Sangare offers fresh direction

Very rarely do we believe anyone to be destined for creativity: Great artists are made, not born. However, Omar Sangare, assistant professor of theatre and current director of A Streetcar Named Desire, seems to exemplify the opposite claim. After his 2002 performance with the Arena Players Repertory Theater, The New York Times said, “Omar Sangare was born to play Othello.” Sangare could only realize his destiny through art. In retrospect he believes that no other path existed for him, saying, “I was born onstage.”
One of the first people of color in a small Polish town, Sangare always stood at the center of attention. He has been a performer since his earliest days. “People were curious about how I looked and how I would interact with other people,” he said. “That brought on a lot of situations that were, to me, very theatrical.” Though his appearance made him unique, Sangare was quick to assure me that he could relate to his community and “prove the value of [the] so-called outsider.” To do this he had to learn how to perform. The life-imitating-art scenario forced him to take up the discipline of theater almost out of necessity.
“I decided to try my luck with signing up for an entrance exam to the Theater Academy in Warsaw,” Sangare remembered. After his acceptance, he faced a rigorous curriculum. In his first year, the Academy required Sangare to take over 20 courses ranging from the theoretical matter of literature and sociology to the practical substance of diction and stage combat. This intense program molded a man born to act into a skilled master of his craft. “All of [the rigorous curriculum] built me into a responsible artist who can explore many artistic fields,” he said reflecting on the different facets of theater – acting, singing, directing, writing ­– to which his studies introduced him.
Such intense training opened a world of possibilities to Sangare. How did all of those possibilities transform him into a college professor? “I was fortunate enough to be involved in numerous theater, TV and film productions,” he said, “but I found many of these projects too similar.” Looking to break free from the constraints of repeated projects, Sangare wrote a one-man show, True Theatre Critic, for which he received a Best In Acting Award from the New York International Fringe Festival. The show allowed him to do a great deal of international travel, which in turn led to a year-long invitation to teach at Westmont College. “I found that, especially in America, the academic environment is a remarkable place for scientists and artists to develop, along with the students, many brave ideas.” In sharp contrast to show business, a world in which only box office revenue matters, academia allows for the pushing of art to new limits. A focus on money “paralyzes brave movements in art … However, here at the College we may experiment, we may take risks, we may try new directions,” he explained.
Sangare has decided to follow one of those new directions with the upcoming production of A Streetcar Named Desire. With an initially startling number of cuts to the script and double-casting of most major roles, Sangare looks to direct something entirely new and reflective of his philosophy that theater teaches us a great deal about ourselves as individuals and as a community. As we watch this play, according to Sangare, “we find how dark, dangerous, uncomfortable and scary human existence might become.”
“This is our major focus of theatrical exploration here,” Sangare said. “If someone wants a full view of a play, I would encourage that person to go to the library and read the entire play, to fully meet it one-on-one. In theater, we should rather present a version of it. I don’t want to compete with Sawyer.”
Many may wonder at Sangare’s desire to interpret the iconic A Streetcar Named Desire in a strange new way. It may seem like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa, but Sangare answers, “Many people may come to the theater with very clear expectations … However, we cannot satisfy everyone’s vision. It’s simply impossible.” In this risky situation, Sangare sees a chance to raise challenging questions about ourselves. Where do we go when we have no place to go? How much do our imaginations help us, and when do they serve as a hindrance?
Sangare will be reading from his new book, Othello. Pale from Envy, and meeting with his readership on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Nowy Dziennik Center on 38th Street in New York City. Admission is free and the entire College community is invited. A Streetcar Named Desire will run March 10-12 in the Adams Memorial Theatre. “I want to find and create something that is about our lives,” says Sangare. “I am intrigued to see how our interpretation will be received by our community.”

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *