A Closer Look: Daria Polatin
Take A Closer Look at The 2016 Middle East Convening at The Lark! In this interview, Daria Polatin, a featured writer of the convening, tells Lark Communications Apprentice Gillian Heitman about her experiences, inspirations, and identities. Read on to see what Daria had to say!
GILLIAN HEITMAN: What about the MEA Convening excites you?
DARIA POLATIN: I was so pleased to hear about the MEA Convening. It’s such a great opportunity to gather and share our perspectives and experiences of being theater artists of Middle Eastern descent. It’s important to me to explore the issues of my cultural background in relation to our artistic community, and I'm grateful to The Lark for facilitating that opportunity. Sharing my questions, explorations, and concerns with others helps me continue to define who I am as an artist.
GH: Do you feel Middle Eastern writers have a distinct voice? If so, what is it saying?
DP: I don’t know if there’s an overall distinct voice, but I do believe it’s important to cultivate and celebrate diverse perspectives. It’s like the ketchup theory: In some parts of the world, people keep ketchup in the refrigerator, and in others, they keep it in the cupboard. If you go to the fridge and there’s no more ketchup, you’ll look for replacements nearby, like mayonnaise or mustard. If you go to the cupboard and the ketchup is out, there’s a whole different set of ingredients to choose from—vinegar, spices. Our backgrounds bring unique experiences, perspectives and solutions to the table (pardon the pun), and I think that’s important to have in our storytelling, so more diverse worldviews can be represented in our larger cultural conversations.
GH: In today's world, do you find either television or theater to be more open to Middle Eastern stories? Both?
DP: To me they both seem to be open. I’ve met with TV executives who are eager to tell Middle Eastern stories on air, and theaters interested in—and committed to—presenting conversations from Middle Eastern perspectives. (I’ve especially enjoyed working with Torange Yeghiazarian and Evren Odcikin at Golden Thread Productions in San Francisco.) I think the challenge in both is turnaround time. I’m currently writing a play entitled Palmyra, which explores feminism and the Islamic State. It’s a very timely play so I’m hoping we find an outlet for it sooner than later, so the experience of the play and discussion around it are as current as the events they're based on.
In terms of outlets, there may be more real estate in television to tell Middle Eastern stories at the moment because it’s a very expansive medium right now—which is wonderful—than there are programming slots in a theater season, but I hope that we continue to make space for stories from the Middle Eastern perspective in both. While television has the extraordinary capacity to reach a wide audience, theater offers the unique opportunity of an intimate and visceral experience of watching a play live, shoulder-to-shoulder with other people. They’re both important, both necessary.
An excerpt of this interview appears in the May 2016 edition of Bird's Eye View, The Lark's monthly newsletter. If you want to receive features like this one right to your inbox, CLICK HERE to sign up for our mailing list!