Preview: Forgotten Kingdoms
AU professors Randy Baker and Cara Gabriel collaborate on play about evangelization and Western versus Eastern civilizations
Written by AU professor Randy Baker and directed by AU professor Cara Gabriel, the play “Forgotten Kingdoms” premieres on April 21 at the Rorschach Theatre on H Street. “Forgotten Kingdoms” tells the fictional story of Reverend David Holiday and his family as they attempt to evangelize the predominantly Muslim community of a small island in Indonesia.
Baker said the play is a deeply personal project. Baker was born in Singapore and spent his childhood moving from Malaysia to Iran, Egypt and then back to Singapore, and his grandparents and great-grandparents were Pentecostal missionaries. He said much of the play is drawn from the stories he heard growing up.
“My missionary grandfather’s stories were always fantastical and often troubling to my growing moral relativism, but when I started writing ‘Forgotten Kingdoms,’ I did so in an attempt to understand him,” said Baker. “I wanted to write about him without judgement and meet him on his own terms.”
Baker and Gabriel have known each other for several years, and Gabriel said she was drawn to the play because of its poetic, magical and timely qualities.
“It raises more questions than it answers, [such as] what does it mean to be forgotten? A forgotten person, a forgotten religion, a forgotten kingdom? What does it mean to be saved?” said Gabriel.
The story takes place in Indonesia, and the play features Indonesian actor Rizal Iwan and is sponsored by the Indonesian Embassy and Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture. Director Gabriel said that the casting of Iwan is one of the most exciting parts of the project for her. Baker met Iwan when he was in Indonesia developing the play.
“We took great pains, and a lot more time than companies might ordinarily take, to cast the show in a way that provided ethnic, racial and cultural representation that we were all comfortable with,” said Gabriel. “It definitely meant taking some risks, but the result is extraordinary.”
Baker said that Iwan’s authentic voice makes “Forgotten Kingdoms” a much better play.
“I’m an American writing about Asia, [so] I try to remain honest about the point of view with which I present the show and the artists with whom I collaborate,” said Baker. “There is a magic in hearing those words in the voice of someone who has lived them.”
“Forgotten Kingdoms” will begin with five “pay-what-you-can” previews on April 21 and 22 at 8 p.m., April 23 at 3 p.m. and April 27 and 28 at 8 p.m. The play will continue to run through May 21.