Ahmad Maher Shares His Experience With The World Through Art
Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
My name is Ahmad Maher and I’m an Egyptian born, NYC based actor and theatre professional. Upon receiving a scholarship to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the oldest acting conservatory in the United States, I moved to NYC to attend their two year conservatory program and begin my acting training. After that I was hand picked to attend their prestigious Academy Company Program which I graduated from in March of 2022. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked as an actor on 5 plays, 3 short films, 1 voiceover contract and 3 staged readings.
I remember when I first graduated from school I had two main objectives. I wanted to amplify Arab voices through my work and I wanted to be a well rounded creative, not just on stage or in front of the camera but behind the scenes work as well. Thankfully in July I was offered the opportunity to work with the SoHo Shakespeare Company, under the direction of Alex Pepperman, to be the Assistant Director for their production of Richard III at the Flea Theater.
Additionally, I’m most excited to announce that I’ve been cast as the titular character of Musa in the upcoming production of Yussef El Guindi’s Pilgrims Musa & Sheri in the New World at The Public Theatre which will be directed by Christopher Schario this March! Over the summer I was also cast as one of the four principal actors in Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s INVASION! at the Ancram Opera House. These types of projects where I get to portray Arab characters and take part in giving a platform to Arab stories fill me with so much pride, reminding me what drew me to become an actor and the impact theatre and the arts can have on all communities.
Above all I feel very grateful for Bo, Mary-Pat, and Kate Pelini for their kindness and support allowing me to further my training and by extension making everything mentioned above a reality.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I think the thing that makes me stand out as an actor is my life experience which is something I am very proud of. I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. At 15 my family and I moved to Sweden. Moving to a different country at such a formative age where you can’t speak the language can be a serious culture shock, but it forces you to use every tool you have to adapt and adjust.
It also teaches you very quickly to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As cliche as it may sound, learning to accept that you may say or do something incorrectly and being confident even to just try is one of the greatest assets I had when I began acting classes.
After graduating high school, I took a year off to travel the world. Over several months my friends and I traveled to Japan, England, Scotland, Egypt, The Netherlands, France and Italy just to name a few.
I grew to love traveling more than anything else and getting exposed to such a wide range of different cultures helped me develop more compassion for others and a want to learn more about what makes us who we are, which to me, is what acting is all about.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
On November 14th I was invited to attend the award ceremony for the Berkshire Theater Critics Association as our show INVASION! had been nominated for a few awards including Outstanding Ensemble Performance.
I clearly remember how my cast mate (Abuzar Farrukh) and I were sitting close to the front so we couldn’t see much behind us. Our category comes up and they list the nominees. They announced INVASION! as the winner and we immediately jumped up without really processing our win. We confidently walked up to the podium to give a speech with a hidden panic between the two of us as neither of us had prepared anything to say, because neither of us thought we’d win! A few seconds later we’re standing in front of an entire room of older, established, seasoned industry professionals…looking at us.
We gave our speech, specifically thanking the Ancram Opera House for choosing this play which really amplifies the voices of Arab/Brown experiences. It’s a special kind of feeling to get recognized for something that is not only important on a personal level but also something that we all worked very hard on. Our MENASA cast included Ali Andre Ali as Actor A; Abuzar Farrukh as Actor B; Sophie Zmorrod as Actor C; and myself as actor D.
It’s difficult to hang the realization of “yes this is what I’m meant to do” on a single moment, but if there ever was one, it is getting this type of recognition for this piece of work that felt so personal to me from the very beginning, and knowing that I, as well as my other ensemble members, earned being in that room.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
Without a doubt the biggest challenge but also the most fruitful experience has been working on SoHo Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard III at the Flea Theater. I played the roles of Dorset and Prince Edward, I was the understudy to Ratcliffe, and I was the Assistant Director on the project. With a large cast, a multitude of costumes, a full unit set, and live original orchestrations, this ambitious artistic vision required months of preparation before rehearsals began in September 2022.
Being that this was my first time working on the other side of the table, there were many challenging aspects that were intimidating to me such as the careful planning that had to go into each day from scheduling rehearsals and booking a rehearsal space to finding covid tests and testing locations for all 20 of our actors to make sure we fulfill the AEA Covid Safety Instructions.
Fortunately, our director Alex Pepperman and associate director Kanika Vaish were both beyond kind and patient with me and thanks to their guidance I was able to find my footing and felt my confidence in the room growing day by day.
My favorite thing about challenges like this is that even though it may feel overwhelming in the moment, it’s a constant lesson that if you’re determined enough to make it work and put in the effort it will always be rewarding. And when you’re working with a team as talented and determined as SoHo Shakes, it’s impossible not to come out the other side with more experience and growth.
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
Ramy Youssef, Lameece Issaq/Sivan Battat & Mona Mansour. As an Arab actor these are the people that I view as idols who are truly paving the way revolutionizing the industry by creating a platform for other MENA artists.
Ramy Youssef is the main mastermind, writer, director, producer, and star of the award winning Hulu Original TV Series: Ramy which focuses on an Egyptian immigrant family living in Jersey. In my opinion it’s one of the smartest and funniest running shows at the moment…and yes I’m very biased. It’s a show that has been so consistent season after season and never fails to bring so many MENA creatives together. Working on this show is my main goal at the moment just for its immense significance and quality but also as a fan.
Lameece Issaq & Sivan Battat – Lameece is the founder and Sivan is the current Associate Artistic Director of Noor Theatre Company. “An Obie-Winning Company Dedicated To Supporting, Developing And Producing The Work Of Theatre Artists Of Middle Eastern, Southwest Asian And North African Descent”. This company offers so much for the community from consistently sending out casting calls pertaining to primarily MENA stories and for that I am so grateful. I initially heard of and auditioned for both shows mentioned earlier (INVASION! & Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World) which are regularly sent out by their Associate Director of Communications Salma S. Zohdi; all the way to producing their own work, most recently SEVAN’s First Down at 59E59.
Finally Mona Mansour. The writer behind one of my favorite plays of all time The Vagrant Trilogy. This play was most recently produced at the Public Theater in 2022 and it was the New York Times Critics Pick! I worked on The Vagrant Trilogy as a line prompter where I worked one on one with actors to help them run lines as well as being in the room during tech and previews to feed actors lines in case needed. Seeing the weight of her story come to life in the moment and seeing just how much it means to the actors and then later on to audiences always felt like a powerful reminder about the impact theater can have on underrepresented communities.
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