Sara Abou Rashed's One-Woman Performance Gets Rave Reviews
English creative writing major Sarah Abou Rashed ’21 has spun her history into a compelling one-woman performance, titled “A Map of Myself.”
Chicago theatre critic Seth Saith caught Rashed’s performance in the Windy City, and had this to say:
Sara’s monologue has gotten considerable commendations, but I was nonetheless surprised by how smoothly she covered personal—and sometimes quite troubling—ground, even in seamlessly restoring full power to her headset mic the few times it fluttered.
She told how she grew up in Syria—a country she continues to love for its beauty and its people—but that her grandmother was Palestinian, and as established by a DNA test, a whole lot of other ethnicities, including Italian, Greek, Jewish and more.
Encouraged by her Uncle Sam—the coincidence of whose name Sara glibly noted—a U.S. resident for nearly 40 years, Sara and her mom moved to Columbus on the 4th of July, 2013. (Mrs. Abou Rashed was in the audience on Saturday; I don’t recall any mention of Sara’s father in the monologue or Q&A that followed.)
Sara spoke with pride about her mom (a teacher), her own choice to wear an Islamic head covering known as a hijab, and recalled how on her first school day in America, without yet knowing any English, she was a tad bewildered when the class assignment was to read Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey, which runs about 600 pages.
The absorbing recollections were punctuated by Abou Rashed’s recitation of her poetry, at times in Arabic but also in English. In sharing that she also speaks French, Sara incisively commented that “Language decides who you are, who gets to belong.”
In saying this she was reflecting upon the preconceptions—and sometimes outright hate—people can experience due to being heard speaking Arabic in the U.S., or maybe just accented English.
So it was particularly powerful when during a poem called “I Am America,” Sara stated:
“No one can define me.”
Soon followed by:
“America, they do not know you like I do.”
From the 70 or so minutes she was onstage and a few moments of conversation I had with her after, I’m left with no doubt that Sara Abou Rashed is a woman worth knowing, perhaps most so by those otherwise inclined to scorn, ignore or pre-judge her.
And her show is definitely worth seeing, at whatever point you might be able to. In addition to returning to Chicago, Smith hopes for A Map of Myself to wind up on Netflix. I agree that it’s certainly worthy, and though it’s a distinct, self-contained piece, I believe it would pair well with Malik’s Unveiled.
As I tried to imply at top, it can’t be easy being onstage alone. Perhaps particularly as a 20-year-old immigrant who has never studied acting or theater (she’s majoring in Creative Writing at Denison).
But if you went to a middle school that was shaken by bombs, if you left your beloved home country expecting to return but were told that would be untenable, if you arrived in the United States as a young teenager and subsequently opted to write about your experiences at a time when the President himself has stoked anti-Muslim sentiment, well, it would seem acting courageously might well come naturally.
As such, as performed by its writer, A Map of Myself is truly something for us all to behold.