MIDLOTHIAN — Navarro College is hosting its 18th theater production, “American Angel,” which focuses on a Muslim girl and European boy connecting through the spirit of Christmas. This original play, hosted at the Lighthouse Coffee Bar in Midlothian, focuses on the lives of the two main leads.
A Navarro professor and director of the play, Ernie Patterson, said he came up with the idea after speaking with a couple of students in his classes. After hearing about their customs and how they spend the holidays, he said it was important to share the adversity they go through with a Christmas twist.
Patterson said, “It’s a Christmas play about a Muslim girl that meets another immigrant and they don’t understand how Americans celebrate Christmas. They both find Christmas through each other.”
One point Patterson made was that this is not a controversial play and that the political view is not overarching to the audience, but, is about how the two main leads fall in love.
In the play, Angel, a European boy, goes to a theater for some help with a virtual reality product. The girl, Fatima, attempts to help him understand the product while a theater show is conducting its final rehearsal. During their conversations, they realize they’ve met once before.
Angel believes Fatima holds the secret to Christmas and as the evening goes from rehearsal to the performance, the characters all learn a deeper meaning to the special holiday.
Patterson explains how they find the spirit of Christmas even though religiously, they don’t celebrate it. Fatima and Angel simply serve as a gift to each other. The director explains it as, “Christmas is the time where everybody will find their own gift if they open themselves up.”
Like said earlier, these characters and meaning of the play was written based on two students of Pattersons, Vasilije Batricevic (Vas), 20, and Farah Hinnaowi, 18.
Batricevic attended Midlothian High School as a foreign exchange student but was raised in Montenegro, a former Yugoslavian country. While attending MHS, he lived with a military veteran who is in his late 80s.
Batricevic is Christian Orthodox and celebrates Christmas in the New Year. In the play, the audience will learn more about his culture as well as Hinnaowi’s.
“I’m really glad that Mr. Patterson had the guts to do something about this issue or topic that I don’t think has been really explored in this area, particularly Texas. I appreciate it a lot,” Batricevic said.
He said he learned so much about the Muslim religion while putting the play together and hopes that people in the audience will gain a new perspective on wanting to learn more about others and opening up themselves.
He said his favorite part of the play is getting to know his show mates. Through this, he’s learned how hard it is for women of the Muslim religion to open up due to how they feel others think about them.
“There were two girls of that religion in the play and every rehearsal they would tell us something new, and we would talk about stuff that they don’t usually share with Americans or other people,” Batricevic said.
Through his experience in the play, he said he made good progress since it was his first English play to act in. English is not his first language. During the play, he also learned about American Christmas traditions too.
He said, “Every line is purposely there. Every line we say has a meaning.”
This holiday season, Batricevic will celebrate a traditional Christmas with the military veteran he still lives with and then will go overseas to be with his family when they celebrate.
Hinnaowi, on the other hand, was born and lived in Michigan for five years before moving to Dubai for 10 years and then Lebanon for one year.
With English being her first language, she can also speak, read and write Arabic. Hinnaowi has lived in Glen Heights for the past three years and is currently studying business at Navarro.
With the play based on her life, Hinnaowi said she could really relate to the character, making it easier to act. She explained how her character’s thoughts are mixed, not knowing if she should follow her beliefs or the American ways that surround her.
She said, “I feel like she [Fatima] handles everything pretty well and I really enjoy playing her because I’ve been through those things so many times.”
Hinnaowi expressed her difficulties of how people perceive her because of her religion.
“Every time I walk into a room, I don’t know what to expect and that’s terrifying. Whenever I walk into my classes, the first day of each semester, people are going to look at me but I don’t’ know what their thinking and that scares me,” Hinnaowi explained.
She added, “Playing this character definitely opened my eyes knowing that I’m not the only one. Like yeah, I have friends that are Muslim and go through a lot of the same things, but nobody actually talks about it.”
Through the play, she’s changed in the way that she’s more open about talking about her religion and isn’t afraid to share it. She said, “If you don’t talk about it now, then nobody will.”
She also mentioned how her Muslim and Arabic friends who watched the performance could relate to Fatima’s character heavily. For others who don’t share the same religion, Hinnaowi said, “I want people to know that it’s okay to be different and talk about it. I want people who are afraid to ask people like me and want to send the message that it’s okay to ask so they can learn.”
Hinnaowi said her family doesn’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday but instead they celebrate the spirit of Christmas. They have two decorated trees and exchange presents.
Those interested in seeing the play can watch the 50-minute performance on Dec. 8 and 9, starting at 7 p.m. It will be performed at the Lighthouse Coffee Bar, located at 1404 N. 9th St. in Midlothian. Tickets are free and the play is kid-friendly.