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Interplay: A Distinct Society

written and directed by Kareem Fahmy
at Northlight Theatre
Stage Directions
Tina El Gamal
Leean Kim Torske
Zoom Coordinator
Sophia Danielle-Grenier
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Who's Who


Barzin Akhavan

Peyman Gilani
Declan Desmond

Declan Sheehan
Marika Engelhardt

Manon Desjardins
Susaan Jamshidi

Shirin Gilani
Kevin Minor

Bruce Laird

Creative Team

Kareem Fahmy


Meet the Company

Barzin Akhavan (Peyman Gilani)

Broadway: Network (Belasco). NYC: Macbeth (CSC), Richard II (Public/WNYC), Hamlet (Waterwell), Richard II (Public/WNYC). International Tour: Aftermath (Arktype). Regional: Pericles (Guthrie and Folger Theatre), Arabian Nights (Arena, Berkeley Rep, Lookingglass), A Thousand Splendid Suns (World Premiere, ACT SF and Theatre of Calgary), Shakespeare in Love (Baltimore Center Stage and Cincinnati Playhouse), The Kite Runner (World Premiere, San Jose Rep and Arizona Theatre Company), and Twelfth Night (Seattle Rep). He spent five seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, four seasons with the Lake Take Shakespeare Festival, and one season with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Film and TV credits include Joyful, The Blacklist, Chicago Med, Girls5Eva, Smash, and Law and Order CI.

Declan Desmond (Declan Sheehan)

Declan is thrilled to be making his debut on such a wonderful play with Northlight Theatre! Before this, Declan had the privilege of working with many Chicago Theaters including: The Gift, The Goodman, The Marriott, Lookingglass, and Writers Theatre. He is currently finishing his junior year at Boston University, where he also studies acting. In his free time, he likes to practice singing, the guitar, and the violin while also coincidentally reading DC comics. He’s honored to be performing and can’t wait until theater can be performed live. Now more than ever people are yearning for connection, and the theater connects like no other art form. Thanks to all of his mentors, friends, and family who made this possible and always support him in his projects.

Marika Engelhardt (Manon Desjardins)

Marika’s theatrical credits include The Goodman Theatre, Steep Theatre, American Blues, A Red Orchid, Chicago Dramatists, and the Comedie Francaise in Paris. Television credits: Empire, Chicago Fire, The Chi, Easy on Netflix, Amazon’s Patriot, and HBO’s Somebody, Somewhere. Recent films include Come as You Are which premiered at SXSW, and a starring role in Knives and Skin, which premiered last year at the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals. Her performance was named one of the “Top Ten Performances of Tribeca 2019” by Entertainment Tonight. She is a graduate of the DePaul Theatre School where she is also an adjunct professor.

Susaan Jamshidi (Shirin Gilani)

Susaan Jamshidi is a Chicago based actor (SAG/AFTRA, AEA). She is excited to participate in her second workshop of A Distinct Society. She recently performed in several shows at Goodman Theatre: A Christmas Carol ’19 and ’20 (the latter which was produced as a free streaming audio play), The Winter’s Tale, and Rohina Malik’s Yasmina’s Necklace. Chicago credits include work with Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, Drury Lane, The Gift, Northlight, Remy Bumppo, Theatre Wit, and Sideshow Theatre Company (Jeff Award for Best Ensemble – Idomeneus), among others. International tours: Oh My Sweet Land (London/Toronto/Vancouver with Silk Road Rising). Regional theater credits include Arena Stage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, among others. Film and television credits include Little Nations, Cicero in Winter, The Wallet, Chicago Med, Chicago P.D. and Sirens. Susaan earned her MFA from DePaul University and is represented by Paonessa Talent. Susaan is also an avid potter. You can follow her on Instagram @susaanlayla and @littlefigwheelworks

Kevin Minor (Bruce Laird)

Kevin Minor (he/him/his) is a Chicago-based actor, director, and budding playwright. Kevin is currently a theatre teacher at Niles West and Niles North High schools in Skokie, IL. As an actor, Kevin has worked at numerous theatre companies including Asolo Repertory, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Writers Theatre, Virginia Repertory, St. Louis Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival, Heritage Theatre Festival, Slightly Askew Theatre, and many others. Kevin is represented by Stewart Talent.

Kareem Fahmy (Playwright/Director)

Kareem Fahmy is a Canadian-born playwright and director of Egyptian descent and is currently a TCG Rising Leader of Color. His plays, which include American Fast, A Distinct Society, The Triumphant, Pareidolia, The In-Between, and an adaptation of the acclaimed Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building, have been developed at the Atlantic Theatre Company, New York Stage & Film, Oregon Contemporary Theatre, Capital Repertory Theatre, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Northlight Theatre, Target Margin Theater, The Lark, Fault Line Theater, and Noor Theater. He has directed and developed new plays at theaters around the country, including MCC, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The New Group, New Dramatists, The Civilians, Geva Theatre, Pioneer Theatre, Portland Stage, Silk Road Rising, San Diego Rep, and Berkeley Rep. Fellowships/Residencies: Sundance Theatre Lab, 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 Theater Workshop (Emerging Artist Fellow & Usual Suspect). Kareem is co-founder of the Middle Eastern American Writers Lab at The Lark and of Maia Directors, a consulting group for organizations and artists engaging with stories from the Middle East. MFA in Theatre Directing: Columbia University.


Support for Northlight and this reading comes from:


The Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts
The Shubert Foundation, Inc.
The Offield Family Foundation
MacArthur Foundation
The Sullivan Family Foundation
Illinois Arts Council
BMO Harris Bank
Allstate Insurance Company
Evanston Community Foundation
Paul M. Angell Family Foundation
Modestus Bauer Foundation
Bulley & Andrews
The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation
Full Circle Foundation
Maurice R. and Meta G. Gross Foundation
John R Halligan Charitable Fund
Niles Township Corporate Fund
Sanborn Family Foundation
Dr. Scholl Foundation
Tom Stringer Design Partners

In Context

The play is set in the main reading room of the Haskell Free Library & Opera House, located on the border between Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec. While the library and the circumstances around it are real, the characters and events in this play are entirely fictional.

From Reuters: Separated by travel ban, Iranian families reunite at border library

by Yeganeh Torbati

During the six-hour drive from New York City to a tiny town in northern Vermont, Iranian student Shirin Estahbanati cried at the thought of seeing her father for the first time in nearly three years. Since then, he had suffered a heart attack, and she hadn’t dared leave America to comfort him.

But as she traveled north, she also couldn’t stop worrying. What if she missed the turnoff and drove across the U.S.-Canadian border by mistake.

Haskell Library, exterior

Estahbanati, like many Iranian students in the United States, has a single-entry visa and can’t leave the country without risking that she won’t be allowed back in. And her parents, as Iranian citizens, are blocked by U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban from visiting her in the United States.

She didn’t want to miss her destination: the Haskell Free Library and Opera House

Estahbanati and her family had agreed to meet around 9 a.m. at the library, which through a historic anomaly straddles the U.S.-Canada border – and today has been thrust into an unlikely role as the site of emotional reunions between people separated by the administration’s immigration policies.

The 31-year-old parked her car and, excitement battling with anxiety, walked to the entrance of the Victorian building. But two hours later, her parents and sister still had not appeared from the Canadian side, and her calls to her sister’s cell phone went unanswered.


Haskell Library, interior

Finally, she saw them. Because of construction near the library, their GPS device had sent them to the line for the U.S. port of entry. Her parents had no U.S. visas, and they had been detained by American border agents. After approximately two hours, they were released and allowed to join Estahbanati at the library.

When they hugged each other, it felt as if her father had shrunk. He took a deep breath as he held his daughter tight. “I missed your smell,” he told her.

Remembering the moment, her smile turned down with the effort not to cry. “The time I was just hugging my parents,” she said, “I was thinking, I wish I could stop all clocks all over the world.”

Read the full story here.

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