+ By Desiree Smith-Daughety + Photos by Alison Harbaugh
A man without legs, his severed upper half is leaning up against a pear tree. He’s talking about how the circumstances of his life have led to him being blown in half.
Themes in his monologue weave together, including adultery, sacrificing for your family, experiencing suicidal thoughts, and setting up a weight-vest bomb. This is The Pear Tree.
Omar Said is fearless when it comes to his art. The aforementioned scene is his avant-garde, surrealist one-man play in the style of Samuel Beckett: spare in theatrical presentation but deep on philosophical nudging. “I’m working very hard to share stories and experiences I feel are worth sharing,” shares Omar. “And if I can incite some fire and thought out of people, then I’ve done my job. The social, political, and economic issues we deal with are, in my opinion, the circumstantial injustices of culture, society, government, and a side effect of living in a country shaped by commerce and intellectual property. We have to start somewhere, and it seems to me ‘thought’ would be the place to start, and discussion would be the intuitive next step.”
The vehicle for exploring the themes of adultery and dysfunctional family in this play is the purgatory of a suicide bomber. “Admittedly I don’t know much about it, so I speculate a lot,” confesses Omar.
Omar grew up in The States, but he’s from an Egyptian family, experiencing age, income, and race as social constructs from living in two different Maryland counties. It included how he was defined by others. “Before 9/11, people assumed I was Hispanic. It went to ‘this kid is probably a terrorist.’” But traveling to Egypt, he also witnessed prejudice and realized, “There are stupid people all over the world.”
He chooses not to identify himself with any particular culture, nor does he place any strong evidence of his identity into race, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexuality. “It’s my experiences.”
His efforts in performing The Pear Tree were not to demonize the audience or to make a hero out of a suicide bomber, but to highlight the personal struggle of this unnamed man. “I consider myself a person who doesn’t know anything but is learning just like anyone else.” Omar thinks globally but acts locally, including teaching at Bates Middle School. His enthusiasm makes him a valuable asset in acting class and theater think tank.
Omar is grateful for where he is in life—and the life he is creating in the Annapolis area. “It’s like a vacation spot all the time.” Time seems to stand still, allowing him to sit, write, read, paint, and do the work he has set out to do. In less than five years of working, he has enjoyed teaching at Bates Middle School, coaching and directing actors, doing visual art, and creating art as concept for his writings. In fact, he has written four short, and two feature-length screenplays, about eight one-act short plays—including producing The Pear Tree—and two full plays.
A graduate of UMBC, he feels his professors helped him attain the ideal education. While interested in acting in high school, he ran through other possibilities, such as computer science and photography, as he appliéd to college. But intuitively he wanted to work on something he felt passionate about. So he studied theater. His grades in high school suffered, but in college he discovered his learning style and hit his stride. “It takes me a lot of time to read anything but after I’m finished, I’m able to perform every part, breaking down language, seeing a sentence and deriving multiple meanings out of it.”
He also discovered the wide availability of theater that Baltimore has to offer, noticing the dearth of younger people attending. So, he’s bringing it to the people, creating characters and doing improv in Annapolis. Whether it’s attending launch parties as a mime—complete with white-painted face, turning the idea of a mime on its head from down-and-out to a martini-glass-wielder with a sense of entitlement—to donning a liquid-latex-based mask that makes him appear to be an elderly man, one who keeps dropping coins and slowly picking them up until Annapolis denizens take pity, entering his “scene” to help.
Omar once found some teens with bikes and skateboards and asked them to help do a bit. He would run past a local coffee shop’s al fresco diners, looking behind him with terror at these teens chasing him. “That was probably something they recognized from a cartoon when they were a kid. I knew there wasn’t [an existing] scene for surrealist and absurdist theater. I wanted to showcase this as my debut in Annapolis and it has been received quite positively by artists and non-artists in town.”
So, if you see something that seems a little outside the norm in Annapolis, perhaps do a double-take; this may be your first glimpse of Omar Said, a fearless performer who loves Annapolis and anticipates living here a while, promoting the surreal and absurd.[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][/vc_column][/vc_row]