Ac­tors in hit U.K. play hur­dle Trump travel ban

StarMetro Edmonton - - THE KIT - Michael Paul­son Get the full story at thes­tar.com/stage

NEW YORK—The Jun­gle, a new British play about a French refugee camp, was an ob­vi­ous can­di­date to trans­fer to New York: crit­i­cally lauded, com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful, timely and talked about.

But it had one big prob­lem: three of the 17 peo­ple in the Lon­don cast were ci­ti­zens of pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries whose res­i­dents have been barred by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump from trav­el­ling to the United States.

The show’s cre­ative team and pro­duc­ers were re­luc­tant to move the play without all the cast mem­bers, say­ing their life ex­pe­ri­ences — sev­eral had lived in the Calais refugee camp be­ing de­picted — gave the show its au­then­tic­ity. But try­ing to get two Ira­ni­ans and a Syr­ian into Trump-era Amer­ica to per­form a drama that is in­her­ently sym­pa­thetic to refugees was, to put it mildly, daunt­ing.

“The odds were against us,” said Stephen Daldry, who is di­rect­ing the play along­side Justin Martin. “We knew it was go­ing to be a chal­lenge.”

Over sev­eral months, a coali­tion of celebri­ties (in­clud­ing St­ing and Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch), reli­gious lead­ers (the for­mer Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury) and politi­cians (the may­ors of New York and Lon­don) joined forces in an ef­fort to per­suade the ad­min­is­tra­tion to grant the ac­tors a waiver from the ban.

Of course, there was con­tin­gency plan­ning: an Ira­ni­anAmer­i­can ac­tor, Ar­ian Moayed, was qui­etly flown to Lon­don and in­ten­sively re­hearsed for a key part (he even went on one night in the en­sem­ble) so he could re­place one of the refugees in New York if need be.

And then there was a zany­seem­ing gam­ble: af­ter one of the Ira­ni­ans was ini­tially re­jected by the State Depart­ment, the pro­duc­ers de­cided that, rather than try to per­suade the United States to ad­mit the Syr­ian ac­tor, they would en­deav­our to win him British cit­i­zen­ship, think­ing that would be an eas­ier path to New York.

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Moein Ghob­sheh, left, Yasin Mo­radi, both Ira­nian refugees, and Am­mar Haj Ah­mad, a Syr­ian refugee, will be al­lowed en­try into the U.S. to per­form The Jun­gle.

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