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Culture

Chaim Potok’s Daughter On Playing A Muslim Mother: ‘Devotion Is Devotion’

Naama Potok, daughter of the famed novelist Chaim Potok, has been acting for over three decades. Now, as Playbill’s Joe Gambino reported, she’s taken on a role that’s entirely new to her: That of a Muslim mother in Iran.

“I fully honor and accept the profound differences that exist between and among people,” Potok told Gambino, of her approach to the role in Red Spear’s production of Jay Paul Deratany’s “Haram! Iran!.”

“I equally, if not even more, acknowledge how similar and connected we are. Devotion is devotion, so it becomes, ‘How is this woman expressing her devotion and how does it manifest itself?’”

“Haram! Iran!” dramatizes the true story of Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari, two teenage boys who were hanged in Iran in 2005. The duo had been convicted on charges of raping a 13-year-old boy. Their case gained international attention after their executions, when a group of organizations focused on LGBTQ advocacy alleged the boys had, in fact, been executed for engaging in consensual homosexual acts.

In the play, Potok plays Marhoni’s mother, Gila. She told Gambino her preparation for the role included studying Iran’s political circumstances at the time surrounding the events depicted in her play and Farsi pronunciation. As her character wears a hijab, she also spoke with the play’s dramaturg, Amir Darvish, about the habits of hijab-wearing women.

“He said it depended entirely on how religious a woman I am and so what I gathered was that I don’t think she’s so religious that she would wear her hijab all the time,” Potok said.

The play, she said, is especially essential given the United States’s current political climate.

“We need a safe space in which we can debate and tolerate differences of opinion without silencing one another,” she said. “The climate we’re living in now can make people feel very alone so to come to the theatre is healing.”

“Haram! Iran!” runs through March 19th at TADA! Youth Theatre.

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