When Ayad Akhtar won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, he thought: “Well, very little good can come of this.”
Akhtar, who won the award for his play “Disgraced,” talks about it on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast. Either he’d believe he deserved the award, the playwright explains, or he wouldn’t — and he didn’t like either option.
He recalls how he navigated out of that dilemma in a discussion centered around “Junk,” his ambitious new play about the 1980s junk-bond crisis now running at Lincoln Center Theater. He also dives into the intellectual underpinnings of the play and how he manages to talk finance without make theatergoers’ eyes glaze over — and also reveals how his knowledge of the stock market had its roots in his father being worried that he was reading too much poetry.
“Junk” is the first play of Akhtar’s not to feature a Muslim character — and the reaction to it, he thinks, is telling. “When I put a Muslim character into a play, people think they’re watching a play about somebody else, not about themselves,” he says. “Whereas now I’m writing a play in which so much of the audience thinks that maybe they’re like that guy too, and so now they’re watching a play about themselves.”
He goes on to explain how faith plays a part in all his writing, and lets slip the factoid that he appeared in the 1994 Louis Malle film “Vanya on 42nd Street,” hovering in the background of a movie that starred Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore. “I have hair,” he notes with a laugh.
The new episode of Stagecraft is now available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Soundcloud.