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Yasmina's Necklace

originally published: 08/27/2019

Yasmina's Necklace“There are almost 65 million refugees and internally displaced people worldwide, who were forced to leave their homes because of violence.  That’s one in every 122 people.  The number of refugees and internally displaced people has reached its highest point since World War II.

I write plays because I’m distressed about the world we live in.  With all our technological advances, we still live in a world where there is too much violence, dehumanization and ugliness.  I spent some time talking to Chicago-based Iraqi refugees.  It was during those conversations that I felt a strong need to write a play that examines the human cost of war.

My friend saw a woman in a grocery store, a cashier, wearing a necklace.  The pendant was in the shape of Iraq, and inscribed on the pendant was “IRAQ.” This was at a time when our country was deep into the war with Iraq, and when I would ask refugees where they are from, they would whisper “Iraq.” And yet, here was this woman, with her necklace, and that’s how Yasmina was born.

Around this time, I was thinking of writing about my best friend.  She is a Latina Muslim who wears the veil and is married to an Arab.  My friend and her husband are a very funny couple who don’t have kids.  I began to wonder: if they had a son in this post 9/11 world, who would he be? I asked this question at a time when many Muslim men, due to anti-Muslim bias, were changing their names, and that’s how Sam was born.

Then I wondered, what if Sam meets Yasmina... Welcome to Yasmina’s Necklace.” -- Rohina Malik.

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(UNION, NJ) -- Premiere Stages will present the New Jersey premiere of Rohina Malik’s Joseph Jefferson Award-nominated play Yasmina’s Necklace at Kean University in Union September 5-22. Previously presented at the 16th Street Theater and Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Yasmina’s Necklace tells the story of Abdul Samee. Abdul’s father is Iraqi and mother is Puerto Rican - but if you ask him, he’ll say he’s Italian.

Longing to shed his cultural identity, Abdul changes his name to Sam, marries an American and does everything in his power to turn away from his heritage. But when Sam meets Yasmina, a beautiful woman from his father’s homeland, he begins to learn that a tree without roots cannot stand for long.

Led by acclaimed guest director Kareem Fahmy, Premiere’s production will feature an accomplished professional company of actors, including Layan Elwazani, Maplewood resident Eliud Kauffman, Robert Manning, Jr., Haythem Noor, Peter Romano, Cesar J. Rosado and Socorro Santiago.

Yasmina's NecklaceBorn and raised in London, England, of South Asian heritage, Ms. Malik is a critically acclaimed, award-winning Chicago playwright and solo performance artist. Her work has been produced at Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago Dramatists and Crossroads Theatre Company in New Brunswick, among others. A proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Ms. Malik is the 2018 recipient of the Lee Reynolds Award, given annually to a woman active in any aspect of theatre whose work has helped to illuminate the possibilities for social, cultural or political change.       

A Canadian-born director of Egyptian descent, Mr. Fahmy is the co-founder of Maia Directors, a consulting group for organizations and artists engaging with stories from the Middle East and beyond. He previously directed the New York and New Jersey premieres of Ms. Malik’s The Mecca Tales at Voyage Theater Company and Crossroads. He will make his Off-Broadway debut this fall with the world premiere of Clarence Coo’s On That Day in Amsterdam at Primary Stages.

“Rohina has deftly layered humor into her thoroughly compelling story about characters who are challenged to contemplate the lessons of the past as they navigate their worlds toward a better tomorrow,” stated Premiere Stages producing artistic director John J. Wooten. “We couldn’t be more excited to be producing the New Jersey premiere of this beautiful and important play.”

The blockbuster cast includes Layan Elwazani, recently seen on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning The Band’s Visit; Eliud Kauffman, whose film and television credits include NBC’s “The Blacklist”; Robert Manning, Jr., also previously seen on Broadway in Magic/Bird; Haythem Noor, who recently appeared on CBS’s “Madam Secretary”; Peter Romano, whose international theatre credits include the African tour of Antigone in the World

Cesar J. Rosado, whose distinguished regional credits include last season’s production of El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom at Two River Theater in Red Bank; and Socorro Santiago, currently appearing in the New York premiere of Mojada at the renowned Public Theater.

Audience members are invited to engage more deeply with Ms. Malik’s thought-provoking play in Premiere’s free talkbacks following select matinee performances. Patrons can learn more about the creative process at designated Artist Talks, or dive into the issues and themes of the show with community leaders and local experts at Community Connections. Featured speakers include Dr. Mahjabeen Hasan (Saturday, September 14); Atiya Aftab of the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom (Sunday, September 15); and Imam Sohaib N. Sultan, Chaplain of Princeton University (Saturday, September 21). Dates and speakers are subject to change; please call 908-737-4077 for an updated schedule of post-show events and speakers. Premiere will also offer a series of informal pre-show talks every Saturday evening 30 minutes prior to performance in the lobby of the theatre.

Yasmina’s Necklace runs September 5-22 in the Bauer Boucher Theatre Center on the Kean University main campus in Union, NJ.

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