Marium and Zahida Zaman. Photo: Fawzia Afzal-Khan
Articles, Reviews, Volume 7

Shahid Nadeem’s Acquittal in New York

Shahid Nadeem’s Acquittal in New York
By Marvin Carlson
Arab Stages, Volume 7 (Fall, 2017)
©2017 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Acquittal, a 1987 play by Shahid Nadeem, Pakistan’s leading playwright, was presented in New York June 10-25, 2017 at the Studio Theatre on Theatre Row by the Pan Asian Repertory. The playwright flew to New York from Lahore to attend the production. Although readings of his work have been presented at the CUNY Segal Center and the Lark Theatre, this is the first fully staged production of his work, or indeed of that of any Pakistani dramatist, in New York City.

The play received a powerful, sensitive and nuanced presentation under the directorship of Noelle Ghoussaini, a free-lance director with a special concern for drama with a socio/political orientation and with four very strong actresses, each of whom assumes a dominant role in the course of the work. The play is set in a cell in a woman’s prison in Pakistan in the early 1980s soon after the military coup led by General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq and the passage of the discriminatory “Islamic” laws, which sharply curtailed the liberties of women and minority groups. In 1987, while Nadeem was in political exile in London, he was approached by Madeeha Gauhar, a Pakistani women’s rights activist and director of the recent-founded (1984) Ajoka theatre in Pakistan. Like many activists, she had been arrested for protesting the new Islamic ordinances, and she asked Nadeem to create a play about the effect of the new “Islamization” on women, to be performed at her Lahore theatre on International Women’s Day (in March of 1987).

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