Thank You, President Obama

Dear President Obama, 

I wasn't planning on writing you a farewell letter but, the events over the last 48 hours that culminated with the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President-elect of the United States of America, have compelled me to do so. I write this letter to express my sincere admiration for you as a person, and gratitude for all you've done for us in your career as a public servant- first as a community organizer, then legislator in the Illinois State Senate followed by the U.S. Senate, and finally, a two-term President who inherited a nation at war, and a global economy in free-fall. 

I know that, with Donald Trump's election, you must be asking yourself what you could have done differently. You must have moments where you reflect on your last eight years and think, "Was it me?" Mr. President, at the risk of quoting an oft-parodied scene from Good Will Hunting, let me just say, it's not your fault...it's not your fault...it's not your fault.

Trump's rise to becoming president-elect was borne out of an obstructionist Republican Party that exploited racial animosity and xenophobia from the minute you took the oath on that crisp January morning in 2009. Throughout your tenure as President, Republican lawmakers often resorted to veiled references to your heritage, faith, and upbringing to suggest that you were somehow unfit to lead Americans as their President. By the time it was primaries season earlier this year, those racist and xenophobic seeds that the Republicans planted, had blossomed into a Republican primary ticket with candidates who seemed better suited for a scripted reality show, rather than our nation's highest office.

We all know how it ended so I'll spare you the recap but, I'm writing you to tell you that you and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with your two daughters, Sasha and Malia, rose above the vitriol and cynicism that encircled your time in office, and gave Americans an exemplary model to admire and abide by. I guess I'm writing this letter as a sort of therapy, to cope with the fact that the next four years look very dark for minorities such as myself. It hasn't even been 48 hours and already, we are seeing a rash of hate crimes across the country committed in Trump's name. So, this is also my way of tapping into the hope you inspired in people who believed that the America you envisioned for all of us was within our grasp. As I write this letter, a part of me fears that maybe this America is rapidly slipping farther and farther away. But then I consider the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that generations before us overcame to achieve freedom, suffrage, & civil rights, both here and in my parents' native country of India, and I'm comforted. Because history teaches us that only a dogged persistence coupled with an unflinching conviction in justice as a necessary element for human co-existence, as necessary as the oxygen we breathe, will bring about the America you heroically tried to will into existence these last eight years. Eight years that went by way, way, way too fast. 

So Mr. President, thank you for all that you've achieved for the People and, thank you for...

...singing Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" at the Apollo

 

...letting Drake know his lyrics are just aiight

 

...having a decent jump-shot

 

...dancing to "Thriller"

 

...being a dog guy, because cats can't be trusted

 

...for having a way with wailing babies

 

...and for inspiring a generation of leaders to value the inherent dignity in your fellow man, no matter who that man may be...

 

You will be missed, Sir. 

- Kesav

Returning to the Stage in "There is a Field"

Next week, I'll be returning to the stage as Asel Asleh in There is a Field by Jen Marlowe. I'm truly honored to join this talented group of individuals to tell this story about Asel; a 17 year old Palestinian citizen of Israel and peace activist, who was killed by Israeli police on October 2, 2000, during a demonstration protesting earlier incidents of Israeli police brutality towards Arabs at the al-Aksa mosque.

Asel Asleh was influenced by the great Sufi poet Rumi.

Asel Asleh was influenced by the great Sufi poet Rumi.

Billed as the "Land Day Tour" (a Palestinian day of observance and protest to commemorate the Israeli government's appropriation of Arab farm land in 1976), we'll be touring several universities along the east coast and will culminate with a performance in St. Louis, Missouri, to highlight the parallels with police brutality against black and brown people here in the U.S.

It's a privilege to be able to participate in another project that fuses story-telling with social justice and spread a message of peace while doing what I love.

Follow the link to read more about There is a Field  and I've pasted tour dates below. As always, thank you for the love fam!

Note: The Tour Schedule may still change

Wed March 2 @ 6:00 pm: Brooklyn, NY
St Joseph’s College
Tuohy Hall Auditorium, 245 Clinton Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205
Sponsored by: Students for Justice in Palestine-St Joseph’s College
Co-sponsored by: Council for the Arts, Campus Ministry, Black Student Association & Alumni Engagement
Open to the public. Suggested donation of $10-$20; no one turned away
Contact: Lisa Gagliardo

Sat March 5 @ 7:00 pm: Poughkeepsie, NY
Vassar College
Streep Theater
Sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace-Vassar & Students for Justice in Palestine-Vassar
Open to the public. Suggested donation of $10-$20; no one turned away
More details TBA

Tues March 8 @ 7:30 pm: Williamstown, MA
Williams College
62 Center, Williamstown, MA
Sponsored by: Students for Justice in Palestine-Williams College
Co-sponsored by Divest Williams
Contact: Sumaya Awad

Wed March 9 @ 6:00 pm: Amherst, MA
Hampshire College
Emily Dickinson Hall, 893 West Street, Amherst MA 01002
Sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine-Hampshire
Co-sponsored by the Hampshire College Theater Board
Suggested donation of $10-$20; no one turned away
Contact: Eli Shurberg

Thurs March 10: Cambridge, MA
Harvard University
Sponsored by Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Black Student Association, SLAM, Transgender Task Force, RAZA
Post-play discussion sponsored by the Harvard Center for Ethics and the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinic
(For further info about this performance, please contact Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee)

Sat March 12 @ 8:00 pm: Somerville, MA
Tufts University
Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room, 15 Talbot Ave, Somerville, MA 02144
Sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine-Tufts
RSVP to: sjptufts@gmail.com

Mon March 14 @ 7:30 pm: Bowie, MD
Bowie State University
Student Center Ballroom
14000 Jericho Park Road
Sponsored by the Graduate Student Association
Contact: Will Nathan

Wed March 16 @ 7:30 pm: Bryn Mawr, PA
Bryn Mawr College
McPherson Auditorium, Goodhart Hall, 101 N. Merion Ave. Bryn Mawr, PA
Seating is limited, first-come, first-serve
Contact: Rosie McInnes
Sponsored by: Voices for Palestine Bryn Mawr
Co-sponsored by: Bryn Mawr Sisterhood, Students for Justice in Palestine-Haverford, Jewish Voice for Peace-Philadelphia, JStreet U-Bryn Mawr

Sat March 19 @ 7:30 pm: Washington DC
Community performance at St Stephen’s and the Incarnation Episcopal Church
St Stephen’s Church (Auditorium), 1525 Newton St NW, Washington DC 20010
Sponsored by Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace, Donkeysaddle Projects, Jewish Voice for Peace DC Metro, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Central Atlantic Conference-United Church of Christ
Suggested donation of $10-$20; no one turned away
Contact: Jen Marlowe

Mon March 21: Washington DC
American University
Sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine-AU
More details TBA

Tues March 22 @ 7:30pm: Washington DC
Howard University
Blackburn Auditorium
Sponsored by Living Stones Worship Arts Ministry

Wed March 23 @ 6:00 pm: Madison, NJ
Drew University
Great Hall in the Caspersan Building, 36 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ 07940
Contact: Naeem Khan at 973-420-6205

Thurs, March 24 @ 8:00 pm: Middletown, CT
Wesleyan University
Malcolm X House Basement, 345 High Street
Sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace
Co-sponsored by Ujama, Students for Justice in Palestine
Contact: Yael Horowitz

Mon March 28 @ 7:00 pm: NYC
Columbia University
3rd Floor, World Room, Pulitzer Hall Journalism School
2950 Broadway (@ 116th St)
(enter the Columbia gates on east side of Broadway at 116th Street. The building on the right says “Journalism.” Walk around the perimeter of the building to the campus entrance, just behind the statue of Thomas Jefferson.)
Sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies
RSVP here

Tues March 29 @ 7:00 pm: NYC
Columbia University
3rd Floor, World Room, Pulitzer Hall Journalism School
2950 Broadway (@ 116th St)
(enter the Columbia gates on east side of Broadway at 116th Street. The building on the right says “Journalism.” Walk around the perimeter of the building to the campus entrance, just behind the statue of Thomas Jefferson.)
Sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies
RSVP here

Thurs March 31 @ 7:00 pm: Tallahassee, FL
Mickee Faust Theatre
623 McDonnell Dr, Tallahassee, FL 32310
Sponsored by Dream Defenders-Florida A&M University and
Students for Justice in Palestine-Florida State University

Sat April 2: Gainesville, FL
University of Florida
Time and venue TBD
Contact: Lara Alqasem
Sponsored by: Dream Defenders-UF Squadd & Students for Justice in Palestine-UF

Mon April 4 @ 7:00 pm: Atlanta, GA
Emory University
Emory Center for Ethics
1531 Dickey Drive. Atlanta, Georgia 30322
(Visitor parking info: 29 Eagle Row, Atlanta , Georgia 30322)
Sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine and the Emory Program for Ethics & the Arts
Contact: Dina Bashar Masri

Wed April 6 @ 6:00 pm: Athens, GA
University of Georgia

Fri April 8 @ 7:00 pm: St Louis, MO
Washington University in St Louis
1 Brookings Dr, St. Louis, MO 63130
McMillan Hall
Campus Map: (#70 on the map)
Sponsored by: Students for Justice in Palestine
Contact: Stephanie Aria

Sat April 9: St Louis/Ferguson, MO
Community performance
More details TBA
Sponsored by Hands Up United and St Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee

 

My Primetime Debut on ABC!

UPDATE: ABC posted the segment on What Would You Do's YouTube channel. Check it out below! 

This week, I'll be gracing the small screen on two, that's right TWO, consecutive nights. First tune in on Thursday 12:35am for Nightline's feature on ABC's hit show "What Would You Do" with host John Quinones. It'll take a behind the scenes look at how the show gets made with actor/producer interviews. 

Me photobombing John Quinones (center) taking a selfie with actors Siraj Huda and Marie Guinier, my TV parents. 

Me photobombing John Quinones (center) taking a selfie with actors Siraj Huda and Marie Guinier, my TV parents. 

Then, tune in to the main event, on Friday, Aug 14 at 9:00pm ET, What Would You Do on ABC to see me and some fellow actors throw a curveball scenario at some unsuspecting bystanders. Add it to your calendars on your iWatches people! I made it easy for you here jeeeeez cahmaann. Thanks for all the support and love! It's about to get interesting...

K

For Flow featured on Blacklist.com's "Go Into the Story" Blog!

Almost five years ago to the day, we were on a corner in the Bronx filming For Flow, the short film I adapted from my stage play, that was directed by Jason Camp, and later, was selected as a finalist at the 2011 HBO American Black Film Festival. A lot's happened since then, but I'm always thrilled to see that the film still resonates with folks. This time, Scott Myers of the screenwriter's website BlackList, featured Flow on his blog, Go Into The Storyas a part of "Movies You Made Month" this March. Follow the link or click on the picture below, and check out the whole film for free! 

 

pictured from left: Devere Rogers as "Dee", Vladimi Versailles as "Kane, and Cherrye Davis as "Roxanne"

pictured from left: Devere Rogers as "Dee", Vladimi Versailles as "Kane, and Cherrye Davis as "Roxanne"

Love from Austin Film Festival, Project Greenlight (& other stuff)!

It's been a while since I posted any news on here and that's not because I haven't been busy! If you follow me on social media, you already know.  Since my last post in April, I acted in two staged readings directed by Saheem Ali (A Free Man of Color - Broadway).  The first reading was entitled Tsunami, by Tunisian playwright, Jalila Baccar, which went up as a part of the PEN: World Voices: International Play Festival and dealt with the events around the Arab Spring's origins in Tunisia.  I played a reformed rebel fighter who'd lost his brother in the Syrian war.  I got to work with some amazing talent including Kathryn Kates, who plays Larry Bloom's mother on Orange is the New Black.

Next, Saheem asked me to be a part of the first staged reading of a play entitled Bhuta Kala, a NYU MFA Thesis by Nathaniel Shapiro.  This play was super interesting and also dealt with some very heavy material concerning the genocide that swept over Bali during the Communist purge in Indonesia between 1965-66.  The playwright told the story in the tradition of Balinese theater steeped in Hindu myths, but used humor throughout the piece while the dark events unfolded before the audience.  I played a young Communist who gets executed by his one-time classmates who remain loyal to the old guard.

After those two readings, as I alluded to in my last post, I became consumed by revising Dear Brother.  I spent the next two months getting it in shape to submit to a number of competitions. 

The fruit of that labor...I got on a list! Dear Brother wound up in the top 15% of scripts that advanced to the Second Round of the Austin Film Festival Screenplay competition.  Unfortunately, that's where it topped out, but the sheer volume of submissions (close to 7,000) makes that feat somewhat noteworthy.  So I may join fellow screenwriters in Austin come October, we'll see!

Meanwhile, the director of Lily In The Grinder has apparently been busy trying to get on some lists of his own because the film is a PROJECT GREENLIGHT finalist! Right this very moment, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (or probably their interns) are curled up in their PJ's watching my mug on a big projection screen, how wild is that!? 

That's all for now my peoples.  In a few hours, I'll be cloud-hoppin' on my way to a vacation.  Curious as to where? Follow me on twitter and instagram! I need to recharge so I can put out the next hotness I have in store :P

Peace

K

 

New York premiere of Dear Brother short!

Click through for tickets! 

Click through for tickets! 

If you've known me at all for the past four years or so, you have, at one point or another asked me what I'm working on and, if I held your attention long enough, I eventually got to the part where I described a screenplay that I've poured most of my non-acting free time into- mind, body and soul, titled Dear Brother.

For those that are unfamiliar, the logline: An English born Pakistani boxer, Saleem, fights for his freedom after being wrongfully convicted of planning terrorism.

The script tallied a couple wins at competitions/festivals,  but it needed some more work to really hit all the notes that a powerful story like this ought to.  Well, I've been plugging away at it and luckily, along the way, I met a seasoned and well accomplished screenwriter/Sundance-alum, who believes in the story and has graciously guided me through the most recent round of revisions.  Deep breaths...I am thrilled about this rewrite. 

SO, what better time than now to screen a 3 minute short film adapted from Dear Brother !? I shot this film in response to a competition that a London-based theatre company named Headlong Theatre organized in honor of the 10th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001.  When I found out about the competition, I had exactly three weeks to put the film together. That meant writing it, pre-production (i.e. casting, location scouting, etc.), shooting, and post, condensed into a three-week span, squeezed in between work and other life necessities like food, air and water.  Favors were called in and graciously answered (notably, my brothers; Abhijeet for coming up from New Jersey in spite of the flu, to lend his editing expertise, and Samarjeet for remotely scoring the opening music).  

In the end, we ended up with this short that you can view on my website OR you can come watch it on the BIG(ger) screen on Saturday, April 19th, when it screens as a part of Katra's monthly film series alongside some stellar films including, one starring Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston....!? Yes, I'm not burnin BLUE ICE over here. That's the honest to Jah #TROOF.  So please come out and watch, support, mingle.  Tix available here

Hope to see you all there! If not, you will probably miss out taking pictures with me like this classic one with the cast of Lily In the Grinder which screened on April 1st.  I clearly thought I had to kneel like it was the JV baseball team photo. Go Cougars! (I was next to a flight of stairs OK!?)

Cast and Director photo - David Gregory, Dan Amboyer, moi, and Dir. Michael Morgenstern at the Anthology Film Archives, NYC.  April 1, 2014. Visit Lily In the Grinder's facebook page for more pics and updates on this film!


Catch Me Off-Broadway in 2014 and 2013 wrap up..

Excited to announce that  I've joined the cast of Nivedita Kulkarni's How I Died going up as a part of the Riant Theatre's Strawberry One-Act Play Festival in February! (Feb. 16th to be precise).  Really thrilled to work with Nivedita who's a regular fixture at Upright Citizen's Brigade here in NYC and a talented actor/director. 

2013 RECAP

Ringmaster Graphic 5 with Bear photoshop.jpg

FEB - MARCH 2013 - I played "Sidd" in Turhan Calyk's play Ringmaster that was presented as a part of the Kraine Theatre's 2013 FRIGID Theatre Festival in the Lower East Side. 

APRIL- MAY 2013- I got to work with an award-winning young director, Michael Morgenstern, and two really talented actors, David A. Gregory and Dan Amboyer, on Michael's short film, Lily In the Grinder.  Lily is a surrealist piece on the elasticity of time and how we perceive/experience death.  It's in post-production right now so stay tuned for updates! 

Noor.jpg

JULY-AUGUST 2013 - These two months were packed! First, I got to work on my first New York Fringe Festival show when I joined the cast of Joe Martin's Soundwaves: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan as Noor's younger brother, "Vilayat".  The true story about an English spy of Indian descent who hailed from a Sufi Muslim family is one of the great stories of the WWII era and I'm so happy I was a part of keeping this legend's tale alive. 

Then, on the heels of Soundwaves closing, I was cast in a short film, BK, by a graduate student from USC, Jay Julian Cohen.  Jay's film is an ode to friendship, Brooklyn, and the cost of following your dreams.  I play "Pardiv", one of three best friends who room together in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and share a crazy night when their cat sneaks out of the apartment.  Had a lot of fun working on this project and pulled a couple of beast all-nighters on the streets of Williamsburg and Bushwick.  The cast and crew were amazing to work with and made some great friends in the process. This one's also in post-production so keep an eye out for updates!  

photo (2).JPG

OCTOBER-DECEMBER - I got to meet Marci Phillips of ABC Prime-time Casting in New York City thanks to ABC's partnership with South Asians in Media & Marketing Association (SAMMA). I was selected along with 15-20 other South Asian actors from hundreds of submissions to participate in a workshop with Marci on audition techniques for booking series regular roles and it was invaluable! 

I also hit up Los Angeles for Actors' Connection and auditioned for some pretty well known casting directors and agents to let the West Coast know what I have to offer (e.g. Russell Scott who cast Breaking Bad).  This trip was a huge success because two agencies invited me back for interviews and I'm happy to announce that I am on board with  Rogers Orion Talent Agency!  

All this bouncing around and hustling this year must have left an impression on interwebs because a couple of weeks into December I got a call from the newspaper India Abroad to do a piece for their India In New York weekly magazine about my life in New York City as an artist in a segment they call "Desi View". Needless to say I was thrilled to share my story and it's posted on my site if you want to check it out. 

 

And last but not least, this is the final two months of my film For Flow's run on HBO. I've been spamming my social media feeds about this so one more mention can't hurt right? Go check out For Flow on HBOGo! 

I want to thank all of you, my friends and family for all the support over the years. This journey is just getting started and I have a lot more exciting work to share with you.  

Peace, 

Kesav

"Soundwaves" opens 8/18 @FringeNYC and...

I just got cast in a new short film! This week is going to be a doozy.  We're in the final week of rehearsals for Soundwaves: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan  which opens on 8/18 at 7:45pm. See the rest of the schedule and buy tix @ FringeNYC, scrolling down alphabetically under "S".

During the latter part of the week, into the weekend, I will be on set at nights (no sleep till...) starring as one of three friends in the short film BK by Dir. Jay Julian Cohen, an MFA Candidate in film at USC.  I'm super excited to be on board this production b/c the script is funny and the cast & crew are talented folks. I get to show off my comedy chops too so keep an eye out for behind the scenes snaps from the set! 

Thanks for the love ya'll! 

K