A married couple travel to Paris to commemorate the death of Princess Diana and discover an eerie connection that will change the course of their marriage.
That is the premise of DODI & DIANA, a new play by Kareem Fahry, receiving a scenic reading on August 13 as part of the inaugural South Carolina New Play Festival.
“DODI & DIANA is an electrifying piece and as soon as I read it, it jumped off the page with energy,” says SNPF Artistic Director West Hyler. “When we reached out to Kareem, he pointed out that the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed’s death would coincide with the same month as our opening celebration… the exact same month that the play’s events take place.” We knew we had to do it.”
Fahmy co-founded and chaired the Middle Eastern American Writers Lab at LARK in NY and DODI & DIANA was a finalist for the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. After premiering here in Greenville, DODI & DIANA will open Off-Broadway in Fall 2022 with the same cast – Rosaline Elbay and Peter Mark Kendall – and director – Adrienne Campbell-Holt.
We asked Kareed Fahmy to tell us more about the play.
What was the inspiration for DODI & DIANA?
It started out of curiosity as to why so little is known about Dodi Fayed. My family, like Dodi’s, is Egyptian and I vividly remember all the news reports mentioning “her Egyptian friend” on the day Diana died. A few years ago, I suddenly had the impulse to research Dodi, only to discover that almost nothing is known about who he really was. The piece started from there, but then grew into something else entirely
Tell us a little about the main characters of the play.
While the play is titled DODI & DIANA, the main characters are actually a modern day married couple named Jason and Samira. Jason is a white investment banker from Canada and Samira is an Egyptian-American actress. They are at a crossroads in their marriage and have traveled to Paris to stay at the same hotel (The Ritz) where Dodi and Diana stayed the night they died. They have been told they have a connection to the princess and her lover, and the play gradually reveals what that connection is and what it means to Jason and Samira.
What is the general structure of the piece?
How did you develop it? The play’s action takes place in a hotel room over 72 hours before the exact 25th anniversary of the car crash that killed Diana and Dodi (00:23 on August 31, 1997). The play is 90 minutes long and divided into twelve scenes loosely inspired by the twelve houses of Astrology. I chose these twelve snapshots because I wanted to chronicle the journey Jason and Samira take over the three days but leave missing parts for the audience to have to figure out what happened in the moments we don’t see.
With the show likely heading to New York next year with the same director and cast, what are you hoping to achieve most from this staged reading?
The South Carolina New Play Festival will be only the second time I’ve heard the play in front of an audience. (I had a small part of it at the Magic Theater in San Francisco earlier this year). Being able to see how an audience reacts to this story and these characters – when they laugh (or not laugh), lean over, or get bored – will be of great benefit as I move this piece towards a stage-ready draft.
Why do you think the story of Princess Diana – and her tragic death in particular – continues to resonate in culture?
That’s one of the things my piece tries to explore. Diana seems to be one of those characters that everyone has an “attitude” towards. Her life has been examined from so many different angles that everyone can find a little bit of themselves in some aspect of their story or legacy. What I find fascinating about her death, and particularly Dodi’s involvement in it, is that there are parts of her story that people leave out because they do NOT fit into the narrative they want to tell about her. Diana had romantic engagements to two brown Muslim men (Dodi was the second, after Pakistani doctor Hasnat Khan) and I think it’s significant that most people leave that out of the Diana story because it doesn’t fit into a narrative fits who she was.
Kareem Fahry’s DODI & DIANA will be read scenically on Saturday, August 13 at 2:00 p.m. at the Warehouse Theater in Greenville, SC.
All readings are free with free choice of seats. Reserved seating is available for festival patrons and VIPs. To reserve a spot, register for a class, or learn more about the South Carolina New Play Festival, visit www.southcarolinanewplayfestival.org.