A Distinct Society

written and directed by Kareem Fahmy

This benefit reading is a part of Northlight’s Interplay New Play Development program, providing customized support for new work in the critical stages of early play development.

ABOUT THE PLAY: A quiet library that straddles the border of the U.S. and Canada becomes an unlikely crucible for five people from around the world. When an Iranian family, separated from one another by the “Muslim ban,” use the library as a meeting place, the head librarian, a U.S. border patrol officer, and a local teenager have to choose between breaking the law and saving themselves.

Join us for a reading of this new drama while still in the development process!


Read the Program

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Premiere plus 96 hours of on-demand viewing

Support for Northlight and this reading comes from:


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.