Muslim Stereotypes in America Shattered By Dirty Paki Lingerie Play

In New York, everyone is moonlighting. Waiter slash actor, sales associate slash musician, lawyer slash yogi. We’re all living our own double lives.

As a Google tech support specialist slash actor, Aizzah Fatima is the quintessential moonlighter and her one-woman show Dirty Paki Lingerie elevates the concept to a whole new level. In a well-timed, approximately hour-long performance, Aizzah transforms seamlessly between six different characters, all of whom are confronting the intersection of tradition and modernity as Muslim women. Whether it’s as Selma, a second-generation, hijab-wearing feminist grappling with her Muslim practice and desire to please her new husband with sexy lingerie, or Asma, a Pakistani immigrant mother searching for her daughter’s future husband in the Urdu Times Matrimonial section, Fatima embodies the complex interplay between heritage and contemporary society. And she makes us laugh, think and question ourselves in the process.

The show, which debuted last summer to rave reviews from niche theater publications and a solid pickup in the Wall Street Journal, has continued its run across a smattering of theaters in New York (I saw it last month at 59e59) as well as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year in the UK. Fatima earned her trip to Edinburgh through a successful Kickstarter campaign and she’s been able to keep the show going with director, Erica Gould, by consistently impressing audiences and inviting dialogue around what it means to be a Muslim woman today.

The question of what it means to be Muslim in America has been widely discussed over the past decade but the gender factor hasn’t been central to the conversation. I’ll admit, I’d never really considered it myself until about a year ago, when I made friends with a hilariously sassy girl at work who is herself Pakistani-American and Muslim. She doesn’t pray five times a day or wear hijab but she’s devout and deeply influenced by her heritage and dual-citizenship. Our conversations about family, religion, and social stereotypes (in addition to jobs, boyfriends, and breakups) have been the foundation for a fantastic and eye-opening friendship. As the daughter of first-generation immigrant parents, she’s keenly aware of certain expectations (read: marry a Pakistani man and pop out some babies) but she’s also carving a path for herself in the same way any other mid-twenties American woman might.

This friend introduced me to Fatima at a party and convinced me to see her show. Fatima’s also no stranger to expectations or stereotypes – she’s admittedly auditioned for an actual role as “Terrorist No. 2′s Girlfriend” in an unnamed production – but she’s breaking down those barriers in Dirty Paki Lingerie.

As one reviewer put it, “The cultural references veer surprisingly from 18th-century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib through Justin Timberlake’s hit ‘SexyBack’” – at once surprising, comedic and thought-provoking. And behind the single green scarf she uses to transform between characters, Fatima shines as an inspiring torch-bearer for female artists and aspiring moonlighters – regardless of culture or creed.

The next NYC performance of Dirty Paki Lingerie will take place at the All for One Theater Festival on September 22 and 27. Visit the official All for One site for info and tickets.

This article was originally printed on The Culture Crossing at theculturecrossing.tumbr.com