METROFOCUS: FEBRUARY 11, 2019

Are the plans for Amazon HQ2 over and out of Long Island City? We have the latest details. Tension mounts within the city council after Bronx Representative Ruben Diaz Sr. makes comments perceived as homophobic. Meet your neighbors and alternative approaches to combating all forms of mental illness. “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.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS,' AMAZON HQ2, OVER AND OUT OF LONG ISLAND CITY.

THE INTENSE DEBATE.

WHETHER THE RESALE GIANT SHOULD STAY OR GO.

SOME MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY KAIING FOUL.

SPEAKER COREY JOHNSON CALLS OUT FOR A PERCEIVED POMONA HOMOPHOBIC SLUR.

LADY GAGA MADE A PLEA FOR MENTAL HEALTH.

MEET OUR NEIGHBORS TO THE NORTH WHO ARE ON THE FRONT LINES OF ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES TO COMBAT ALL FORMS OF THE ILLNESS.

> AND TONY AWARD WINNING ACTOR ARI'EL STACHEL, ONE OF BROADWAY'S BRIGHTEST STARS OPENS UP ABOUT THE SHAME HE FEL AFTER 9/11 FOR HIS MIDDLE EASTERN HERITAGE, HOW HE HID IT FROM THOSE AROUND HIM AND HOW HE ULTIMATELY EMBRACED HIS CULTURE AND FOUND A SENSE OF PRIDE.

THOSE STORIES AND MORE AS METRO STARTS RIGHT NOW.

THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY -- CORPORATE FUNDING BY METRO FOCUS WAS PROVIDED BY MUTUAL AMERICA, YOUR RETIREMENT COMPANY.

AND BY PSE&G, SERVING THE COMMUNITY AND INVESTING IN THE FUTURE.

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

IS AMAZON, THE BEHEMOTH RETAILER REALLY READY TO PULL THE PLUG ON HQ2, ITS MASSIVE LONG ISLAND CITY PROJECT?

THERE ARE CONFLICTING REPORTS, BUT REGARDLESS, THE COMPANY IS DEALING WITH SIGNIFICANT BACKLASH FROM THE PROJECT'S DETRACTORS.

WE'LL GET BACK TO AMAZON IN A MOMENT.

> BUT FIRST, TODAY'S BREAKING NEWS, A MAJOR BATTLE BREWING WITHIN THE SECURITY COUNCIL WITH CALLS FOR ONE OF ITS MEMBERS TO RESIGN.

BRONX COUNCILMEMBER RUBEN DIAZ SR., WHO IS ALSO A PENTECOSTAL MEN CENTER SAID IN A RADIO INTERVIEW THAT THE 51-SEAT BODY IS CONTROLLED BY, QUOTE, THE HOMOSEXUAL COMMUNITY.

HE HAS A HISTORY OF OPPOSING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND DIAZ SR.

HAS REFUSED TO APOLOGIZE.

COUNCIL SPEAKER COREY JOHNSON, WHO IS GAY WAS SINGLED OUT BY DIAZ IN THE INTERVIEW.

JOHNSON RESPONDED ON TWITTER WRITING, QUOTE, IN THE AFTERMATH OF COUNCILMEMBER SR.'S DEEPLY OFFENSIVE COMMENTS ABOUT THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY, WE ARE POTENTIALLY VIEWING ALL POTENTIAL DISCIPLINARY SCENARIOS.

NOTHING IS OFF THE TABLE.

I'M JOINED BY CITY AND STATES POLITICS REPORTER JEFF GOLDEN.

WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME ON.

FIRST WE KNOW WHAT COUNCILMEMBER DIAZ SR. SAID, BUT DO WE KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES NOW?

WE DON'T EXACTLY.

IN FACT, CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER COREY JOHNSON CANCELED A COUPLE OF PUBLIC APPEARANCES THIS WEEKEND, MOST LIKELY BECAUSE HE WAS NEGOTIATING WITH HIS MEMBERS, TRYING TO DECIDE HOW TO RESPOND TO DIAZ SR.

HOWEVER, WITHIN THE COUNCIL, MANY MEMBERS HAVE CALLED FOR HIS RESIGNATION, HAVE THESE CALLED FOR APOLOGIES, AND EVEN SOME OF THE MORE INFLUENTIAL CAUCUS, THE LGBT CAUCUS, THE WOMEN'S CAUCUS, THE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS, THEY HAVE ALL CALLED FOR AT LEAST A CENSOR OF DIAZ SR.

THIS IS SURPRISING.

IT'S USUALLY A PRETTY COLLEGIAL BODY.

EVEN THE REPUBLICANS GET ALONG WELL WITH THE DEMOCRATS.

THIS IS PRETTY SURPRISING TO SAY THE LEAST TO SEE SO MANY DEMOCRATIC SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS REALLY TURNING AGAINST A FELLOW MEMBER OF THE BODY.

WELL, DO WE KNOW WHAT THE ACTUAL RULES AND REGULATIONS ARE WHEN IT COMES TO SOMETHING LIKE THIS, THAT WHEN A MEMBER OF THIS BODY SAYS SOMETHING OR DOZEN SOMETHING THAT IS NOT ILLEGAL, BUT DEEMED INAPPROPRIATE, WHAT IS THE ACTUAL RECOURSE THAT CAN BE TAKEN?

AS FAR AS WE KNOW, THE SECURITY COUNCIL HAS QUITE A BIT OF LEEWAY IN THESE SORT OF THINGS.

THE LAWS ARE BROADLY WRITTEN.

IN THE PAST, COUNCILMEMBERS HAVE -- I DON'T -- AS FAR AS I KNOW, I DON'T THINK ANY COUNCILMEMBERS HAVE BEEN FORCED OUT OF OFFICE OVER SOMETHING LIKE THIS, BUT OTHERS IN THE PAST SUCH AS QUEEN CITY COUNCILMAN IN 2005 ALLEN JENNINGS THEY MADE COMMENT AND THERE WAS AN OFFICIAL CENSOR.

THE CITY COUNCIL CAME OUT WITH AN OFFICIAL NOTICE SAYING WE DISAGREE WITH WHAT THEY SAID, AND MAYBE THEY WERE STRIPPED OF COUNCIL COMMITTEES.

I THINK THAT'S MOST LIKELY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN HERE WITH DIAZ.

HE WILL PROBABLY BE ABLE TO RETAIN HIS SEAT, BUT IT'S LIKELY THAT WE'LL SEE HIM LOSE HIS COMMITTEESHIP WHERE HE RUNS THE INFLUENTIAL TAXI AND LIMOUSINE COMMITTEE.

OKAY.

ONE OF MY FINAL QUESTIONS WAS GOING TO BE HOW MUCH OF THIS IS POSSIBLY SYMBOLIC?

BECAUSE WE'VE SEEN A LOT LATELY FROM DEMOCRATS WHERE THEY DEFINITELY WANT TO TAKE A CLEAR STAND ON SOMETHING THAT IS DEEMED INAPPROPRIATE CIRCA NOW, BUT WHAT CAN ACTUALLY BE DONE IS SOMETIMES UNCLEAR.

RIGHT.

THIS IS POLITICS IN 2019.

I THINK ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE VERY CAREFUL TO JUMP RIGHT ON CONTROVERSIES AND MAKE SURE THEY'RE TAKING THE RIGHT SIDE OF THINGS, EVEN IF IT MEANS OFFENDING YOUR COLLEAGUES.

AND SO THE CITY COUNCIL RIGHT NOW IS PILING ON AND SAYING WHAT DIAZ SR. SAID IS WRONG, YET TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS AS FAR AS ACTUAL SUBSTANTIAL, YOU KNOW, ISSUES FOR DIAZ.

WELL, THAT'S A PERFECT SEGUE INTO THE OTHER THING WE'RE WAITING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS, AND THAT OF COURSE IS AMAZON.

FIRST OF ALL, IS THERE REALLY A CHANCE AMAZON COULD NOT SET UP HEADQUARTERS IN LONG ISLAND CITY?

THERE IS A CHANCE, SURE.

AMAZON DID NOT CHOOSE NEW YORK BECAUSE OF THE SUBSIDIES.

NEW YORK IS GIVING AMAZON SUBSIDY, BASICALLY, $2.5 BILLION DEPENDING ON HOW YOU MEASURE THEM, BUT THAT'S MUCH LESS THAN OTHER CITIES OFFERED.

JUST ACROSS THE RIVER, NEW JERSEY OFFERED $8 BILLION IN SUBSIDIES.

SO MUCH MORE.

AMAZON IS CHOOSING NEW YORK BECAUSE IT'S NEW YORK.

I DON'T NEED TO EXPLAIN.

THAT'S OUR AUDIENCE.

EXACTLY.

BUT ALSO BECAUSE OF THE WORKFORCE HERE.

IT'S A HUGE WORKFORCE.

IT'S EDUCATED.

A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT CAN FILL THESE JOBS THAT AMAZON WANTS TO FILL.

EVEN IF THERE SOME POLITICAL CONTROVERSY.

EVEN IF THERE ARE PROTESTS, THAT DOESN'T CHANGE THE BASIC REASON WHY AMAZON CHOSE NEW YORK.

AND AS 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' HAS REPORTED, THIS IS MOST LIKELY MORE OF A NEGOTIATING TACTIC.

KIND OF PUTTING THE FEAR IN POLITICIANS TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY DON'T LEAVE HERE.

SO IS THERE A CHANCE, THEN, THAT ANY OF THE PROTESTS WE'VE SEEN AS COUNCIL HEARING THAT WE ALL HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO WITNESS MIGHT GET AMAZON TO BUDGE AT ALL?

THERE WERE A LOT OF TALK ABOUT UNIONS AND UNION BUSTING ON THE PART OF THE COMPANY.

ABSOLUTELY.

AMAZON IS GOING TO HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO GIVE IN TO SOME CONCESSION.

WHETHER THAT IS DIRECT INVESTMENT IN THE COMMUNITY, ALLOWING THEIR WORKERS TO UNIONIZE OR AT LEAST NOT -- IF THEY WANT TO UNIONIZE, AND VARIOUS OTHER THINGS THAT AMAZON MIGHT HAVE TO TRY TO ALLAY THE FEARS OF THE COMMUNITY WITHOUT ACTUALLY PULLING OUT.

ALL RIGHT.

WELL, WE DEFINITELY ARE WAITING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS WITH THAT, AND THE DEVELOPMENTS WILL BE LOOKING TO CITY AND STATE FOR.

SO, AGAIN, JEFF, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

HAPPY TO BE HERE.

ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU.

> I JUST WANT TO SAY I'M SO PROUD TO BE A PART OF A MOVIE THAT ADDRESSES MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

THEY'RE SO IMPORTANT.

A LOT OF ARTISTS DEAL WITH THAT, AND WE GOT TO TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER.

SO IF YOU SEE SOMEBODY THAT'S HURTING, DON'T LOOK AWAY.

AND IF YOU'RE HURTING, EVEN THOUGH IT MIGHT BE HARD, TRY TO FIND THAT BRAVERY WITHIN YOURSELF TO DIVE DEEP AND GO TELL SOMEBODY AND TAKE THEM UP IN YOUR HEAD WITH YOU.

LADY GAGA MAKING AN EMOTIONAL PLEA FOR MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS AT LAST NIGHT'S GRAMMY AWARDS.

HERE IN NEW YORK, A NUMBER OF ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS ARE BEING EXPLORED, AND SOME OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL HAVE TAPPED INTO THE HEALING POWER OF THE ARTS.

YODA BRINGS IT ALL OUT OF ME, THE YANKEES, THE HALLUCINATIONS, THE STRONG WORDS AND SEEMINGLY INPENETRATABLE DEFENSES.

IT'S WHEN I ASK TO LEAVE MY YOGA TRAINING THAT I KNOW SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG.

MY EGO IS HURT.

ME, LEAVE?

ME, OF ALL PEOPLE?

BUT THAT'S WHEN I KNOW I NEED TO GET TREATMENT.

MY INTENTION OF TELLING STORIES BE AS HONEST WITH YOURSELF AS POSSIBLE.

AND IF YOU'RE NOT ABLE TO DO THAT, THEN I'M GOING TO BE AS HONEST WITH MYSELF AS POSSIBLE.

PARTICIPATING IN A WRITING WORKSHOP.

THE WORK SCHOTT IS THROUGH THE ALTSA COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION.

THE WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS ARE GUIDE THROUGH TEN SESSIONS TO HELP TELL THE HIDDEN, UNIQUE OR TOO MUCH INFORMATION PARTS OF THEIR PERSONAL STORIES AND THEN PERFORM IT IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE.

COMING TO TERM WITH THE MENTAL ILLNESSES IS DIFFICULT ENOUGH, BUT IT'S THE ADDED LAYER OF SHAME THAT SOME PEOPLE STRUGGLE WITH MORE THAN THE DIAGNOSIS ITSELF.

IT'S SOMETHING THAT WE'RE USUALLY TRYING TO HIDE, MAKE IT LOOK LIKE WE'RE NORMAL AND CAN GET BY WITHOUT ANYONE KNOWING.

AND IT'S PART OF WHAT PREVENTS PEOPLE FROM GETTING HELP.

IT'S PART OF WHAT PREVENTS PEOPLE FROM DOING BETTER IN THEIR LIFE.

IN THE THREE YEARS THEY'VE BEEN RUNNING THESE PERFORMANCE WORKSHOPS WITH THE MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION, A COMMON OCCURRENCE HAPPENS AFTER EACH PUBLIC READING.

USUALLY PEOPLE COME UP TO THAT PERSON AND SAY THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THAT STORY.

SOMETHING SIMILAR HAPPENED TO ME.

I HAVE NEVER TOLD ANYONE.

IT WAS SO GOOD TO HEAR THAT.

BARTON, A PROFESSIONAL GHOST WRITER AND EDITOR AND TENUDO A THEATER DIRECTOR.

NEITHER ONE IS A THERAPIST, ALTHOUGH ALMOST ALL PARTICIPANTS SAY THEY'VE HAD A THERAPEUTIC OR TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE THROUGH THE WORKSHOP.

SHE SAYS THE STORIES BECOME STIGMA BUSTERS FOR THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT STRIKES ME EVERY TIME WE WORK WITH THIS POPULATION IS HOW OFTEN I HEAR PEOPLE IN THE GENERAL PUBLIC TALK ABOUT WHAT IT'S LIKE OR THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, BUT HOW OFTEN I DO NOT HEAR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES TALKING ABOUT THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE.

Re

AT THE NEW YORK OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH JOHN ALLEN SAYS PROGRAMS LIKE THE TMI PROJECT AND A SIMILAR PROGRAM CALLED HAHA OR OTHER PROGRAMS ARE PART OF A MOVEMENT TOWARDS COMPLIMENTARY MEDICINE.

MOST THINGS HELP PEOPLE PROVIDE MEANING IN THEIR LIVES, HELP PEOPLE PROVIDE A CONTEXT FOR THEIR EXPERIENCE, AND HELP PEOPLE EXPLAIN IT IN A WAY THAT PROVIDES THEM COMFORT.

AND ALMOST BECOMES CATHARTIC.

ALLEN ADMITS NAVIGATING THE ARRAY OF SERVICE AND THE DEPTH OF NEEDED INTERVENTION CAN BE OVERWHELMING.

AND THAT'S WHERE PEER COUNSELORS CAN BE CRITICAL.

BECAUSE THEY'VE ALREADY NAVIGATED THE SYSTEM AS PATIENTS THEMSELVES.

IN ADDITION TO ACCEPTANCE, EXPRESSION, AND SUPPORT, HE SAYS WHAT REALLY HELPS PEOPLE STAY IN RECOVERY FROM MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS IS CREATING STABILITY AND HELPING PEOPLE FIND PURPOSE.

HOW DO YOU WORK ON YOUR OVERALL MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS IF YOU DON'T HAVE A STABLE PLACE TO LIVE THAT'S SAFE?

AND SO THAT'S PART OF OUR TREATMENT PROCESS IS LOOKING AT SUPPORTING PEOPLE IN HOUSING, LOOKING AT SUPPORTING PEOPLE IN THEIR DAILY LIVES, LOOKING AND SUPPORTING YOUNG PEOPLE IN SCHOOL, LOOKING AT SUPPORTING ADULTS IN EMPLOYMENT.

WE WOULDN'T THINK OF RECOVERY AS JUST ELIMINATING THE SYMPTOM IF WE WERE LOOKING AT A BASEBALL OR FOOTBALL PLAYER WHO GETS INJURED.

WE'D LOOK AT RETURNING THEM TO THE FIELD AND THE ARENA OF LIFE.

THE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH SPENDS NEARLY $4 BILLION ANNUALLY ON SERVICE AROUND THE STATE.

MONEY IS DIVIDED UP AMONGST THE 62 COUNTIES, AND THEY CONTRACT OUT TO ORGANIZATIONS THAT AID IN TREATMENT AND RECOVERY.

ONE SUCH ORGANIZATION, PEOPLE INCORPORATED IS A PEER-RUN ADVOCACY GROUP THAT HELPS PEOPLE FIND STABLE HOUSING AND EMPLOYMENT AND HOSPITAL DIVERSION HOMES.

ROSE HOUSE, ONE OF FOUR GROUP HOMES RUN BY THE ORGANIZATION THAT ALLOWS PEOPLE EXPERIENCING MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS AN ALTERNATIVE TO EMERGENCY ROOMS.

THE RECOVERY DOESN'T COME FROM THE PILL.

IT DOESN'T COME FROM THE THERAPIST.

IT DOESN'T COME FROM A HOSPITALIZATION OR A TREATMENT PROGRAM.

RECOVERY COMES FROM WITHIN.

HE SAYS THE GOAL IS TO HELP PATIENTS FOCUS ON WHAT IS RIGHT WITH THEM INSTEAD OF WHAT IS WRONG.

HE SAYS PEER COUNSELORS AND THE RELAXED GROUP SETTING OF ROSE HOUSE CAN FOSTER A COMMUNITY THAT SOMETIMES ELIMINATES ISOLATION.

BACK AT THE ULSTER COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION, PARTICIPANTS IN THE TMI PROJECT PREPARE TO READ THEIR TOO MUCH INFORMATION STORIES IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE.

WHAT I FELT LIKE IT WAS LIKE WAS BEING ABLE TO STAND IN FRONT OF A MIRROR WITH YOUR EYES OPEN.

BECAUSE YOU.

YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO STAND IN FRONT OF A MIRROR AND NOT LOOK OR AVERT YOUR EYES.

IT FELT LIKE A TRUE REFLECTION OF WHO I WAS IN THESE PEOPLE.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN NEED OF MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE, PLEASE GO TO METROFOCUS.ORG TO LINKS FOR ORGANIZATIONS THAT CAN PROVIDE HELP.

> 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.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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