This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



(photo by Hunter Canning)

Anna Khaja takes on many roles in examining the life and death of Benazir Bhutto (photo by Hunter Canning)

Culture Project
45 Bleecker St. between Lafayette & Bowery
Friday - Monday through April 21, $25-$55

In 2007, exiled two-time Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned to her native country to run for a third term, as a member of the Pakistan People’s Party. The party had been founded by her father, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in Rawalpindi by the government under questionable circumstances in 1979. On December 27, 2007, during a political rally in Rawalpindi, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, dead at the age of fifty-four. Half-Pakistani actress Anna Khaja examines the life, career, and impact the popular, controversial leader had in the compelling one-woman show Shadeed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto. Khaja (True Blood, Stuff Happens) plays eight characters who share their views on Bhutto on that fateful day in late December. Khaja begins by appearing as herself, a young woman trying to discover her identity in a very personal journey, for she is the daughter of a Pakistani man who walked out on his American family to perhaps become a terrorist. Over the course of eighty minutes, Khaja portrays Sara, a worshipful student; U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who declares, “I have not sent you into a death trap, Miss Bhutto”; investigative journalist and confidante Daphne Barak; Quasim, a professor who was interrogated and tortured for his beliefs; Bhutto’s estranged niece and journalist Fatima; excited street vendor Shamsher; student revolutionary Afshan; and Bhutto herself. After each segment, Khaja changes costumes simply and effectively, behind a slatted wooden fence designed by Maureen Weiss while Pakistani music composed by Phillip Young and Colyn Emery plays and Steven Calcote projects related images onto a white sheet draped over the fence. A hit at the 2010 New York Fringe Festival, Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto, written by the multitalented Khaja and directed by Heather de Michele and being presented at the Culture Project’s Women Center Stage through April 1, offers a unique look — or, actually, several unique looks — at a horrific tragedy and its effect on a deeply troubled nation.

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