Arti Ishak presents Muslims in the Margins: A Joyful Panel on Underrepresented Perspectives livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Monday 5 June 2023 at 10 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 12 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 1 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).
“There are three billion Muslims out there with inherently unique stories and you keep telling the same one. What does that mean?” “It means people want to keep hearing it.” Lines from Rehana Lew Mirza’s play Hatefuck ring truer than ever in a time where Muslim representation is growing yet still predictably homogenous. Join playwright Rehana Lew Mirza, director Arti Ishak, and Muslim artists from across the country as they dispel the myth of the single story that keeps Muslims inherently tied to or fighting against dehumanizing tropes while speaking to resources and best practices for producing more nuanced and wide-ranging Muslim representation.
Moderated by Tasneem Mandviwala.
Produced by Arti Ishak.
Artists: Rehana Lew Mirza, Kareem Fahmy, Azziah Fatima, Bilaal Avaz, Hammaad Chaudry, Nadya Naumaan
Nadya Naumaan (she/they) is a Pakistani American, non-binary, queer, Muslim artist working primarily in theatre and filmmaking in Chicago over the last six years as a playwright, scriptwriter, director/associate director, producer, stage manager, dramaturg, and actor. They create and facilitate art that celebrates the queer Muslim experience in America through the lens of fantasy, comedy, and romance. Previous credits include the Steppenwolf SCOUT iteration and About Face Theatre production of Mosque4Mosque (associate director), Jackalope’s Pretty Shahid (dramaturg/associate director) and Fast Company (associate director), Court Theatre’s Photograph 51 (associate director), ITP’s I Call My Brothers (dramaturg), and New Coordinates’ Love in the Time of Jonestown (associate director). Nadya’s short film STUCK was a finalist in the Mosquers Film Festival in 2019 and was screened at eight other film festivals. Their webseries, Pooj&Nad, was a finalist at the same festival in 2022.
Bilaal Avaz is a self-taught Pakistani American artist. He started his career as an actor at the age of sixteen after being signed to Take 3 Talent in New York. He shortly after booked his first role on season nineteen of Law & Order: SVU and quickly amassed professional credits including several independent films, a leading role in a critically acclaimed Brazilian drama, multiple Super Bowl commercials, television series, and voiceovers for Spotify and Marvel. In 2019, Bilaal was admitted to NYU Tisch School of the Arts on a full academic scholarship where he is currently a senior. Despite the lack of resources, guidance, and precedent for the arts in his community, Bilaal went on to be featured as a finalist in season eighteen of ABC’s American Idol—the first Pakistani finalist in the show’s twenty-year history. In 2022, Bilaal made his theatrical debut with the world premiere of Bhangin’ It at La Jolla Playhouse. In 2023, Bilaal started his career as a record producer after producing “Zalmi Raalal”—the official Pakistan Super League anthem for the 2023 season—alongside award-winning British producer Naughty Boy. “Zalmi Raalal” was a massive commercial success, which Bilaal followed with a live tour in Pakistan. As an international recording artist, Bilaal is based out of New York City where he has already played five sold-out concerts this year. Since February 2023, Bilaal has released three music videos with a fourth one in the works.
Hammaad Chaudry is a US- and UK-based playwright and screenwriter. His plays include An Ordinary Muslim, which received its world premiere at the New York Theatre Workshop, where he was the Tow Foundation playwright-in-residence. Further plays include Security, God Willing, Tokens, Kismat, Salaam Mr. Bush, and Bobby and Rabia. His work has been staged/developed at theatres including the Public Theater, the Pershing Square Signature Center, the Flea Theater, the Kiln Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre in London, and the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Scotland. For screen he has worked with ITV, TigerAspectProductions, Film4 Productions, and MBC Studios in the Middle East. In the United States he was a Van Lier fellow at New Dramatists, is an alumni of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group, and remains a Usual Suspect at the New York Theatre Workshop. In the UK he is a graduate of the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers’ Programme, has recently been on attachment to the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Scotland, and is under commission to the Traverse Theatre. He is also a recipient of the New Playwrights’ Award from Playwrights’ Studio Scotland. He holds an MFA. in playwriting from Columbia University, where he completed his studies on scholarship, and a BA in international politics and history from the University of Surrey in England.
Tasneem Mandviwala is a cultural and developmental psychologist, intersectional feminist, and visual artist focusing on the identity development and experiential knowledges of historically marginalized communities in the contemporary United States. She holds a PhD in comparative human development (University of Chicago) and an MA in English literature (University of Houston). Tasneem has published in Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Current Opinion in Psychology, Psychology and Society, Faithfully Feminist, and altmuslimah.com, and her book is entitled South Asian American Stories of Self: The Dis/united States of Muslim Womanhood (Springer, 2022). She is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago at the Urban Resiliency Initiative and also serves as the advisory council coordinator for Silk Road Rising’s think and create tank, Polycultural Institute, in Chicago, Illinois. Her current book project is called Wonderlands and is a reinterpretation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from the perspective of a South Asian Muslim American girl.
Aizzah Fatima is an award-winning actor, filmmaker, playwright, and comedian. She has been featured on NPR and in the Guardian, Woman’s Hour (BBC), the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time Out, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post. She co-wrote, produced, and starred in the feature film Americanish, which has won twenty-six festival awards including Best Lead Actress and will be released in 2023 by Sony International. Her short films can be seen on Alaska Airlines and Ruku. Her TV pilot Muslim Girls DTF: Discuss Their Faith world premiered at SeriesFest and won two awards including Best Comedy Writer. The script won a 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award; Yes, And…Laughter Lab; and an ISF Film award. Her solo play Dirty Paki Lingerie has been produced in the United States, Europe, and Asia. She is the recipient of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art grant with Brooklyn Children’s Theatre where she helped create the first ever children’s musicals with Muslim protagonists. She recurs on Law & Order (NBC) as Dr. Annemarie Mercer. TV credits include High Maintenance (HBO), Blue Bloods (CBS), The Code (CBS), New Amsterdam (NBC), Mr. Robot (USA Network), and The Good Wife (CBS). She is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and received her MFA in writing for film and television from Emerson College.
Kareem Fahmy is a Canadian-born director and playwright of Egyptian descent. He received the 2022 Woodward/Newman Playwriting Award (for American Fast), a NYSCA/NYFA Playwriting Fellowship, a MacDowell Fellowship, and the Janet Sloane Literature Residency at Yaddo; is a two-time finalist for the National Showcase of New Plays; and was named a Rising Leader of Color by Theatre Communications Group. A Distinct Society received a co-world premiere at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley and Pioneer Theatre and its Midwest premiere at Writers Theatre. American Fast had a National New Play Network rolling world premiere at Artists Repertory Theatre, City Theatre, and InterAct Theatre. Dodi & Diana (O’Neill NPC finalist) received a world premiere at Colt Coeur. Other plays include Pareidolia, The In-Between, and an adaptation of the acclaimed novel The Yacoubian Building. Regional directing credits include Cincinnati Playhouse (upcoming), Writers Theatre, Pioneer Theatre, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Portland Stage, Crossroads Theatre, Premiere Stages. Fellowships/residencies include Sundance Theatre Lab, the Old Globe (Classical Directing fellow), Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Phil Killian Directing fellow), the O’Neill (National Directors fellow), Second Stage (Van Lier Directing fellow), Soho Rep (writer/director lab), Lincoln Center (directors lab), New York Theatre Workshop (directing dellow/Usual Suspect). Kareem is co-founder of the Middle Eastern American Writers Lab and has an MFA in theatre directing from Columbia University. Kareem’s website is www.kareemfahmy.com.
Rehana Lew Mirza (she/her) is a playwright, writer, and creator. Her plays include Hatefuck (WP/Colt Coeur); A People’s Guide to History in the Time of Here and Now (Primary Stages Toulmin commission); Soldier X (Ma-Yi); Tomorrow, Inshallah (Living Room Theater; StoryWorks/HuffPost commission); Neighborhood Watch (NNPN/InterAct commission); and Barriers (Desipina, Asian American Theater Company.) With her husband Mike Lew, she shared a Mellon Foundation National Playwright residency administered in partnership with HowlRound at Ma-Yi Theater, where they co-wrote The Colonialism Project (La Jolla Playhouse commission) and the musical Bhangin’ It with composer/lyricist Sam Willmott (La Jolla Playhouse, 2022; Richard Rodgers Award; Rhinebeck Writers Retreat; Project Springboard.) Additional honors include the 2021 Cape Cod Theatre Project artist-in-residence, the 2020 Kleban Award, a 2019 NYFA Fellowship, an HBO Access Fellowship, a Lilly Award (Stacey Mindich Go Write A Play), and a TCG/New Georges Fellowship. Rehana has an MFA from Columbia University and a BFA from NYU Tisch. Her website is www.rehanamirza.com.
Arti Ishak (they/them) is an actor, director, and community organizer, recently named a 3Arts Make A Wave Artist. Directing credits include productions of SAME SECTS! (Haven Chicago) and Hatefuck (First Floor Theater); readings of Mosque4Mosque (Steppenwolf); and short films including Shukran Bas (Means of Productions), Sun On Ice (Jackalope), and BaLa (HF Productions). Recent acting credits include The Best Decision You Ever Made (the Second City), KISS (Haven), Venus in Fur (Circle), Witch (Writers), Buried Child (Writers), Men on Boats (American Theater Company), and Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno (the Second City). TV credits include Southside (HBO), Dark Matter (AppleTV), and Chicago Med (NBC). Arti is staff with the Chicago Inclusion Project, an instructor at Black Box Acting, and an organizer with SWANASA Central. They are represented by Paonessa Talent Agency. Their website is www.artiishak.com.