Kimberly Senior '95 directs Pulitzer-winning drama

 Director Kimberly Senior '95 with Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Ayad Akhtar.

Director Kimberly Senior '95 with Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Ayad Akhtar.

Being bold and taking risks doesn’t come easily to most people – especially when it’s about something controversial or unpleasant.

That was the challenge last fall when Kimberly Senior ’95 directed “Disgraced” at the Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3. The play, written by Ayad Akhtar, is about a successful attorney who’s forced to consider why he has hidden his Pakistani and Muslim heritage for so long. 

Senior’s deft directing earned praise from critics, and last month Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

We caught up with Senior recently for a short conversation. She moved to Chicago after graduation to take an internship at the Steppenwolf Theatre and is now one of the city’s rising directors.

What was the biggest challenge in directing “Disgraced”?

To remain bold and take the risks that the play demands. And to continue to push Ayad to tell the story that is in him — some of the things he has to say are controversial, unpleasant, or often remain unsaid. By putting these ideas out there we are promoting conversations within communities and between them.

What do you hope people take away from the play?

That identity isn't something as black and white as we might think. We shift our identity from one circumstance to the next. It becomes dangerous when we act or perform to fulfill stereotypes. I want audiences to see themselves in the play — I see a piece of myself in all five of the characters. I then want the conversation to extend beyond the theater.

How do you use your Connecticut College education as a director?

I majored in theater, and Professor David Jaffe has remained a tremendous inspiration for me as an artist, teacher, parent and person. Connecticut College nurtures the whole person, which has been the greatest gift! Becoming versed not only in theater but also in a variety of subjects has been fantastic training.

How did you get into directing?

I directed my first play, “Cowboy Mouth” by Sam Shepard, at Connecticut College. I loved making that play and definitely wanted to do more — and I was very much encouraged to do so!

What’s next for you?

I've got plays lined up to direct from now until October 2014! One of the projects I am most excited about is the world premiere of Ayad Akhtar’s next play, “The Who and the What,” at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego next February. It’s about a brilliant young woman raised in a conservative Muslim family in Atlanta.

Visit Kimberly Senior’s website.