A play inspired by a mass shooting sounds like a tough sell. On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist went into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and murdered six people. The crime hit close to home for Sundeep Morrison, whose parents lived nearby. In RAG HEAD, Morrison explores the increase in hate crimes committed against Sikhs, Muslims and other immigrant communities since 9/11.
Morrison brings seven different characters to life in the telling of this story. All of them are brilliantly rendered. The costumes, which Morrison very quickly changes into while short video clips play, are completely transformative. Indeed, it's a mystery how convincing beards can be applied so quickly. The video clips range from educational to heartbreaking – from instructional videos on properly wrapping a turban to anti-immigration government propaganda – and underscore the play's message: ignorance breeds hate while education may foster compassion.
Morrison's most fascinating portrayals are the matriarch of the Sikh family targeted in the mass shooting and the wildly bigoted father of the white girl who dates the Sikh mother's physician son. Morrison gives them uncanny life with perfect accents and precise body language. The family patriarch and his son are voiced with palpable tenderness and Morrison's eyes burn with such love and grief that the audience can't help but feel it, too.
It can't be easy for Morrison to have written this play, nor to stand on stage and perform it. The fact that the performer has chosen to educate audiences about the Sikh faith and the violence they experience speaks volumes about the extent of the problem, the vast ignorance of it in American society, and the importance of the issue to the playwright and their community.
In RAG HEAD, Morrison portrays seven characters whose lives are forever changed by one hateful act. If you're lucky enough to be in the audience of this play, it will forever change your life, artistically and personally.
"Rag Head: An American Story"
Written and Performed by Sundeep Morrison
Directed by Sundeep Morrison and Kat Evasco
October 28, 2022
The 13th United Solo Festival
October 4- November 20, 2022
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)
STEPHANIE EAGAN is a professional writer based in NJ. A fan of every type of live performance imaginable, from taiko drumming to political performance art, she travels the tri-state area and beyond in search of music, art, theater, and excellent coffee.