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‘Kite Runner’ play comes to San Jose, where it all started

Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, “The Kite Runner,” was a sensation when it was released in 2003. It follows an Afghan boy through the overthrow of the monarchy in Afghanistan, the Soviet invasion, life as a refugee in Fremont and the rise of the Taliban. topped the bestseller list and was made into a film in 2007.

Unrelated to the film, aside from the source material, the stage play of “The Kite Runner” had a similarly circuitous route.

Adapted by San Jose State University professor Matthew Spangler, the play was first produced at the university with students in 2007 and officially premiered at the late San Jose Repertory Theater in 2009. Since Since then, the play has been performed everywhere, including West London. Ending in 2016 and 2017 and Broadway in 2022.

Now he’s returning to the same venue that started him 15 years ago, the Hammer Theater, which has been operated by San Jose State since the demise of the San Jose Rep in 2014.

The show is currently touring the UK and the local visit kicks off its US tour. Like the West End and Broadway productions, both tours are directed by Giles Croft, who first staged them in 2013 at Nottingham Playhouse, where he was artistic director.

The version of “The Kite Runner” currently airing is somewhat different from the one last seen in San Jose.

“Times are different, and some lines that might have resonated in a particular way in 2007 or 2009 don’t resonate the same way today,” Spangler says. “Some things in Afghan history, politics or culture are different today than they were then. I teach at San Jose State how refugees and asylum seekers are represented through the arts. I don’t identify as an immigrant or in the Afghan space myself, but a lot of the actors and people on this show identify that way, and the play has changed over time to adapt to what they told me. about how particular lines resonate with them or don’t resonate with them.

It was through teaching that Spangler discovered the novel and with author Hosseini, who also lives in San Jose.

“I had read ‘Kite Runner’ when it was first published and thought it would be a good book to teach in my immigration class,” Spangler says. “My plays are almost all based on books, and after teaching the book and seeing how much my students loved it, I thought maybe there was a play here.” I contacted Khaled Hosseini in 2005 and asked him: what do you think, could I write a play based on “Kite Runner”? So he and I met and discussed drafts of the script.

Tabla player Salar Nader has been a key part of “The Kite Runner” since the beginning. He composed the music for and performed in the San Jose Rep production of San Jose State on Broadway.

Born in Germany to Afghan refugee parents, Nader grew up in Concord, attending Diablo Valley College and San Francisco State. He began studying tabla with Zakir Hussain at the age of 7 and has been performing professionally since a young age. In fact, Nader was only 12 or 13 years old when he first met future author Hosseini, and it was Hosseini who put Nader in contact with Spangler when the play was in preparation.

“Khaled’s father was from Herat, Afghanistan, and my father also grew up in Herat,” says Nader. “Two decades later, we are all Afghan refugees living in the Bay Area. In 1994, I played at this private gathering, and little did I know that it ended up being our author’s private engagement party. I had no idea. There was no New York Times bestselling author yet. I showed up at a book signing in 2004 at UC Irvine and approached him nervously because I knew there was a movie in the works and all that. And he looks at me and says: “Salar? I say to myself: “Yes. How do you know me?’ And he said, “I have a VHS tape at home of my engagement party.” You played tabla for about an hour and a half that evening, then you ran away and played basketball with the kids.

The story of “The Kite Runner” touches Nader as an Afghan-American in the Bay Area. He remembers family stories of daily life in Afghanistan and the Russian invasion, as well as the turbulent changes that took place there when he was growing up.

Now that the Taliban have regained power and even banned music, the story is even more striking.

“It is very important for me to give a voice to the voiceless artists, artisans, musicians, sculptors and poets of Afghanistan right now, because they are not able to put into practice what they have studied and what they ‘They grew up,’ Nader said. “Some musicians had to literally bury their instruments in their garden. So I do my best to keep that light on as long as possible. I think it is very important to continue to shine this light and not allow any governing body to obscure the light of Afghanistan and its thousands of years of cultural traditions. I will not be able to stand by and allow this to fade away. »

Contact Sam Hurwitt at shurwitt@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter.com/shurwitt.


‘THE KITE RACER’

By Matthew Spangler, based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini, presented by Hammer Theater and EnActe Arts

When: April 3-7

Or: Hammer Theater, San Jose

Tickets: $65 to $125; www.hammertheater.com

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