A moment with Director Shyama Nithiananda about the text of GUARDS AT THE TAJ

Q: This award-winning script, by prolific American playwright Rajiv Joseph, is at turns funny and horrific, beautiful and grotesque, calm and overwhelming. It is a play “about” many things: the cost of beauty, privilege and its proximity to power, the pull between loyalty and duty, the resonance of myth. What do you find to be your favorite elements of this script, and (without giving too much away) what is something new that you have discovered about the play since rehearsals have begun?

Shyama Nithiananda answers: “This is called Keeping the Peace.” – With that capitalization. Humayun says it, mid-monologue. It was insignificant enough that I had barely even noticed it before we started rehearsals. But it has turned into my favorite element of the script.

The characters in this play do some terrible things.

And the play is about that.

And they are faced with some terrible choices.

And the play is about that.

But Keeping the Peace is the play, in many of the same ways that it is the Asian-American experience, and it is the choice we all find ourselves making when we evaluate the cost of progress. Most days, we don’t consciously choose between good and evil. But, as it turns out, the characters don’t either. They (and we) choose between changing things or keeping things the same.

How vociferously do we defend systems that hurt us? Keeping the Peace tells us that if we are just getting by and things could be worse, then change is a gamble. What I’ve found in rehearsals, however, is that favoring stagnation, arguing against change, and Keeping the Peace is a gamble as well.