The Fame Reporter interviewed incredible Egyptian/Sudanese performer, Zarif. Zarif is currently starring as Bobby in Tony-Award winning play, Choir Boy. The show is playing at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC from 15 – 18 March.
Direct from its Australian premiere in Sydney, the highly acclaimed play Choir Boy by Academy Award-winning writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, is a moving story of sexuality, race, hope and a young gay man finding his voice.
Determined to make his mark, Pharus Young is hell-bent on being the best choir leader in the 50-year history of Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys. In a world built on dusty rites and rituals, how can he maintain his shine while trying to conform to masculine expectations and gain the respect of the choristers he leads?
With its uplifting music, Choir Boy will inspire you to raise your voice and cheer as one student boldly stands up to the traditions that seek to silence him!
Don’t miss this soaring, Tony Award nominated musical drama when it comes to QPAC for a strictly limited season.
Zarif is a queer, Egyptian/ Sudanese performer based in Sydney. A fan of classic works, their repertoire includes the performance and study of texts such as The Winter’s Tale, Pygmalion and Romeo and Juliet.
They have spent some time in development rooms of new and experimental works with theatre companies across the East Coast including Fangirls (Belvoir), Two Weeks with the Queen (Queensland Theatre Company) and Green Park (Griffin Theatre Company).
Zarif has worked on film and television for Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime. They featured in Celeste Barber’s comedy, Wellmania, and in feature film Lonesome which got its start at the European Film Market and debuted in April 2022 at the Seattle Film Festival. The film toured around the world including festivals such as Frameline, Guadalajara and Sydney Film Festival 2022.
We sat down with performer Zarif and talked about their involvement in Choir Boy, why a role like Bobby is integral and important to the play, what they have learned about society whilst performing this show and more.
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Zarif, what sparked your interest in performing initially?
Thanks Fame Reporter. I was cast as the wild boy in Where the Wild Things Are in kindergarten and got to eat a lot of fairy bread; so it was fairy bread, very big spark.
What about Choir Boy enticed you to want to tell this story, especially through the character of Bobby?
This story is for black people completely. Its the first time I’ve been on stage and understood why my white counterparts say they love theatre.
To put it plainly, the story is just so full and its beyond time black people get to live on stage without pandering.
About Bobby, I would have played the stain glass window – I’m truly just happy to be apart of this story in any way. The gag of playing a straight bully isn’t lost on me.
What is your ultimate favourite moment in the show?
Working with Abu Kebe, the star of our generation is my favourite thing everyday. ‘Motherless Child’ is also really special to me.
What do you believe is important and integral about Bobby as a character?
His masculinity and tradition have him in a chokehold.
I wish I could teach [Bobby] how to carry his masculinity with softness. It’s so easy for cis men in the commercial world to be consumed by this omnipotent idea of masculinity in such an ugly way.
We’re seeing it at Pride events around us currently with our trans sisters getting killed on the streets and hordes of men rallying to our safe spaces and driving us out. Bobby is unfortunately no stronger, but it’s all he’s ever known.
What 3 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Queen Latifah. Honourable mention, Jackie Chan.
What has been the most rewarding and challenging parts about performing in this iconic show?
I can’t think of a single challenge. Working with these beautiful black boys and theys everyday is the greatest reward and they’re the honey in the rock.
How would you describe the music in the show?
Spiritual, uplifting and a pathway through the darkness.
What do you love about doing film/tv versus stage work?
Oranges and pears, one is entirely unlike the other. I love that film is eternal.
What have you learned about yourself and society whilst performing in the show?
Australians are too quiet and respectful, make a joyful noise!!!
Swarms have come up to us after the show and on the streets telling us how much they loved it, show us in the theatre! Get loud.
If you could gender-bend any stage role, what would it be and why?
Every role ever, gender and race bend. I don’t like the term gender bend.
No role is ever so deep it couldn’t POSSIBLY be played by anyone. If your energy is right, then the role is for you!
Why do you think Choir Boy resonates with people from all walks of life?
We enter the theatre and watch these boys strive for their truth, their authenticity and watch them scream into that good night against the odds. We watch them do their absolute best no matter what and with what they have – I think we’re all doing that everyday. Except billionaires. Eat the rich.
Fame Reporter Word Play
Theatre in Queensland
Work with A24 and produce my own films
Favourite mantra when you are down
Love will conquer
Favourite song today
The entire Renaissance album
Dream co-star to work with
Danielle Deadwyler, Zazie Beetz, Jonathan Major
Favourite Play or Musical
Choir Boy, Little Shop of Horrors
Dressing Room necessity
Vaporiser, chocolate, flowers
Favourite song in Choir Boy
Trust and Obey
PEDRO PASCAL, JONATHAN MAJORS
Can’t live without
Can’t live without
Place you want to travel to
The greatest gift humanity has received
TV Show Binge
Sabrina the teenage witch reboot
Finally, favourite thing about performing
Thank-you Zarif for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for Choir Boy at QPAC!
Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
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