Interview with Actress and Playwright Kim Schultz
An Interview with Kim Schultz, playwright and actress of No Place Called Home on stage this July at Illusion Theater.
1. What would you say to the statement that as a white American you can’t understand or express what these Iraqi refugees have experienced?
The whole point was that Intersections International, the comissioning organization, chose all Americans to go over there, that this is an American problem, and that if there is a Middle Eastern/Iraqi actor telling this story, Americans will go, Oh that’s sad, but it’s not our problem, it’s an Iraqi problem. Whereas if I act it, they will hopefully realize that it’s our problem, it’s everyone’s problem. With all of the crises around the world, this one particularly deserves our attention because we have had a part in causing it. I think it’s actually smart of Intersections to not choose anyone of Middle Eastern descent because it makes the issue more relatable to people who could perhaps ignore it otherwise. When I play these different roles, I take on the physicality and the vocality of a young Iraqi boy or a middle aged Iraqi mother, so hopefully I’m transforming into these characters before the audiences eyes, making them real, even though I am not Middle Eastern or Iraqi
2. What do you think it brings to your piece to incorporate the music of Amikaeyla Gaston?
It brings it to a whole other level. Ami really…boy the show is just so beautiful with the music in it. Sarah Cameron Sunde, my director loved the idea of incorporating music in this piece and was instrumental in the weaving together of it.And Ami tells the story with music. And there’s a point where the words stop and the music just continues. That’s just a beautiful gift. We have a great relationship on the stage. And having her on the trip, we experienced the same things and can tell the same story. She shares the story through voice and through sound, and I use words. I think sometimes we can only hear so many words, and the music takes us to the next place where the words stop short. And the words can pick up again in the next place and that’s a beautiful gift of music. - amikaela’s an extremely talented and accomplished vocalist and musician and it’s a real honor to be playing onstage with her.
3. Why did you choose to have only one actor in No Place Called Home?
As I was trying to figure out what this play was, there were a couple different things going on. It seemed to me that my story going through it was going to be the spine of the play, the love story was going to be the access to the characters and the rest of the people, and that the love story would disarm people and bring down their defenses. I know some people will look at it from the outside and think, “Oh, an Iraqi refugee story, it’s going to be depressing, it’s going to be sad, all these preconceived notions, - I consider this play to be a love story to one particular Iraqi and consequently to all of them, and the best way to portray that seemed to be keeping it just one actor on the stage, me, and it was my voice that intertwined with them, even when I’m playing the others, it’s how my voice is able to enhance their voices and make them accessible.
4. What made you choose to weave your own love story into the narrative of the Iraqi refugees?
Well, I think that that was the play that needed to be written. When I came back, that was what I needed to write, and when I got back I tried to write not that, - I was just stuck. And when I allowed myself to write the love story, then the rest of the play came together. I think we can all relate to love, and whatever preconceived notions we have, with hearing Iraq and thinking “terrorist,” the Iraqi people are just like us, and want to raise families and go to work and love like us, and that is what I’m trying to do with my play, is to humanize and to show that we are in fact the same.
5. Is there anything else that I didn’t touch on that you’d like to share about your play?
It might surprise people that there is humor in the play. I like the funny, so I look for as many moments of the funny as I can find. You might not expect that in a play about refugees!