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.
4 CommentsLeave a comment
What a great accomplishment. Congratulations! When will it be coming west so we on the West Coast can see it!?
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.”
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.