Note: HONOR KILLING can be performed with six actors when doubling is required. The below is the playwright’s preference (without doubling).
Actor 1: Female Caucasian American, 35
Allisyn Davis: A freelance journalist; works for The New York Times. Graduated cum laude from Vassar and has a PhD in journalism from Columbia University. Attractive, determined, intelligent, educated, and privileged. Well-traveled, worldly. Appears conservative, but has an open mind. Hides her vulnerability. Defiant, strong-willed, curious, and not easily contained.
Actor 2: Female Caucasian America, 36
Bentley Adams: Journalist. Harvard grad, double major in business and journalism. Hails from a wealthy family in Georgia. Incredibly driven – he’s quickly climbing the ranks at The New York Times. An attractive, ambitious, hard worker, seemingly open-minded and democratic despite his upbringing. Strong-minded and incredibly capable – he is Allisyn’s true equal.
Actor 3: Female Pakistani, 35
- Mehreen: Lawyer and activist.
- Immigration Officer: 35-40, Pakistani Immigration Officer at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Pakistan.
Actor 4: Male Pakistani, 45-55
- Mohammad Ijaaz: Male, husband of the deceased Samira Tasneem. Seemingly bereft, wife was brutally murdered in front of him. .
- Abbas: 35-45, Pakistani stringer.
Actor 5: Male Pakistani, 35-40
- Muzaffar Khan: 40, Male, Samira’s Lawyer, Pakistani. Educated, but not elite. The people’s lawyer.
- Raja Mahmood: 35-40, Consular Agent, Pakistani. Answers to Consul General, Shahreyar Zasar.
Actor 6: Male Pakistani, 40-50
Shahreyar Zasar: Consul General to Dubai. Elegant, educated, diplomatic, and cutting. A traditionalist.
Actor 7: Female Caucasian American, 37
- Melissa Davis: Allisyn’s sister. Pretty, reserved, and stronger than she looks.
- BBC News Reporter: British.
Actor 8: Male, 50-65
Edward Evans: The New York Times Bureau Chief (London). *Reads indicated stage directions (defined by playwright) for readings/presentations.
HONOR KILLING is based on the true story of Farzana Parveen’s death in May 2014 in Lahore, Pakistan. Sarah Bierstock’s play explores the world of arranged marriages, womanhood in Pakistan, and the role of American journalism in non-Western culture. Read more about Farzana Parveen’s story on:
PAKISTAN: Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia with a population of over 200 million people. The official languages are Urdu and English. Pakistan is bordered by Iran, Afghanistan, China, India, the Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Oman. In Urdu, Pakistan means “land of the pure”.
LAHORE: Lahore is the second largest city in Pakistan and located in Punjab, a province in the northeast. The city has been proven to be over 2,000 years old and is described as the “cultural, intellectual, and artistic hub” of the country.
FAISALABAD & JARANWALA: Two cities also located in Punjab, Faisalabad and Jaranwala are only about twenty miles apart. The former is third most populous city in Pakistan and the birthplace of HONOR KILLING’s Samira Tasneem; the latter is the home of her husband, Mohammad Ijaaz.
HIGH COURTHOUSE OF LAHORE (LAHORE HIGH COURT): Samira Tasneem, like her real life counterpart Farzana Parveen, was killed outside of the High Courthouse of Lahore by her family and community due to her marriage to a man that they no longer approved. This branch of the Superior Court of Pakistan is located in the northwest section of Lahore and near the Walled City.
KOT LAKHPAT JAIL: Also known for the area the jail is located, the Kot Lakhpat Jail’s official name is the Central Jail Lahore. Rumored to be filled to four times its 4000 person capacity, this is where Mohammad Ijaaz served his year-long sentence for killing his first wife.
ALLAMA IQBAL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Allisyn flies into this airport upon arrival in Lahore. After an estimated 12.5 hours flying from JFK to Dubai and an additional 3 hours from Dubai to AIIA, Allisyn is denied entrance into Pakistan indefinitely and rerouted back to Dubai.
SALT RANGE: An area northwest of Lahore mentioned by the Consul General, Zasar, as he compares Samira and Allisyn to the ibex and jackals that inhabit it. The Salt Range spans 186 miles with its highest elevation over 5000 ft and is considered a “sub-tropical scrub forest”.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Allisyn does the vast majority of her reporting from her hotel room in Dubai after being denied entry into Pakistan. The city is composed of 85% expatriates (0.3% Americans) and has the highest population of the United Arab Emirates of almost three million people. Interestingly, Pakistan was the first country to recognize the sovereignty of the UAE and the countries remain closely tied due to significant cultural and faith-based similarities.
CAIRO, EGYPT: As Ben’s correspondent base, Cairo is the largest city in the Middle East with over ten million people living in its metropolitan area. As a major hub of education and culture in the Arab world, the city is predicted to continue growing exponentially in the coming decades. Nearly 25 hundred miles, six countries, and a language separates Ben from his usual reporting expertise and the ground work he completes covering Samira’s honor killing in Lahore.
BBC: The British Broadcasting Corporation is the largest and oldest national broadcasting organization. Visit BBC here to get an idea of the vast array of reporting they do worldwide. (Page 3, 4, & 15)
“Salam”: A greeting or salutation of “peace” in the Muslim world. There are conflicting ideas on whether Muslims should use this when addressing non-Muslims; however, in the case of Abbas and Allisyn the majority could argue that it is acceptable as initiated by Abbas due to their close friendship. (Page 3 & 68)
Skype: One of the largest, mainly free, communication services utilized worldwide (video calls, online messaging). In 2010, Skype reported that they had nearly 660 million users, of which 300 million were active monthly users. Skype has had a profound effect on international communication. (Page 3, etc.)
“Allah Hafiz”: A salutation meaning “God protect you” in Urdu. Visit this interesting article from The Guardian about the etymology of this phrase in Pakistan. (Page 4 & 8)
Journalist Visa: Obtaining a journalist visa with the government of Pakistan for American journalists is a relatively extensive process. The application includes the initial six page general visa request, as well as a two page addendum for journalists, film, TV, and documentary teams. This document requests the purpose of travel (all subjects going to be covered in detail), visa applicant’s itinerary, dignitaries to be interviewed, and information regarding previous visits. It is possible that Allisyn’s initial request was accepted, but on further review of her past activities it was revoked. (Page 5, 10, & 39)
“Pakistan is not the Middle East…”: While this does not need overt explanation, this article on The World Post sheds light on this particular view and misconceptions around the world. *Reminder that this source (The Huffington Post) is often heavily influenced by its authors’ opinions* (Page 13)
Sharia: Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet (Hadith and Sunna), prescribing both religious and secular duties and sometimes retributive penalties for lawbreaking. It has generally supplemented by legislation adapted to the conditions of the day, though the manner in which it should be applied in modern states is a subject of dispute between Muslim traditionalists and reformists (oxforddictionaries.com). (Page 16, 36, & 39) – Additional opinion-based resources – “Five myths about sharia”, “Trump doesn’t understand what Sharia is”, and “Abusing Women and Islam”
Carlotta Gall: A senior foreign correspondent for The New York Times (bio and recent articles here). She won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, along with additional NY Times staff, for “masterful, groundbreaking coverage of America’s deepening military and political challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, reporting frequently done under perilous conditions”. Her writings on Pakistan include unfettered, brutal depictions of the country assisting the Taliban and hiding Osama bin Laden. (Page 16)
Muslim Brotherhood: A religious and political group founded on the belief that Islam is not simply a religion, but a way of life. It advocates a move away from secularism, and a return to the rules of the Quran as a basis for healthy families, communities, and states (CNN.com). More information available here. (Page 20)
ISIS: Abbreviation for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and Daesh in Arabic, a term that the group’s members despise. For up to date information regarding ISIS related news, visit this compilation of recent news. (Page 20)
Al Qaeda: An international terrorist group dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence (PBS.com). Founded by Osama bin Laden in the late 1980’s, more current news about Al Qaeda can be found here. (Page 21)
Taliban: In recent years, this group has re-emerged in Afghanistan and grew far stronger in Pakistan. According to CNN, the group’s aim is to “impose its interpretation of Islamic law on Afghanistan and remove foreign influence from the country”. They have maintained massive influence and control over northwest Pakistan in the recent past. A detailed outline of this movement by BBC News is available here. (Page 21)
Al Jazeera: A state-funded broadcaster based in Qatar and is among the largest news organizations in the world. Visit Al Jazeera here to see the wide array of reporting they complete worldwide. (Page 35 & 37)
The Dawn: Pakistan’s largest and oldest English news publication. Explore the site’s local, national, and worldwide reporting here. (Page 35)
Urial & Ibex: Two species found in the Salt Range of Pakistan. The former is a wild sheep, the latter a wild goat. (Page 42)
Law of Diyat: “The legal heirs of a deceased have the right to make a compromise with the offender under section 309 or 310. In the first provision, legal heirs can forgive the murderer in the name of God without getting any monetary compensation in the form of Diyat, while under section 310 the legal heirs can compromise after receiving Diyat in their respective shares. The minimum value of blood money is the value of 30630 grams of silver [17,469.95 US Dollars] on the first day of the month of July each year”. Despite this laws existence, section 311 states that the court can convict a person even if a compromise took place. “Following amendments in the PPC in early 2005, murders on the name of honour…the imprisonment shall not be less than 10 years”. Unfortunately, section 311 is rarely invoked. (The Dawn) (Page 52)
Pakistani Peoples Party: A left-wing, socialist, and progressivist party in Pakistan. The party was founded in 1967 under the following principles – “the emancipation of our people from poverty, ignorance, want and disease, the uplift of women and minorities, the elimination of Kalashnikov culture, a free media, an independent judiciary, a neutral civil service, rule of law and merit, the settlement of disputes with neighbors through peaceful means, honoring international contracts and laws/covenants and sovereign guarantees to achieve a responsible status through a foreign policy that suits our national interests.” (PPP.org.pk)
Sherry Rehman: A liberal Pakistani journalist turned politician. Sherry Rehman served as the Ambassador to the United States from November 2011 to May 2013. Currently, she serves as the Vice President of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Visit her website here. (Page 66)
Additional useful information: The majority of Pakistani Muslims practice Sunni Islam, while a small percentage (between 5-20%) practices Shia Islam. Learn more about the distinction here.