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Fighting the Devil

After a flurry of last-minute rehearsing and fine-tuning the special effects, it was time to raise the curtain. The cast was confident, but the director still worried — with good reason. "We never did the whole play together," Abdul-Mumit admits. Saturday was the 43 performers' first time on stage as one cast.

Abdul-Mumit had worked for months to train his actors (many of whom had never read a script before) and to scrape up money for salaries, costumes and the Carpenter Center's fees, all in hopes of launching Sure Reality Productions, the "edu-tainment" theater group he founded with his wife, Latifah Abdul-Mumit.

"Inside Fighter" was the company's first major performance. Fusing hip-hop, urban life and martial arts, the story pits kung-fu adepts against Satan in a modern-day reincarnation of the morality play.

Miraculously, everything worked, Abdul-Mumit says. Fake blood packs exploded on cue, his teen-age actors remembered their lines (after months of coaching), and the kung-fu action was more ferocious than ever. "We fought," says Abdul-Mumit, who played the dark-robed Satan. Some cast members are still nursing bruises and swollen joints.

The play drew about 1,500 people, half the full house Abdul-Mumit had hoped for, and he was left $2,000 in debt. "Because we weren't known, people didn't take us seriously," he supposes.

But he's jubilant about his actors' performances, and optimistic that "Inside Fighter" will appear on stages elsewhere. "The right people were in the audience," he says. He means representatives from various Islamic groups, who expressed interest in booking "Inside Fighter."

The biggest, the Islamic Society of North America, said it would consider booking the play for the society's 39th annual convention in Washington, D.C., in early September. Last year's convention drew 30,000 people from across the country.

But "Inside Fighter" might have to be altered a bit, says Sayyid M. Syeed, the society's secretary general. "We're looking for entertainment which is … moderate and does not invite or excite passion," Syeed says. "Dancing is ruled out. Totally ruled out."

He doesn't say anything about kung fu.

— Melissa Scott Sinclair

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