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Dishwasher Dreams brings immigrants story to the stage

Play at Hartford Stage spotlights immigration and the American dream

HARTFORD, Conn — Hartford Stage's most recent production is shining a spotlight on immigration and the American dream through the lens of a first-generation immigrant, Alaudin Ullah, the playwright and actor of Dishwasher Dreams. 

Ullah is the son of immigrant parents who moved to New York, Spanish Harlem from Bangladesh to pursue the American Dream. He said, like many others, his dad found work as a dishwasher and had big dreams for his future. 

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"It makes you think that if I am going through all of my struggles, what was it like for my parent's generation," said Ullah. "To come to America as dishwashers, to have dreams of owning their own restaurant. But the irony is that despite their obstacles,  they were successful."  

The play Dishwasher Dreams is Ullah's story. 

"We'll go on this emotional journey where you get to really feel and see and fall in love with these people who came to America with hopes of a better life," said Ullah. 

Seeking his American dream led Ullah to Hollywood, where he tried to break into an industry that he said didn't look like him. Unfortunately, all the roles he auditioned for were stereotypical, which he said were demeaning to Muslims and South Asians. 

"They were terrorists and cab drivers, and I felt they had one impression of us," said Ullah.  

It's this, he said, that led him on a mission to break barriers and share their stories authentically. 

"So I'm doing the best that I can to tell these stories of people who have been invisible in America, and it's a lost history because it's a history that's not being told of what these immigrants went through," passionately explained Ullah.  

Ullah's journey is captured with just two artists on stage. With Ullah as the voice and performer and Avirodh Sharma as the composer and heartbeat of the play. 

"We are using tabla to underscore the play and also to translate emotion through rhythm," explained Sharma.

Through their teamwork on stage, the hope is to amplify the voices of immigrants everywhere. 

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"This story is more prevalent than ever, and I think this play is going to wake up the audience," said Sharma. 

"I feel this play Dishwasher Dreams is allowing the audience to see us in a new way," said Ullah. "Where they see us as not just a stereotype but as a prototype." 

A Hartford Stage news release on Dishwasher Dreams said Ullah will be co-directing a documentary that will air next year on PBS (bengaliharlem.com). Ullah's ongoing dedication is to creating stories and characters that counter, challenge, and correct the misperception of South Asians and Muslims. 

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Dishwasher Dreams is playing at the Hartford Stage until March 20, 2022. CLICK HERE for ticket information. 

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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