY
POWERFUL.
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A TONY
AWARD.
THE SUCCESS IS NOT THE
INDIVIDUAL ACCOLADE AT ALL.
THE SUCCESS IS THAT I'M
CONNECTING MORE DEEPLY TO
PEOPLE.
AND I THINK WE FORGET THAT IN AN
AMERICAN CAPITALIST SOCIETY,
IT'S ALL ABOUT GETTING AN AWARD.
THE AWARD WAS LIKE -- I DON'T
MEAN TO DISRESPECT THE AWARD,
BUT NOT THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY
YEAR.
>> I THINK WHAT WAS INTERESTING
IN WHEN MY WIFE AND I SAW THE
SHOW LAST WEEK, STRUCK BY THE
DIVERSITY IN THE AUDIENCE.
>> YEAH.
>> THE LEVEL OF EXCITEMENT IN
THE AUDIENCE, AND THE RESPONSE
TO THE MUSIC.
>> RIGHT.
>> WHICH IS -- IT WAS THE MIDDLE
EASTERN MUSIC.
>> RIGHT.
>> THAT WAS BEING PLAYED HERE.
>> YEAH.
>> PEOPLE LEAPING TO THEIR FEET.
>> RIGHT.
>> AND IT MADE ME THINK WE'RE
TOLD ONE OF THE SO MANY VALUES
OF THE ARTS ARE THE -- THE
ABILITY TO BRING PEOPLE
TOGETHER.
>> RIGHT.
>> THROUGH A COMMON MEDIUM.
>> RIGHT.
>> MUSIC.
HAVE YOU BEEN SURPRISED BY THE
AUDIENCE REACTIONS THAT YOU SEE?
>> SURPRISED -- I DON'T KNOW
THAT I'VE BEEN SURPRISED, BUT
IT'S MADE ME HOPEFUL AND WHAT I
FIND REALLY INTERESTING IS THAT
THERE IS ALL THESE BEAUTIFUL ART
FORMS THAT EXIST IN THE WORLD,
BUT SOMEHOW WE NEED TO SEE IT IN
A SPACE THAT WE ALL RECOGNIZE AS
BEING SORT OF AN INSTITUTION OF
HIGH ART.
SO WHEN WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY
TO SEE THIS BEAUTIFUL MUSIC ON A
BROADWAY STAGE, ALL OF THE
SUDDEN IT CAN PENETRATE INTO THE
MINDS AND IMAGINATIONS OF PEOPLE
WHO MAY NOT HAVE EVER THOUGHT TO
LISTEN TO THESE KINDS OF MUSIC.
I THINK "HAMILTON" DID THE SAME
THING.
THING IS THIS ENTIRE GENERATION
OF HIP-HOP FANS WHO THOUGHT
HIP-HOP WAS A JOKE PRIOR TO SORT
OF SEEING IT ON A BROADWAY
STAGE.
SO I THINK IT ACTUALLY BEAUTIFUL
THAT IF WE CAN FIND A WAY TO GET
OUR STORIES IN PLACES THAT
REALLY HAVE A LARGE SPOTLIGHT
AND BIG AUDIENCES, PEOPLE WILL
EMBRACE STUFF, BECAUSE THE MUSIC
THAT PEOPLE ARE RESPONDING TO IS
THE MUSIC THAT HUNDREDS AND
THOUSANDS OF YEARS IN
CIVILIZATIONS HAVE CREATED.
AND IT'S WONDERFUL THAT IT'S
GETTING AN AUDIENCE IN THE WEST.
>> YOU WALK INTO A THEATER AND
IT'S THIS PLACE WHERE PEOPLE CAN
COME AND CAN SHARE AND CAN
LEARN.
>> YES.
>> AND MAYBE EVEN MORE
IMPORTANT, CAN THINK ABOUT
SOMETHING.
>> THINK, EMPATHIZE, CONNECT
WITH.
>> I GOT TO TELL YOU, THE SHOW
IS GREAT YOU.
WERE FABULOUS.
>> THANK YOU.
>> IT'S A DEBUT, YOU WALK AWAY
WITH A TONY AWARD AND YOU GET SO
MUCH ELSE, AS WE DO WHO COME TO
WATCH.
IT'S NICE TO HEAR HOW MUCH YOU
HAVE GOTTEN FROM THIS, YOUR
PARTICIPATION.
>> YEAH, AND I HOPE THAT -- I
THINK THAT'S THE IDEAL OF
ANYTHING.
AGAIN, WE BUILD THESE THINGS UP
THERE.
ARE THESE AWARDS.
BUT ULTIMATELY IT'S ABOUT
SITTING AROUND AND CONNECTING.
>> IT IS.
BUT IT'S NICE FOR THE REST OF
THE WORLD TO RECOGNIZE.ARI'EL, .
WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOU DOING
WONDERFUL THINGS IN THE FUTURE.
>> THANK YOU.
>> A REMINDER, "THE BAND'S
VISIT" IS PLAYING AT THE ETHEL
BARRYMORE THEATER.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, MAKE SURE
YOU VISIT US AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

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