IP Teens Provide Voices Against Religious Prejudices

by Mary Pedersen

Interfaith teens talk about their experiences after the performance.
Actors perform the play "New Kid."
Actors perform the play “New Kid.”

On Sunday, October 13, 2013, three teens representing Interfaith Partnership attended the production of Metro Theatre’s New Kid. The original play was held at Grbic Bosnian restaurant in South St. Louis City. After the play, three youth from various faith traditions participated in the open conversation that occurred after the performance as the interfaith panel.

Representing the Bosnian Muslim community, Alem Sahbaz spoke about how he WAS the “new kid.” Just as the play depicted, Alem came to a new country and had to learn a new language. Tari Nussinov,an immigrant, who is both African and Jewish, talked about how she could relate to the play’s interpretation of making adjustments to school. “I knew how to speak English, but it sounded different than what is in Zimbadwe. This made going to school difficult, as I couldn’t understand the other kids.” Both Alem and Tari also find it difficult to preserve their culture while trying to fit into their new life in America. Logan Pedersen, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commented later, “I could really relate to the name calling depicted in the play. I have been called ‘a Mormon’ in a negative tone as if it is a bad thing in social settings. Just because my religion was different and unique to those I was with, the other guys thought they could harass me by mocking my beliefs.” By looking at Logan, one would think he wouldn’t be a target of bullying. He showed up to the event standing 6’7” tall, wearing a size 16 shoe, and in a suit as he just left his Sabbath services to participate on this panel. But this statement was an example that religious intolerance is still a part of our community.

New Kid addresses bullying, intolerance and prejudices that unfortunately exist in our own world. The power of this theatrical production is that “it takes us on an emotional ride where we confront, vicariously, our own sense of responsibility. New Kid reminds us there is hope that change may happen in our own world” (Nicolas Kryah, Director). New Kid is the first ongoing Arts & Faith St. Louis event that Interfaith Partnership was delighted to support. The goal was to inspire thoughtful discussion among diverse audiences, bringing people together and to bridge divides through shared experiences.

Metro Theatre Company has been creating accessible sensory productions that respect young people’s intelligence, tell compelling stories, stimulate curiosity, and provoke thoughtful reflection. They are part of the community partnership of Arts & Faith St. Louis which is an effort to establish an ongoing intentional relationship between the arts and the faith community to build a more harmonious St. Louis. We hope to see you at other events that build a greater sense of community and interfaith outreach that Interfaith Partnership will be a part of.

For a list of more New Kid productions in town, click here.

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