What are the themes of your play?
The Bridge Between You and Everything focuses on the character Leilah an African-Iranian, 65 year old Nobel Peace Prize winner, diplomat, judge and humanitarian and her life as a young woman, told in both the present and the past. Within this story the themes that are explored include race, religion, human rights, persecution, interracial love, revolutions and the cost of excellence for women of colour in their chosen fields. Focused on finding her mother’s past secrets, Leilah’s daughter Anna begins working with writer Nathan to examine the diaries she left behind, and ultimately discover several unexpected truths. These truths include a love story, hidden political secrets and the attempt at redemption.
Why did you write it and why now?
The beginning premise for my play came to me ten years ago. It was inspired by several talks with the actor/activist Shohreh Aghdashloo (who I worked with as an actor), readings from Shirin Ebadi (awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote human rights, the rights of children, women, and political prisoners in Iran) and close friends of my family.
Why now? I could never fully realise the play at that age and I put it on hold when I got into Drama School. I’m glad I did as it gave me time to gain more skills as a writer and grow as an artist until I returned to it years later.
The play is still relevant and has transcended into this decade. We look at women’s rights around the world and in particular Iranian women leading protests around the world on gender equality and my play is but a snippet of life within the intricacies of what history lies there. The play is also about the hidden political movements led by Black and Brown women around the world that are yet to be told. Leilah is but one of those women in the book that is being published, within the story of the play.
Despite the political nature of the play, at its heart the play is a love story; the love for a people, a country, lost love, new love, the love between a mother and a daughter.
Which playwrights are you influenced by and in what way?
There are many but I think that Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ was the first play I ever picked up that I not only cherished but was also written by a Black/African America women, which at that time was still quite rare for me to come across. That play had a profound impact on me and then that ignited my curiosity and led me to discovering the revolutionary work of Ntozake Shange and Audre Lord.
I’ve also deeply respected the writing of David Hare. I admire the way he calls out personal ambition in those that have completely forgotten personal responsibility. But mostly I love what is unsaid in his writing. Whenever I get stuck I pick up one of his plays and dissect it.
In more recent years, Natasha Gordon’s ‘Nine Night’, Danai Gurira’s ‘The Convert’, Michaela Coel’s ‘I May Destroy You’ (TV series), and several of their other works has had an overwhelming impact on me and they continue to shine a light down a path for others to have more opportunity.
What do you want to achieve as a playwright?
I would like to achieve an array of work that upholds bold and beautifully complex roles for women of colour on stage, film and TV. I love that quote by Viola Davis that says, “The only thing that separates women of colour from everyone else is opportunity.” I also want to grow and learn from other artists in the industry and give back when I can. I’m currently learning the ropes of producing… I think there’s agency in that.