The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan awarded Ithaca College Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Kathleen Mulligan a grant to create a play exploring the effects of violence on public spaces, tentatively entitled “On Common Ground.”
The $327,000 grant was given to Mulligan and her husband, actor and director David Studwell, along with Oregon-based actor and playwright Linda Alper and the Islamabad-based theatre group Theatre Wallay. It is the second U.S. Embassy grant awarded to Mulligan, Studwell and Theatre Wallay, who previously worked together to produce “Voices of Partition,” a theatrical production based on the narratives of survivors of the violent 1947 partition of Pakistan and India.
After the success of “Voices,” the U.S. Embassy encouraged Mulligan and her collaborators to propose a new project. Mulligan says that they decided their new play should address the violence that has plagued Pakistan since the partition, such as the 2014 attack on a school in Peshawar that claimed over 140 lives.
“There’s a lot of sectarian violence in Pakistan and Americans don’t realize how much the everyday Pakistani is affected and terrorized by attacks within their own country,” said Mulligan. “We want to highlight that.”
Mulligan also wants to draw parallels between violence in Pakistan and violence in the U.S., like the 2012 mass shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., in order to encourage mutual understanding between the U.S. and Pakistan.
“We want to help Pakistanis and Americans to realize that we are both the victims of this kind of violence and to see what that has done to our feeling of safety and community in public spaces,” said Mulligan.
Mulligan and her collaborators will spend nine months developing the play in Pakistan, after which it will be performed for a limited run in the country. The play will then be performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Artists’ Repertory Theatre in Portland, Oregon, before returning to Pakistan.
Two actors from Theatre Wallay will be in residence at Ithaca College in fall 2017, where they will work with students to gather additional material about Americans’ feelings concerning violence in public spaces. Some of that information will then be added into the play.
Mulligan has served as a resident professional theatre associate at Cornell University, resident actor/teacher at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and resident artist at PCPA Theatrefest in Santa Maria, California. A member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association and Actors’ Equity Association, her professional acting credits include the Acting Company, American Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company and Nebraska Shakespeare Festival. She received her B.F.A. in acting from Boston University and M.F.A. in acting from Southern Methodist University.