3544 words | interviewer: Abdalla Hassan | location: Alive | May 1999
Every month in a bare rectangular room
Abdalla brings a tape recorder and meets Noha
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 2ND 3:30 PM
OK . . . this is what I know about you . . .
you’re 23 . . .
Yeah I’m gonna be 23 the end of this month.
. . . and your name is Noha Farouk, and you are an actor.
I wanna be an actor (laugh).
OK . . . so . . . this is . . . I’m 25, I’ll be 26 in March. My name’s Abdalla, Abdalla Hassan . . . and I work for Alive—you’re going to the U.S. tomorrow?
Yes I am going to the U.S. tomorrow, tomorrow night.
Where are you gonna go?
I applied to um . . . three universities, Yale and NYU, and the University of Washington, Seattle. They have a three-year MFA program in acting. I’ve done my applications and sent them, and know I have my audition appointments. I have to go there in person and audition and . . .
How long are you gonna stay?
If I get accepted I’ll stay for three years, and if I don’t, then I guess I’ll reapply again.
Do they pay for you to come and audition?
What happens if you can’t afford it?
I thought I couldn’t afford it at all, I couldn’t go and my parents weren’t supportive, so I couldn’t even borrow money off them; but now things are better, I saved up some money, and I borrowed some from my parents so . . .
Why weren’t they supportive?
Well they didn’t really understand why I was going and they said if you wanna be an actress just act here. They wanted me to be a literature professor . . . they wanted security, but it’s not really what I wanted. They think what I am doing is totally . . . (silence) reckless . . . it’s so difficult to make it as an actor anywhere . . .
Why did you want to become an actor?
Mmmm . . . well first I wanted to become a literature professor because I saw this movie; there was this professor reading a passage from Ulysses . . . and she was going on and on . . . she was reading it so beautifully and people were crying and stuff, I was like wow . . . this is what I wanna do
. . . I wanna be a literature professor because, coz I wanna read poetry out for students and affect them. Then I majored in English literature and um . . . realized half way trough that there is something missing, that’s not exactly what I wanna do. Then I did my first play and got hooked. I like working on a character—being very familiar with that character, living with that character, trying to tell a story of someone other than myself to other people, working with groups of people just for one end . . . just to put a play which you feel strongly about . . .
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Indonesia, and I lived for a while in Thailand and then I came here to Cairo.
How old were you?
I came here, I think when I was six . . . yeah.
And you stayed . . .
I stayed from six onwards.
Do you remember Indonesia or Thailand?
Well I have one memory; I remember in Thailand my mom used to take me out to visit the Buddhist temples, and in one of the temples there were many statues of Buddha, and a lot of the heads were cut off. I remember sitting and crying and crying, because I felt so bad that these heads were cut off, and it seems so real to me—this memory. And another one was my first day at school . . . I um . . . ran into the playground, I left my mom’s hand, I wasn’t scared at all, so I just left her hand and I ran to the center of the playground and I decided to remove all my clothes (laugh).
Did you ever have any dreams you’d always remember?
I have one dream that I remember very well, but it wasn’t as a kid, I mean I was 16 or 17.
Yeah . . .
I think it was the scariest dream I ever had. I walk into the office of one of my teachers and we were fighting about something, something I wanted from him he wouldn’t give me . . . and there is this person or thing in the corner and um long black hair, all down, like . . . like this person was standing with hair all down. I was pleasant—like I know this person—and then this person flipped all the hair back—I looked and I saw myself, it was me, and then I realized I never saw myself in a dream before. I was so, so scared. It was the scariest moment I ever had in a dream . . . and . . .
You’ve never seen yourself in a dream before?
Not face to face. I stood not knowing who this person is, and then this person just turns around, and then I look, and then I see myself you know . . . it was just like . . . it was just so . . . it was really disorienting.
Uuummmm . . . do you ever think of growing old?
Yeah . . .
Is that depressing?
Mmmmmmmmmmm (deep breath).
Do you think you’ll be famous?
Mmmmmm . . . (silence) sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I think about that a lot, sometimes when I think about it I start beating myself. I mean when you sit and think of being famous, being famous, being famous . . . although it’s so alluring . . . you shouldn’t loose why you are there in the first place. That’s why I wanna go and study acting . . . because I really wanna, I wanna be the best actress I can, for myself. I wanna realize my potential . . . and . . . those beams of fame are not very strong in my mind. I wanna go and just improve . . . as an actress and then after that I’ll think about that (laugh).
Why do you think you have been chosen for this interview?
Mmmmm . . . because I am going through a major transition in my life. I’m at a point in my life where everything is there . . . I . . . I have a dream and I am following it through . . .
I guess you get to meet a lot of people . . . I’m a stranger, like you’ve never met me before . . .
No, I never knew you before.
How do you . . . when you meet someone, how do you, sort of know what they are about? And . . .
What they are about?
Yeah . . . what they . . . how do you evaluate like . . . like me?
I don’t know, really I try not to . . . I am very judgmental as a person . . . but I am trying hard not to evaluate. This is a new thing I am struggling with. I don’t want wanna judge things around me . . . but I guess . . . I think your eyes maybe, I always look at the eyes . . . (silence) and the smile. I think those are two things that hit me about someone.
What do you see in the eyes?
What do you see in the eyes? I don’t know, I feel you are a bit amused (laugh) like um . . . you know . . . I (silence) . . . you look confused now (laugh), and . . . I don’t know, I mean I can’t, I am just comfortable with you, like your eyes . . . sort of gave me comfort you know . . . usually . . .
You are making it up?
No, I am not making it up, coz usually I am a very shy person. It would have taken forever to make me speak…but I feel comfortable with you, at least more comfortable with you, at least more comfortable than with other people (laugh) so . . .
Um . . . um . . . I . . . I just asked that because I think people always—when they meet someone else—form certain value judgments . . .
I just feel like you are a bit nervous, I don’t know why you are nervous—at first I was—forcing me to judge now (laugh). You just don’t wanna pressure me . . . or you are still treading on egg shells a bit cause you don’t . . . you are trying to evaluate me a bit more.
What would be the question that would go to the jugular?
Mmmmm . . . you think you are good enough? Something like that, or do you believe you are talented? Yeah.
I won’t (laugh) . . .
I won’t ask those questions because you’ve already said them.
I didn’t know anything about what you were going to talk about. I don’t know exactly why . . . why are you interviewing me? Like what . . . yeah
. . . cause Basil asked you . . . or . . .
Um . . . would you love to do this again?
Yeah I’d love to do it when I come back you know because—I don’t know if I’d love to do it, it depends how I feel when I get back.
I don’t know, do you think we should call it a day?
I’m sick of the sound of my voice.
FRIDAY MARCH 5TH 5:00 PM
So what happened?
I had three auditions . . . I did really, really bad in the first two. I was so nervous and I did really, really bad . . . the third one it went really well . . . I think.
What were your first two?
NYU and Yale . . . NYU I was really nervous . . . I was disappointed—you’re so nervous you’re extra calm and you become sort of really cold and strident . . . doesn’t really help what you’re gonna act . . . um . . . if you just trap everything inside like this. Yale I was on the other side—like really nervous, edgy, and jumpy. I was sitting outside waiting for my turn, everyone would come out saying that the interviewers were annoying and that they didn’t like them. I walked in with attitude and then it turned out really, really nice. The third one turned wonderful.
What do you mean by really bad?
I don’t know, just bad . . . I felt that I was holding back a lot . . . I felt I had more potential than what I showed—just didn’t give it my all. I was too nervous, my mind was elsewhere.
Which school did you want to go to?
I totally fell in love with the University of Washington, Seattle. I really liked their program very much and I’d be so happy if I got accepted coz they are all really good, my number one is Washington. After talking to them I met a lot of students . . .
What was the hardest question they asked you?
Why do you wanna act? I think that was the most difficult . . . and what do you want to do in the future when you come back? Those were the two hardest questions.
What did you tell them?
I said I want to act because I knew this was the thing for me. The first moment acting I am totally there, and I always give my all, all my energy and my focus. I feel it’s my location and um . . .
What did you do in New York?
I went to watch um . . . I went to watch three plays . . . I went to two Broadway plays, which I didn’t like very much, and then I went to this play off Broadway . . . it was incredible, it was really, really incredible. There’s this actress in it, who’d written a lot of books on acting, she’s a really old actress and she has been working a long, long time on stage, teaching and all this. Uta Hagen, I’ve never seen her act, but I’ve read her books and I was always very impressed by her—when I knew that she was in a play I was like I have to go—it was amazing, I’ve never seen acting like this before, so moving and so inspirational . . . really . . . it was good to see, it inspired me. After my first audition I wasn’t very inspired and I was like oh why am I doing this, but when I saw the play I felt like oh I know why I am doing this.
Um . . . what was the last movie that you saw?
Yesterday, what did I see yesterday? Mmm . . . I saw a movie yesterday, it didn’t leave much of an impression . . . The Turn of the Screw . . . it’s based on this novel by Henry James. It was done in a way that was kinda horror, you know, spooky and stuff . . . I didn’t really like it very much.
Who did you see it with?
I saw it with um . . . my mom, a friend of mine . . .
A friend of yours . . .
What’s . . . what’s their name?
His name is Tarek.
Did he like it?
No, he didn’t like it.
OK . . . so where did you go to see the movie?
We have M-Net, which is the movie channel, and they had it on.
When was the last time you went out and saw a movie?
Went to the movie um . . . huh . . . a long time ago. I think the last film I saw in the cinema was um . . . what’s it called? As Good as It Gets.
Um . . . who did you see it with?
Mmm . . . I went with a bunch of friends, my close friends.
Who are your friends?
My friends (laugh) um . . . you want me to tell you all my friends, who all my friends are (laugh) . . . Saher, Eman, Tak . . . um . . . Tarek, Sherif and Dina.
OK . . . are any of them like me?
Um I think Tarek is a bit like you, you are like a bit quite you know . . .
How did you meet him?
Mmmm . . . I think the first time I met him was in a play writing class in University, which was like four years ago or more.
Right . . .
We didn’t like each other very much at the beginning. He was not very nice to me, and I wasn’t very nice back (laugh).
I don’t know.
What about him didn’t you like?
No, I just didn’t understand, he wasn’t very friendly you know, and I was trying to be really friendly, and he wasn’t friendly at all, and . . . I liked him in the beginning, I thought he was really nice and . . . and everything. When we were working on a play together and he was just a bit aloof—why wouldn’t he like me? I felt like he hated me and . . . and I am not so hateable (laugh).
Um . . . (laugh) . . . um . . . (silence) . . . mmm . . . coz um . . . I think he liked me then. Like more than a friend, and so he was acting . . . um . . . he was going the opposite direction like being really mean and nasty (laugh) and stuff to prove the opposite or something.
How did you find that out?
Well he’s my boyfriend now so . . . I found that out. OK after that he asked me out—like way after that, but at that point when we first met like two months later or something . . . and it just didn’t work out, I didn’t go out with him on a date or anything . . . we became friends really, really close, very close—sort of best friends. Then um . . . two years ago he asked me again.
Where did you go?
We went out to a movie . . . with a couple of friends of his.
What did you think of his friends?
Um . . . I liked them . . . I like them.
Are they like him?
Not really no, they are very different. Now I like them more. The first time I met them, I was a bit . . . apprehensive . . . then um . . . but . . . um
. . . but yeah . . . I like them. We share the same friends now: Sahar and Eman and Sherif . . . his friends and my friends so . . . (silence) it’s kinda difficult when we fight, in a way I don’t know what to do (laugh).
What do you fight about?
A lot of things (laugh).
What about him do you like?
Um . . . what I love . . . I like . . . he’s very honest, he’s really, really honest, I really like that, I appreciate that very much.
What is something he is honest about?
He’s just honest. I would never ask him a question and get a wishy-washy answer, or . . . or if he saw that I was acting immature in a certain situation, and it would hurt to say that I was acting wrong toward something, he would just say an opinion, not like care about your feelings, which I like. I mean it gets on my nerves sometimes, but I like it because I just feel like what I see is what I get—there is no bullshit . . .
What about him attracts you?
Mmmm . . . he attracts me (laugh) . . . he really does. I can’t break it up—it’s the whole package.
Did you ever ask him what he likes about you?
I asked him. Once I was very detached, sad and upset. It was like oh I hate myself—you know when you are really down and fishing for compliments and stuff. Like I hate myself, what do you like about me? So I was just seeking attention because I was feeling really depressed, so . . . so . . . he never really answered.
What do you think he’s . . . how he thinks about you maybe going away for a few years?
He’s very excited for me. He really wants me to go, because he knows how much it means to me and all this . . . mmmm . . . and I think part of it is sad. I really, really wanna go but I . . . I guess I’ll miss him. I’ll miss being here. We haven’t really talked about it, like really . . . but whenever we talk about it, there’s this double . . . thing going.
What do you think he really thinks?
I think he’s really excited for me, coz he knows this is the thing I really wanna do, like I believe in that. I think he’s worried about me, and I think mmm . . . I think really deep down, he’d like me to stay, but stay and change my mind about going, not stay miserably here. Like change my mind about the whole thing and just stay.
Three years is a long time . . .
Oh . . . it is.
Do you think the relationship can withstand three years?
Yeah . . . but (silence) . . . yeah it is (silence) . . . it is a long time (laugh) . . .