Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity

By Ronny Reyes and Demi Guo

It was, as Managing Director Bruce Allardice put it, the “tenor of the times.”

The theatre piece, “Beyond Sacred, Voices of Muslim Identity,” which premiered under director Ping Chong last year, is coming to Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center on April 6, officials in charge of the event said.

With a performance based on interviews of various characters who identify with the Muslim culture or religion, the show is meant to promote the diversity of Islamic culture.

“We live in a time of rising Islamophobia,” Allardice, who as producer has managed bookkeeping since the show’s premiere at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center last year, said, “and much of that is rooted in the ignorance of Islam in America.”

“Events like this help us to be able to find commonality and our embrace difference,” Sanaa Nadim, the Chaplain of Stony Brook University’s Muslim Students Association (MSA), said.

Nadim, who grew up in America as a Muslim woman, explained that projects like “Beyond Sacred” help bring out the voices of people who know what it’s like to grow up and find their faith in Islam.

As Chaplain, Nadim often holds meetings and conversations every Wednesday with both Muslim and non-Muslim students to talk about current events.

“Recently we talked about having patience and building bridges with the different communities around us,” Nadim said.

Building bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims is the main theme around the grant funding program held by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which granted $150,000 for 2015 and 2016 to Ping Chong & Company’s “Beyond Sacred” performance, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) officials said.

“Their performance of these real stories of young people in New York and LaGuardia are clear and impactful,” Zeyba Rahman, senior program officer for the DDCF’s Building Bridges Program, said.      

As a member of the audience during a “Beyond Sacred” performance, she said she noticed the strong emotional reaction of the audience, something that Ping Chong & Company is known for, Rahman added.  

Jinyoung Jin, the director of the cultural program at the Wang Center, said that she chose this particular show to add diversity. While there was an exhibit on Iranian culture, she said, she wanted to expand even more from the Wang Center’s focus on East Asian culture. “Beyond Sacred” would be the first show on the subject of Islam and culture further towards the west.
The Wang Center Theater, which will hold the event, has a full capacity of 239 seats. “We’re hoping for a full house,” Jin said.