Play by RPCV Rajiv Joseph (Senegal 1996-98) Open on Broadway

Robin Williams is on Broadway in the New York premiere of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, a play written by RPCV Rajiv Joseph (Senegal 1996-98). The story was the winner of the 2009 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) award for Outstanding New American Play and was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Today, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is at the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York for a limited run. It stars Robin Williams in tattered clothes as the eponymous tiger, roaming the streets of present-day Baghdad.  

The lives of two American Marines and an Iraqi translator are forever changed by an encounter with this quick-witted tiger who haunts the streets of war-torn Baghdad attempting to find meaning, forgiveness and redemption amidst the city’s ruins.

The New York Times writes, “This boldly imagined, harrowing and surprisingly funny drama is wonderfully daring.”

In a recent interview, Rajiv, who started to write when he was in the Peace Corps,  talked about how he came to write the play. “A few years ago, I read a tiny article in the back of The New York Times about a tiger in the Baghdad Zoo. It was only about two paragraphs long, but I was moved by reading about this animal that had been killed. It seemed so odd and surreal, and I just wanted to give the tiger a voice. I imagined what he would say-and that’s where the idea for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo came from.

“It wasn’t bad enough for the tiger to be killed, but to be a Bengal tiger stuck in the Baghdad Zoo. I imagined the tiger would be pretty pissed off about things even before being killed. I assumed the Baghdad Zoo has to be a pretty shitty place to begin with, but being so far from home and knowing you’ll never get back must trigger a pretty horrifying existential crisis.”

We’ll run a review of Rajiv’s play in an upcoming blog on this site. Stay tuned.


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  • Extraordinary news!!! Big congratulations to Rajiv.

    When people ask me where I get my ideas, the answer is The New York Times. I’m not alone.

    Soon as I’m home, I’ll be getting tickets to The Tiger.

  • In Huffington Post “Animal Photos of the Week” – A photo of a tiger with this caption: “Bengal tiger sits inside a cage at the Baghdad zoo on April 1, 2011. Inspired by the death of a tiger after the US invasion of Iraq, playwright Rajiv Joseph’s ‘Bengal tiger at the Baghdad zoo’ is garnering roaring reviews on Broadway. Mamdouh, shot and killed by a drunken US soldier six months after the March 2003 invasion, is still remembered at the Baghdad zoo, where he was born and raised.”

    Bravo, Rajiv.

  • Thiis story reminds me, somehow, of “Life of Pi.” What a heartbreaking history, and inspirational work of art Rajiv Joseph has accomplished.

    BTW, I wonder if I ever met Rajiv in Senegal, as I was a PCV there from 1993-96. I’m guessing we were like ships passing in the night, but probably learned something about SIMBU in Senegal.

    Leita Kaldi

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