I have never seen shows about people like me on Australian stages.  Writing mine has shown me that a good story connects everyone

I have never seen shows about people like me on Australian stages. Writing mine has shown me that a good story connects everyone

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There is a moment in my play where one of the characters Bill is trying to get the protagonist Nas to go on vacation with his wife to make her fall in love with him again.

“Just you two,” says Bill.

“Why do you keep saying ‘just you two’? What does that even mean? He would be too quiet. I don’t know if I’d like it, ”replies Nas.

When I first saw my show in front of a live audience, this joke got a lot of reactions from the Desi community I was writing about. I heard murmurs of affirmation and luckily a lot of laughter too. Leaving as a couple, as we all knew, was a strange concept in a community where family was at the center of everything. In fact, in the past, couples mostly spent “just the two of them” time on their honeymoon before the kids arrived.

Related: Australia is at a turning point in the diversity conversation. Excuses are no longer enough | Shirley Le

The realization that his father had never spent much time alone with his mother makes Nas’ daughter Salima falter. “Are you telling me that you and mom have never spent time alone as a couple? Is this why you both have problems? Why have I always been in the way? “Salima exclaims before having a small existential crisis.

This is a comedy about the different generations of immigrants – first generation like Nas and second generation like Salima – and their attitudes towards life. But I’m also just an average family. And that’s what I wanted to see. Normal families like the one I grew up in who faced generational and relationship problems like everyone did, but who also came from India or Pakistan.

Mostly, I’ve written this comedy because I’ve never seen plays about people like me on our stages here in Australia.

In fact, the whole concept of becoming a playwright never came to my mind growing up in this country. It was only after I moved to London and saw that playwrights didn’t have to be old, white men, who might look like me, I even considered it an option.

I have had some success seeing my work screened in UK theaters on major stages such as the Hampstead Theater and the Soho Theater. But when I arrived here in Australia, I heard that the kind of stories I wanted to tell were relegated to “community theater”, a label that seemed to have all kinds of connotations, including the fact that the work didn’t guarantee the same. level of merit as, let’s say, of a show that was put on our main stages.

Community theater was for specific communities I was told, not traditional audiences. It was a statement that really stung. And it is perhaps the reason why we see so little diversity on our main stages, although perhaps this is slowly changing.

One thing I’ve learned over my many years of writing is that no one knows what the mainstream audience wants – they’re all just guesses. And when stage work in this country is primarily planned by people from a similar background, many stories that deserve prime attention are pushed aside when they shouldn’t be.

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My show is currently on the air because we are doing it independently. Everyone involved in the production is doing it out of love because there is no money involved. With a cast and crew that are 80% POC, we all know the importance of making shows like our part of this country’s cultural canon.

As a grown-up having to put myself in the shoes of countless white characters just to see one aspect of myself represented on stage or on screen, I can tell you that if you give the audience a chance to get lost in the story. In fact, many may even enjoy seeing a slice of life they have never seen before.

When I write about a South Asian family, arranged marriages, different generational perspectives, I’m not just highlighting aspects of a community that many consider to be a small minority (when in fact Indians now constitute the largest migrant group in Australia) – I’m also giving visibility to a significant portion of the population whose voices need to be heard.

And I can tell you with all my heart, there’s nothing like seeing you represented that makes you feel like you belong to a country you made at home.

When I see an audience with a similar cultural background to me getting the inner jokes, I feel great joy, not only because I’m highlighting a cultural aspect that only we know, but because I’m also telling the world: this is who we are. .

• Saman Shad is a Sydney based writer. The Marriage Agency will play at Kings Cross KXT until October 1st

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