NbA Muslims Staff
In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Page to Stage cultural initiative hosted a one-act adaptation of the book Expendable by Muslim author Sahar Abdulaziz at the Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center.
Local actors presented Abdulaziz’s story about Bella, a woman whose husband subjects her to emotional abuse to the point that she suffers a traumatic mental break.
In a recent interview, Abdulaziz shared her thoughts with NbA Muslims about the experience of seeing her writing brought to the stage.
What is the main premise of Expendable?
Expendable exposes the excruciating pain and danger of emotional abuse. Unlike physical abuse, where bruises and scars are evident and therefore socially and legally validated, this type of cruelty and violence is not. The internal damage that comes from loving a narcissist often leaves its victim’s terrified, hopeless, helpless, and alone–wary of seeking help, and deathly afraid they won’t be believed.
The story centers around a young woman named Bella who is trapped in a dysfunctional and toxic relationship–married to a malignant narcissist. Over time, the trauma from the emotional abuse becomes so overpowering, so destructive, that she attempts to end her life. When she wakes up in a mental health unit, she is distraught and internalizes the shame, blaming herself for her failed marriage.
Her husband Logan appears to all who know him as a charming and adoring husband, yet behind closed doors, his dangerous, darker side emerges. To his unsuspecting friends, he’s someone to be admired. To the trail of broken women left behind, he’s nothing but a cruel and callous monster. But to his family and most of all to Bella, he remains an inescapable and recurring nightmare.
Bella knows she must garner the strength to leave or risk remaining tethered to a man perfectly willing to sacrifice her happiness and security to satisfy his endless selfish desires. She plots her escape but realizes quickly that time and opportunity are fast running out.
I sat in the theater mesmerized, listening to the words I wrote now being echoed through the actors’ inflection and delivery…
How does it feel to see your work acted out on stage?
It felt surreal. Overwhelming. Incredible, but also quite intimidating. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. Much like the audience, I sat in the theater mesmerized, listening to the words I wrote now being echoed through the actors’ inflection and delivery, and just like that, the story came to life before my eyes. It was quite sobering hearing and watching the many emotions I described using dialogue, setting and plot, crystalize into fluid movement, and the result was absolutely stunning.
Was there a particular performance that struck you?
To be honest, I laughed, recoiled, and teared up at all the pivotal spots during each of the four scenes as if I had never heard them before. I didn’t expect to do that. However, with that said, the scene where Bella’s friend, Primrose Endicott, is having a flashback about the day she lost three friends, and almost died herself–––that was a struggle. It was also equally challenging to watch Bella being degraded and devalued by her narcissistic husband … the manner by which his cruel and vicious words cut through her–wounding her to the core. Perhaps initially, the nuances of emotional abuse weren’t fully understood, but the same couldn’t be said by the time the performance ended.
I purposely sat in the first row so I could concentrate on listening to the reactions coming from the audience during central places in the script. I heard the gasps of shock and horror during one scene when Logan actively engages is some pretty intense gaslighting, practically bringing Bella to her knees. There were also the chuckles at a few of the lighter moments, like between Bella and a friend she made in the mental health unit. And the pin-drop morbid silence that consumed the entire room during the scene where Bella’s friend, Prim, recounts in exacting detail what transpired during her tour overseas as a combat photographer, the trauma she experienced and the PTSD she now has to contend with.
Do you look forward to seeing more of your work on stage? If so, which book would you like to see performed next?
Without a doubt, Insha’Allah. Page to Stage’s presentation served to reinforce for me the importance of integrating books, script-writing, acting, music, and visual arts for a totally enriching and immersive experience.
I would like to see Expendable become a full-length play; however, I think that Tight Rope, Secrets That Find Us and The Broken Half would all translate nicely to either the theater or the screen. I’m open to it all because ultimately, it is the message these types of stories convey that need to get addressed, exposed and discussed. If this medium promotes that–then I’m all in.
Page To Stage Presentation of Expendable
Co-sponsor: Women’s Resources of Monroe County, Inc.
Host: Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center; East Stroudsburg, PA
Special Thanks to:
- Sistah Chat
- Pocono Record
- Pocono Arts Council
- Amy Cramer
- Katherine Neville
- Carly Jaeger
- Andrew Khouri
- Rob Howell
- Juliet K. Dunham
*Support from Susan Moore Jordan.
- Marty Carr
- Terry Carbone DeLuise
Shaken Not Stirred: Tricia Blunt[Vocalist], Arron T Clarke [Instrumentals]
Published by Djarabi Kitab Publishing
Available on Amazon