Posted December 14, 2021
The Interview – Ahmad Meree
Ahmad Meree is an actor and playwright. He was born in Aleppo, Syria, and graduated from the Higher Institute of Theatre Arts in Cairo. He won the Best Actor Award in the Central Theatre Festival in Syria in 2008. In Egypt, he directed Ionesco’s The Lesson and won Best Director Award for directing Chekhov’s The Bear at Cairo’s Festival of International Theatre in 2013. Ahmad continued his journey as a refugee when he moved to Canada in 2016. He now lives in Kitchener, Ontario, where he works with MT Space as artistic associate, facilitator, and co-director of their Young Company. Ahmad’s plays include: Underground, which won Best Original Script in a university competition, Adrenaline, and Suitcase.
How did you decide to go into the theatre? And how did you pursue your theatrical career?
From the time I was ten years old, I knew that I wanted to be an actor, but I didn’t know how. When I was fourteen, a theatre director walked into our classroom and said that he was directing a play and that he wanted to cast students our age for it. I felt like finally this was my opportunity. I was cast in that play, and it was my first time on stage. I kept acting in plays until I made it to the Aleppo National Theatre when I was eighteen. But when the war broke out after the revolution in Syria, I had to leave for Egypt.
Who or what do you count among your inspirations and influences?
Inspirations: It depends. Sometimes it could be a musical piece, an interesting conversation, or the time I spend on my own. But one of my influences is theatre of the absurd.
Your play Adrenaline deals with a refugee’s first New Year’s Eve celebration. What was your first year in Canada like?
There were many challenges. I honestly felt I was thrown into a new world, not just into a new country. And in that world (Canada,) everything was different. I felt like I was physically here but mentally and emotionally, I wasn’t. It is hard when everything around you is unfamiliar.
Both Adrenaline and your play about war, Suitcase, have been performed across Canada in Arabic, with English surtitles. Why was it important to you to present the plays in Arabic, rather than in English translation?
To be honest, when I arrived in Canada my English was not that good. I could not perform in English, so I had no choice! I’m glad that I had to do them in Arabic. it was unusual for the audience, and they had the full experience, since it was more authentic.
You recently had a play produced at the Impact21 Festival in Kitchener. Can you tell us a bit about that project, and also about the experience of finally performing live after the pandemic restrictions?
Yes, my latest play, I Don’t Know, was performed at the festival. I was happy to write a play that is not directly about the war, and it is the first play I’ve written in English. It is about mental health and fear. The main character has a deal with a visitor, and they negotiate over the character’s life. Although it is a dark theme, I tried my best to make it dark comedy.
Performing live after more than a year was kind of weird. But at the same time, it was very heartwarming and reminded me of who I am/who I want to be.
What do you like best about being a playwright?
Basically, that I can do whatever I want in my plays. I can communicate with the world through the plays I write.
What’s the best piece of playwriting advice that you’ve ever received?
Before and during the writing, ask the question: “Who cares?”