Samir Younis’s father, a Syrian born in Senegal, met Sam’s Lebanese Christian mother in medical school, and they moved to Houston a few years before Younis was born. “I grew up as an American kid—my parents spoke Arabic to each other but not to me, ” he relates. But he majored in Spanish and Sociology at Vanderbilt and minored in theater.
When studying for an MFA in acting at Columbia, Younis said: “I didn’t experience my ethnicity as a boundary. I played a lot of Shakespeare and landed an understudy role on Broadway in The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. When the run ended in September of 2002, I went out on auditions and found that I was consistently up for Middle Eastern terrorist roles. I felt kind of defensive at this point and turned down some auditions on principle, but I wanted to work. I met a lot of Arab American friends at these casting calls and it got kind of comic—‘who’s going to get this one?’ and a small community grew.
“I was contacted by the Arab. American Comedy Festival, which was just getting started and wanted comedy sketches of up to fifteen minutes. I wrote Browntown, just two guys talking in an audition waiting room—it was like a journal entry of my life. I played Malek. It was very well received and I was encouraged to develop it as a play for the New York fringe festival in 2003. I didn’t develop it much–I triple spaced it—and sent it in saying it was fifty minutes long. I thought I’d never hear from them, but it got accepted and I spent months fleshing it out.”
The full version of Browntown won the 2004 FringeNYC Award for Overall Excellence in Playwriting. The manuscript was the first that Dina Amin and I received and we found it a delightful new twist on a long tradition from Sheridan’s The Critic to Rattigan’s Harlequinade to Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. Younis and his wife, Browntown director Abigail Marateck, moved to Los Angeles when the play was produced there and have remained, on the West Coast.
Actor-writer Sam Younis is a first generation Lebanese-American from Houston, TX. He has performed on Broadway in Charles Busch’s Tale Of The Allergist’s Wife and in many OB/OOB venues as well as in television and films. In 2003, Younnis acted in his own playwriting debut, Browntown, which began as a brief sketch at the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, and was expanded for 2004 NYC International Fringe Festival, where it won the Award for “Overall Excellence in Playwriting.”