With Tony for ‘The Band’s Visit,’ Ari’el Stachel Embraces His Roots

Posted June 10, 2018 11:57 p.m. EDT

For Ari’el Stachel, starring in the musical “The Band’s Visit” was part of a coming out journey of sorts.

“Both of my parents are here tonight — and I have avoided so many events with them because for so many years of my life, I pretended that I was not a Middle Eastern person,” he said in a moving and highly personal acceptance speech at the Tony Awards on Sunday night.

“And after 9/11, it was very, very difficult for me,” Stachel continued, as his parents beamed with pride from the audience. “And so I concealed and I missed so many special events with them. And they’re looking at me right now and I can’t believe it.”

“The Band’s Visit,” for which Stachel won best featured actor at Radio City Music Hall in New York, was perhaps the perfect vehicle to deliver him to fame.

The show, which won 10 awards, including best musical, is an adaptation of a fictional 2007 Israeli film about what happens when an Egyptian police band gets stranded for a night in an Israeli desert town — a story about Arabs and Jews finding common ground.

Stachel was born and raised in Berkeley, California, to an Israel-born father of Yemeni Jewish heritage, and an Ashkenazi Jewish mother from New York.

He thanked the musical’s creators “for being courageous, for telling a small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along at a time where we need that more than ever.”

“I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they would be able to portray their own races and we are doing that,” he went on. “And not only that, we are getting messages from kids all over the Middle East thanking us and telling us how transformative our representation is for them.”

“I want any kid who is watching to know that your biggest obstacle may turn into your purpose,” he said in closing.

Stachel, a graduate of the Tisch drama department at New York University, originated the role of Haled in “The Band’s Visit” at the Atlantic Theater Company. The musical made its way to Broadway after earning stellar reviews.