Azar Kazemi (center) directing Vera Sutfin and Jose Lopez in Our Lady of the Underpass
We sat down with guest director Azar Kazemi to talk about ECC Theatre’s upcoming production of Our Lady of the Underpass.
A graduate of DePaul University’s MFA directing program, Azar is the founding artistic director of The Blind Owl and has worked with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Victory Gardens, Next Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and The New Group in New York where she assistant directed two productions directed by Ethan Hawke.
Check out what she has to say about Our Lady of the Underpass! Thanks, Azar!
Q) How would you describe Our Lady of the Underpass?
Our Lady of the Underpass tells the story of Chicago’s response to what some people believed was the Virgin Mary and what some believed was a salt stain under the Fullerton/Western underpass. The playwright, Tanya Saracho, uses the interviews of six people and Chorus interludes to capture the range of beliefs in a unique moment of Chicago’s urban history.
Q) What do you think audiences will take away from the show?
I hope they take away a sense of community from the play. To remember that no matter who we are, what we believe, or where we are from–we all need someone to talk to and to listen to our story.
Q) What part of the process of directing this show are you enjoying most?
I am an actors’ director. I love working with actors, watching them evolve. It has been particularly rewarding working with these students here at ECC who have all brought such passion to their roles and continue to bring more life to their characters with each rehearsal!
Q) Have you visited the Fullerton underpass yourself?
I used to live very close to the underpass actually but never noticed the small shrine that still exists today. Once I knew I was directing this I kept an eye out for it as I drove past it but I haven’t actually stopped to stand under and really look at the wall. This Sunday as a cast we are meeting there and experiencing it together before we open the show. I think it will be a great way to connect with the play further and I am excited to see how everyone, including myself, reacts when we are actually there.
Q) You’ve met the playwright, Tanya Saracho, and also previously worked on another one of her scripts. How did those experiences inform your direction of this play?
Tanya is an amazing part of the Chicago theatre community. I was lucky enough to get to work with her at DePaul when I was a student on another one of her plays. Tanya brings a lot of heart and humor to all of her plays. It is what makes her characters so relatable and what gives her work such depth. As a person she is so proud of the Latino theatre community and strives to tell stories that haven’t been told before. She always has a smile on her face and says what she thinks. I love her passion for life and I have shared that with the actors since Tanya is their imaginary partner during their monologues. I wanted them to have a good sense of who she is to help them bring her to life in their imaginations. I feel lucky to have gotten to know her before this so I had that insight to share. I hope she gets a chance to see our production if her busy schedule allows.
Q) Anything else you want to share about the show?
Only that I feel very lucky to be working with such a talented cast and design team and I really can’t wait to share this story with the Elgin and ECC community!
Our Lady of the Underpass will be performed in the ECC Arts Center’s SecondSpace Theatre Fridays and Saturdays, April 19 through May 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, April 28 and May 5 at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, visit elgin.edu/arts or call 847-622-0300.