A 9 Step Development Process
To stimulate and inform his own writing process, playwright Jamil Khoury devised a first-of-its-kind, nine step, online, interactive, new play development and civic engagement process. Launched in September, 2011, during the ten year commemoration of 9/11, this non-traditional approach to playwriting, facilitated primarily via digital technology, was hosted on the Silk Road Rising website. By turning what is typically a solitary writing endeavor into a series of online conversations, Khoury invited dialogue and debate within and between faith communities, and individuals from across the political spectrum. The idea was to enlist virtual participants as “co-creators” of Mosque Alert.
In 2018, Khoury will embark on Step 8 of his process, and in 2019, the process will conclude with the completion of Step 9. Steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 each included an online comment section that allowed participants to respond to Khoury’s questions, as well as pose their own questions and share thoughts. It was a unique opportunity to make a lasting imprint on a work of art and, fortunately, a good many people rose to the challenge. This virtual engagement also succeeded at encouraging frank and unfiltered conversations about the right of Muslim Americans to build houses of worship and religious pluralism in general.
The Nine Steps were as follows:
Step 1: The Spark
Khoury developed a video in which he discussed the inspiration and rationale for wanting to write Mosque Alert.
Step 2: The Prologue
Khoury developed a video in which he introduced the original six characters in Mosque Alert and began exploring relational dynamics between the characters.
Step 3: Characters
Khoury and the six actors portraying the original six characters collaborated to create four dramatized video blogs (vlogs). The vlogs were titled respectively:
2. On Being an American
3. Family Drama
4. Mosque Politics
Each character’s four vlogs were also assembled as one master vlog to accommodate more convenient viewings. It should be noted that in what later became the stage play version of Mosque Alert, some of the original characters changed and five more characters were added, bringing the total number of characters to eleven.
Step 4: The Conflicts
Khoury wrote nine two-character conflict scenes that were each turned into a video. The conflict scenes were designed to explore tensions and divisions between different pairings of characters. They were not meant to be scenes that would end up in the actual stage play, but rather they would inform the world of the play and create context and language that Khoury could cull from when writing the play. Perhaps one unintended consequence of this step is that each conflict scene now exists as a standalone work of art.
Step 5: WritING the Play
Upon completing the nine conflict scenes, Khoury began the process of outlining, writing, and workshopping an early draft of Mosque Alert, during which time he continued soliciting feedback.
Step 6: College world premiere
In fall of 2014, that early draft was workshopped with students and faculty at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. This critical step culminated in February 2015 with the College World Premiere of Mosque Alert, directed by Neil Blackadder.
Step 7: Professional world premiereS
Khoury continued revising his script following the Knox College production. In October 2015, various drafts of the play were produced as staged readings at Silk Road Rising and Naperville, Illinois’ North Central College, directed by Carin Silkaitis, and at New York City’s Voyage Theatre and Queens College, directed by Wayne Maugans. In April 2016, Mosque Alert received its Professional World Premiere at Silk Road Rising, directed by Edward Torres, where it ran for eight weeks.
Step 8: Video Play(s)
The artistic process will culminate with a video play or series of video plays that Khoury will adapt from the stage play. The video play(s) will be released online and screened as part of Silk Road Rising’s ongoing community engagement activities aimed at combatting Islamophobia.
Step 9: Audience Reviews
Upon viewing the Mosque Alert video play, either online or at a public screening, audiences will be invited to write and submit online review.s Participants will be encouraged to analyze and assess Mosque Alert from various perspectives (artistic, pedagogical, social, political, etc.)