Inspired by the Sikh Temple tragedy, 'Rag Head' play shines a light on the immigrant experience
It’s been a decade since the massacre at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Six people were murdered in the gurdwara, temple by a white supremacist from nearby Cudahy. The rampage sent ripples through the community and the nation, as people grappled with this devastating act of hatred in a sacred place of worship.
For Sundeep Morrison, the massacre felt especially close to home. Their parents were at another gurdwara in Oak Creek on the day of the shooting. Morrison wanted to bring attention to the stories of these people, the community, and the families that were devastated by what happened. Their new solo show, Rag Head: An American Story explores the people who give life to the Sikh community and what happens when that life is taken away.
Rag Head: An American Story, will make its New York debut on Friday, Oct. 28 at United Solo.
For Morrison, what would eventually become this play, began as a writing practice to process the emotions they felt in response to the attack. After writing and sharing it with other writers who encouraged them to share it on a bigger stage, Morrison refined the work to a full-scale solo play with characters inspired by their real-life experiences and relationships.
Morrison hopes the play will touch people's hearts and inspire them to be less complacent with actions or speech that could be harmful to other people.
"If I can make [the audience] feel something through each character, then hopefully, I can make them think differently when they come into contact with even that soft white supremacy that we let slide," says Morrison. "Those jokes or snide comments that we don't want to interrupt because it causes discomfort."
The play shines a light on the immigrant experience here in the U.S. and explores the nuances of the immigrant life that may tend to go unnoticed.
"We look at America as this big beautiful melting pot that was built on the backs of immigrants. And so this story really poses the question of...'How can we stand united when what it means to be an American divides us?" says Morrison.
The U.S. government and politics have contributed to these difficult landscapes in recent years. Morrison says, "There's so much divisiveness, and the demonization of immigrants and the immigrant experience is really heartbreaking. But when you see that narrative in the political arena, that's when things get scary."
Despite the lingering effects of the attack, Morrison says the Sikh community remains resilient and hopeful for a better, brighter future.
"I think everyone was traumatized, and I think that that pain is still there. But also I look toward the hope that this can unite us rather than cause more divisiveness," says Morrison.