Queen Elizabeth of Factory Fifteen is about a woman in a factory during World War II, which has switched to an all female work staff, who must now let go of all the women now that the men are returning from war. RUNNING TIME: 30 Minutes.
Queen Elizabeth of Factory Fifteen will be presented Tuesday, July 19 at 8 PM.
About the Author:
Tariq Hamami’s work has been seen at the Cherry Lane Theatre, Second Stage, American Theatre of Actors, and the Riverside Theatre among others. He is a graduate of the Columbia University graduate playwriting program. This August, his play The Town of No One will be part of the FringeNYC Festival. For more information on his work, visit http://www.tariqhamami.com/
OOB Festival: Where do you come from (home state, state of mind, or both)?
Tariq: I was born in Laghouat, Algeria but raised in New Jersey. I’ve lived in the US since I was two, so really I’m from New Jersey. I do feel the need to let people know where I was born when asked this question simply because I don’t look like I’m from Algeria. People are quicker to guess I’m from the Heartland than the Sahara. But I’m a Jersey boy for all intents and purposes, and not in the sense that that show at the August Wilson Theatre will lead you to believe. First and foremost, I don’t sing.
OOB Festival: Give us five words that describe who you are as a playwright.
Tariq: Above all, I’m a storyteller.
OOB Festival: Talk about your entry to this year’s Festival. How did you come to write this play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation?
Tariq: The play started with a festival during my time at Columbia. I met with my friend Helen (who is also in this show) and we had a marathon brainstorming session for a new play to do. I asked her what type of character she would like to play. Somewhere in that conversation, Queen Elizabeth I came up. Helen talked about her interest in how traditional gender roles were put aside for her during that time. She also told me a story about when she was younger and her father had her help install paving blocks for the front yard walkway or something like that. That idea of a father passing down his trade to his daughter, combined with Queen Elizabeth I, lead to the initial draft of the play. The image of Rosie the Riveter also came up in the conversation, and from there I began to think of Queen Elizabeth working in a factory in World War II. I think it’s easy to imagine the gravity of holding onto your place in the world when you’re as high up as the queen. But I began to think of my own feeling of place in terms of being a playwright. When I achieve some sort of success, I tell friends and family back home. Not knowing much about theatre, the value of that success is sometimes lost on them. For me personally, the idea of holding such regard for something that others might look at as meaningless was the driving force for me in writing the story.
OOB Festival: What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from your Festival piece? Is there any information you would like them to know before they watch your work performed?
Tariq: The only thing I really hope audiences take away from the production is that they saw an engaging story that they didn’t fall asleep to. As an artist, you always have that desire to enlighten an audience to something or to spark someone to start the revolution, whatever it may be. But I think the desire to enlighten and inspire is pretty much the same as the desire to be liked. Just as I think it’s vain to approach a play with the desire for people to like you, to want people to be enlightened to something makes me think, “well who the hell am I?” I just want people to be engaged in a story. If they take something else out of it, that’s sort of the icing. Ultimately, you write the story for the audience, to engage them. You write the themes for yourself, because of some feeling you have. From there, you hope you’re not alone in the world and someone else will feel something from those themes you wrote on. But I don’t think it’s healthy to write a play with any type of goal other than simply telling a story.
I think the same thing goes for needed information before you see a play. I hope the audience doesn’t need me to provide them with anything beforehand. I would certainly feel like I failed in some respect when writing the story. I guess the only piece of information you need to know is that the story is about a woman in a factory in World War II trying to hold onto her place in the world. And there are radios.
OOB Festival: What/who are some of the major influences on your writing? What’s the most unconventional place/thing that you have taken inspiration from?
Tariq: I love August Wilson’s writing. It’s amazing how engaged he can make you without anything flashy or over the top. His writing is so simple. And by simple, I mean people don’t need to fly, the heavens don’t need to open up, and the only special effects are in the writing. He can take two people, set them in the world, and hold you much tighter than five hundred lights and a million dollar budget can. It’s really amazing how he was able to do that.
The most unconventional inspiration for me comes from a very conventional setting. There’s a Starbucks attached to a Barnes & Noble in my hometown. I go there to read a new book before I decided to buy it, so I’ve spent some quality time sitting there drinking coffee. What I didn’t know was that this specific Starbucks seems to be the place where newly engaged couples meet with various people to plan their weddings. Every weekend you’ll find a meeting with a priest, a wedding planner, a florist, and God knows whom else. And it’s always young couples that are still so bubbly about their upcoming wedding. Since this is a quiet coffee shop, everyone around them can hear the conversation. It’s amazing how much of an understanding for relationships between people come out in these meetings. Conflicts of finance, religion, values, tastes all come out when trying to plan this important event. I find listening to these couples more entertaining than the actual book I brought with me sometimes. In general, I find the whole institution of marriage a little strange. So to listen to these couples on the verge of it, you get so much insight into subtle conflicts that are on the verge of destruction. Not all of them of course. Many of them I’m sure will lead long and happy lives together. But when you get that golden couple that can’t even agree on the color of napkins, you have mounds of character depth that come out with it.
OOB Festival: What is your “dream play”–that is, if the more restrictive elements of production (budget, space, casting, and technical elements) were not a consideration, what type of theatre piece would you create?
Tariq: In an ideal world without restrictions, I would do a production on the moon. I’m really serious about that. How great would it be to watch a play in zero gravity? I would ship the audience to the Moon Theatre and we would watch a production of A Doll’s House. How great it would be if at the end of the play, Nora walks out of the house and gets to float way in peaceful serenity while Torvald yells for her to come home. It would give such a great twist to the phrase, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” It would also revolutionize dance choreography. Imagine watching Nora do the Tarantella in zero gravity. It would be beautiful. Angels in America would be so much easier to do at the Moon Theatre. Romeo could float up to Juliet’s balcony instead of that awkward spider crawl up a grape vine he always has to do in every production. Yeah, I would do theatre on the moon.
OOB Festival: If someone saw you on the street, what’s one fact that they would never guess about you?
Tariq: It’s an interesting question. Actually, I wonder, if someone saw me on the street, what they would guess about me. But in terms of what they wouldn’t guess, what I spoke of in the first question is a big one. No one would guess I’m of Arab descent from Algeria. But other than that, I find no one guesses I don’t like Star Trek. I am a big sci-fi fan, and maybe it’s the combination of my glasses and the “I-haven’t-had-a-date-in-a-long-time” look, but on more than one occasion, someone will bring up Star Trek and gesture to me. They’ll say something like “Remember when Spok was trapped on the blah-blah-blah planet with the whatever race of aliens” and then gesture to me as if to say, “he knows.” And I always have that awkward moment to let them down easy. I love many things with “stars” in them. I love Star Wars, Starship Troopers, Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, but not Star Trek. Even with JJ Abrams making everyone younger with shorter skirts, it still seems a little hokey to me. But for some reason, the world seems to think I’m an avid fan. I’m sorry to say, I am not.
About the Producer:
The Marmaduke Theatre Company is a new exploration of storytelling, dedicated to bringing work to the stage that creates innovative and vital roles for women. This company began its inception many years ago as we discovered a lack of exciting roles for women in contemporary theatre. We began a collaborative process as playwright and actor to find the right voice to convey our response to this sordid lack of strong female characters and from this journey founded Marmaduke Theatre Company. We are dedicated to the Playwright-Actor collaboration process and find the artistic processes of both crafts to be of a similar pursuit. Through exploration and collaboration, we have created a body of work that provides the female cannon with the necessary boost to better represent the depth and scope of modern women in professional theatre.