Yussef El Guindi’s most recent productions include Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World (winner of the Steinberg/ American Theater Critics Association’s New Play Award in 2012; Gregory Award 2011; Seattle Times’ “Footlight Award” for Best World Premiere Play) at ACT, and Language Rooms (Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, as well as ACT’s New Play Award), co-produced by Asian American Theater Company and Golden Thread Productions in San Francisco; as well as at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.
His plays, Back of the Throat, as well as Such a Beautiful Voice is Sayeda’s and Karima’s City, have been published by Dramatists Play Service. The latter one-acts have also been included in THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT PLAYS: 2004-2005, published by Applause Books in 2008. His play Ten Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith, is included in SALAAM/PEACE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF MIDDLE-EASTERN AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHTS, published by TCG, 2009.
Yussef is the recipient of the 2010 Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award.
The parentage of plays can be a little strange. Things that you wouldn't think go together come together and create a play you didn't quite expect. In July/ August of 2011 I was preoccupied with a couple of things: thinking about the Arab Spring, and considering the life of Moss Hart and the kind of plays he wrote (a strange combination, I know). It was while reading a Moss Hart bio that the setting and tone of The Mummy and The Revolution first came to me. I was so impressed by what Broadway could afford to do back in Moss Hart's day - in terms of cast size and lavish sets - that some weird synaptic connection was made in my mind between lavish set and the Egyptian revolution. Perhaps because the latter was such a spectacle that the idea of setting this play in a set that would be a spectacle in its own right occurred to me. And maybe just the anarchic and wonderful spirit of the revolution suggested the anarchic and kinetic energy of the farce genre. The entrances and exits, the blowing of doors open... So, should this piece ever get staged, this is one play where if I overhear an audience member say, "well, I loved the set", I wouldn't automatically think that they hated the play.
EXCERPT FROM THE MUMMY AND THE REVOLUTION
MAGDI: It's just the way things are, my dear. The way things always will be. A veritable law of nature. Even the animals here understand some among them will dominate. Do they begrudge the powerful among them? No, they adjust and tread carefully. God's creation is not evil for having a hierarchy, is it?
MUSHIRA :My God, you and Roger, you vomit the same nonsense, no wonder you're friends.
MAGDI: Aren't you religious? Isn't harmony only possible if everyone understands their place? And purpose? I know this sounds elitist, but I am a historian and see these terrible convulsions that always come around and destroy so much. The Christians rise up and destroy the library of Alexander; the Muslims rise up the deface the ancient Statues, the nationalists rise up and drive out anyone they don't think is Egyptian enough.
MUSHIRA: Our struggle is different. We will include everyone.
MAGDI: It always is: "Our struggle, our cries of the heart are different, and fresh, and will bring about change." And they don't of course because your cries are no more than a grab for what doesn't belong to you. And so it goes: the back of every revolution is broken on the wheel of that power-grab, and greed. A revolution is no more than a mass uprising for collective theft. It's the only time when larceny and the settling of old scores can come across as virtuous.