Dina Shihabi’s past year and a half has been an extremely eventful one. She spent the summer before last shooting an indy film, graduated from New York University graduate school in the Spring, and picked up her Equity Card from Long Wharf Theatre in the fall for appearing in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, running Nov. 26 through December 21.
Shihabi, a native of Saudi Arabia, plays three different roles – a series of romantic interests for Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein, a group of strong women who give as good as they get in Martin’s comic romp. “I think the women in this play are awesome. It’s a pleasure being in a show with such smart and strong female characters,” she said.
The cast, a mix of newcomers like Robbie Tann (Einstein), Grayson DeJesus (Picasso) and veterans like David Margulies (“Ghostbusters” and LWT’s Lil’s 90th and The Price), is finding where the comedy lives in Martin’s work, a heady mix of farce and intellectual banter about the nature of art and genius. “The cast Gordon has put together is really good at what it does. What’s great about Gordon is that he really allows us to play. We haven’t set anything in stone, we are really trying to figure out what we are saying and why we are saying it,” Shihabi said. That kind of flexibility allows the comedy to remain fresh and alive.
Shihabi is also in the enviable position of having an award-winning film making the rounds through the festival circuit. “Amira and Sam,” the story of a relationship between a soldier returning from war and an Iraqi immigrant starring Martin Starr, has been picked up for distribution in 20 cities around the country. “Working on that film was the best experience. The people who worked on that film really loved it. Every festival has been a big family reunion, bringing everyone together to celebrate the film,” she said.
While there are some differences between working in film and working on stage, as Shihabi says “acting is acting.” Sure, one has to get used to shooting things out of order and being ready to jump into an emotional arc at a moment’s notice, she said. But when the time comes, and you start to work with your scene partner, everything comes alive. “I found it to be really fun,” she said.
It’s been a heady period for Shihabi, but it’s all the product of hard work, good training, and persistence. “I am really excited about how things are going. I’m happy that I’ve gotten to work with really great people on really great projects,” Shihabi said.