Mosque4Mosque SCOUT Presentation Sets a New Standard at Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s new play development initiative, SCOUT will present A Virtual Reading of Mosque4Mosque by Omer Abbas Salem on Sunday, March 28th at 2pm CST. This free reading is the culmination of a 30-hour workshop process directed by Arti Ishak.

Mosque4Mosque follows Ibrahim, the average 30-something Queer Arab American Muslim. Normal job, quiet life, easy men. Between dodging reminders of how unmarried he is from his relentlessly caring immigrant mother and helping raise his smart, popular, hijabi cheerleading sister, Ibrahim has always found comfort sinking into the background. But when his mother sees a glimpse of what could be his first real relationship, she feels compelled to take Ibrahim’s future into her own hands by seeking out the perfect man for him to marry. Mosque4Mosque is a comedy about a normal Muslim American family that asks us to wrestle with what we believe normal to be.

“I wrote Mosque4Mosque to reimagine my experience with family, religion, and being queer. I also wanted to create a world in which Arab artists felt proud to exist, because I can’t tell you how often I’ve felt ashamed by what passes for our representation. I can’t thank Steppenwolf enough for the support and opportunity to uplift our voices and begin correcting a wrong in American theater.” – Playwright, Omer Abbas Salem.

Omer Abbas Salem in a still from Shukran Bas, created and directed by Arti Ishak, filmed and edited by Lowell Thomas.

Salem is right to point out that MENASA (Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian diaspora) representation on Chicago stages or even nationally has not had adequate investment. Salem and Ishak previously collaborated on musical parody video Shukran Bas (Translation: “Thank you, Stop”)  addressing what can pass for representation of their communities. It’s an empowering, funny piece that communicates what these two artists are capable of when they pair up and collaborate with their community.

Mosque4Mosque is indeed a notable milestone in Steppenwolf’s programming, as it is the first project to be written and directed by MENASA artists. It is the third project to be developed through the SCOUT program, whose alumni include Isaac Gómez’s La Ruta which received its world premiere in 2019 directed by Sandra Marquez. SCOUT seems to be an important pipeline for works helmed by artists of color and it will be interesting to see how Steppenwolf builds upon this milestone with later programming by BIPOC artists.

The Cast: Antoine Yared (Ibrahim); Rula Gardenier (Sara); Rom Barkhordar (Karim/Lawyer); Sahar Dika (Lena); Mark Junek (James); and Tommy Malouf (Stage Directions/Suitor).

Mosque4Mosque will take place at RSVPs are required. To reserve your free tickets, contact Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or fill out the RSVP form on Steppenwolf’s website.

Omer Abbas Salem is a Chicago actor and writer. As an actor his Chicago credits include LindaEarthquakes in London (Steep Theatre); My Dear HusseinINVASION! (Silk Road Rising); Even Longer and Further Away (The New Colony); Pinocchio (The House); Princess Mary (Bailiwick Chicago); and Washer/Dryer (Rasaka Theatre). Additional credits include A Christmas Carol, You Across From Me (Actors Theatre of Louisville) and Eddie and Dave (Off Broadway – The Atlantic Theater). His writing has been produced by Actors Theatre of Louisville, Jackalope Theater, The New Colony, National Queer Theater and The Goodman. His play, Being Julia Roberts was commissioned as part of Jackalope Theater’s 20/21 New Frontier series. The Secretaries was developed through the 20/21 Future Labs series at The Goodman Theatre and is a semi-finalist in Definition Theatre’s 20/21 Amplify Commission. He is a proud ensemble member of Steep Theatre and The New Colony, a founding member of MENASA MidWest, and was an Actors Theatre of Louisville apprentice 17/18. He is represented by DDO Chicago.

Arti Ishak is a Chicago based multidisciplinary artist and community organizer. Recent acting credits include Kiss (Haven); Witch, Buried Child (Writers); Men on Boats (American Theater Company); Venus in Fur (Circle Theatre); Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno (Second City); and A Story Told in Seven Fights (Neo-Futurists). TV: Chicago Med (NBC). Recent directing credits include short films Shukran Bas (Means to Produce) and Sun On Ice (Jackalope). Arti is a staff member with The Chicago Inclusion Project and an organizer with MENASA MidWest. She loves being an Ensemble Member with Sideshow Theatre and is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.

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Bias Alert: Editor-In-Chief Regina Victor has an extremely brief cameo in Shukran Bas and is the AD of Sideshow Theatre where Arti Ishak is an Ensemble Member.

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