Out theater director Adil Mansoor, while born in Karachi, Pakistan, calls himself “a Midwest [American] boy through and through.”
“I was in Pakistan for a full three months,” he says, explaining that he grew up outside of Chicago.
Mansoor recently spent more than a month in Houston helping director Desdemona Chiang prepare Qui Nguyen’s romantic-comedy fantasia Vietgone for a production that runs through November 3 at the Alley Theatre.
He even survived Tropical Storm Imelda.
“It’s actually been a wonderful experience,” says Mansoor. “I am sad about leaving.”
Mansoor currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his studies at Carnegie Mellon University opened the door for his internship at the Alley to serve as assistant director on Vietgone.
The play is considered groundbreaking in its focus on two Asian-Americans as leads, rather than the usual supporting characters who are stereotypes. It is set in 1975, when Saigon has fallen and a man, who lost his wife, and a woman, who lost her fiancée, are evacuated out of Vietnam to a strange new land of cowboys, hippies, and bikers.
Mansoor never endured the plight of those adult refugees in America, but he jumped at the chance to work on Vietgone because of its storytelling and its inherent theatricality.
“In the LGBTQ community, we often find ourselves thinking critically about family because of how so many of us experience displacement,” he says. “We come from a place that is foreign to us and have to make a new community to replace the family that we were raised in.”
In addition, Mansoor says, “Vietgone has a really wonderful storytelling feel to it, with such smart attention to movement. It aligns with my current mode of theater, the way it never tries to pretend or hide its theater techniques. It is totally transparent and honest.”
Rob Melrose, the Alley’s new artistic director, says the show melds 1970s songs with anachronistic present-day rap music.
“Vietgone is first and foremost a delightful romantic comedy that can be enjoyed by everyone,” says Melrose. “What I love most about it, however, is the brilliant way it speaks simultaneously to the many different communities here in Houston. Playwright Quin takes his very personal life story and gives us a completely different vantage point on the Vietnam War. The play broadens our perspectives so elegantly and beautifully. It is a play that is fun and inviting, and yet it really changed my way of thinking the first time I saw it.”
“It is very, very charming, says Mansoor, whose plans back in Pittsburgh include curating a November 14–16 festival of arts called My People, which will center on queer and trans people of color.
“It will be a weekend of screenings, performances, and dialogues,” he says.
Tickets to Vietgone start at $47. Discounted tickets to designated performances are available for military, seniors, and any student (regardless of age) with a valid student ID. Tickets can be ordered online at alleytheatre.org or by phone at 713.220.5700.