Death to the Unchaste

Europe's Muslim women—and the men who murder them. Two Islam-themed plays at St. Ann's Warehouse.

Roosen is also careful not to make black-and-white moral designations, on or off the stage. She's not exactly out to change perceptions, but rather to ask her audience to perceive strangers and differences more carefully: "Veiled Monologues is a much more open, inviting piece. Is.Man tries to open you to see something difficult." Roosen hopes this newest play will offer an understanding of the feelings and attitudes of disorientated men, not tolerance or acceptance.

The 49-year-old director likes to quote a woman she once met while making a documentary in Mali. The woman told her: "There are four people in every dialogue. There's you, there's me, there's the person I imagine you to be, and the person you imagine me to be." Roosen has adopted this ethos for her theater projects: Are we seeing real women, or the people we perceive them to be? Even if their actions are reprehensible, are we hearing-—really hearing—the thoughts and feelings of men who kill for moral clarity?

Since the productions were created independently and Is.Man is so new, Roosen will see them play in rep for the first time in Brooklyn. Susan Feldman, artistic director of St. Ann's Warehouse, had no doubts that she wanted to present both works together. But, she says, "my concern is that I don't know if Americans want to know what's going on in Muslim people's worlds. Do they care about what women are going through, what women think about? Most people, I worry, think they probably know what these shows are without even seeing them. And the fact is, they don't. Because they are very surprising."

Exploring Islamic "purity":  Adelheid Roosen's Is.Man
Ben van Duin
Exploring Islamic "purity": Adelheid Roosen's Is.Man

If the performances can lift the veil and offer even a partial glimpse of Muslim experience in the West, then she and the artists will be happy. "We don't know anything—that's what I feel," says Feldman. "And my big question for American audiences is: Do you want to know?"

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