World-renowned company brings its Undesirable Elements series of grassroots theater productions to southeast Michigan

Performances presented in conjunction with new installation exhibition on Arab Muslim women

Dearborn, Mich. (April 23, 2018) – An original theater production May 11-12, 2018, at the Arab American National Museum will present the experiences of six Arab American Muslim women from Dearborn, told by the women themselves in a scripted “seated opera for the spoken word.”

The pioneering community theater project Undesirable Elements/Dearborn is part of an ongoing series of interview-based works by the acclaimed New York-based Ping Chong + Company. The project examines issues of culture, identity and belonging among individuals who are seen as outsiders within their communities. Widespread national and international praise have accompanied over 50 previous Undesirable Elements productions.

Rather than a traditional play or documentary-theater project performed by actors, Undesirable Elements is a live theatrical production presented as a chamber piece of storytelling designed to let participants reclaim their stories and dispel stereotypes and misconceptions.

The Dearborn cast are lawyers, educators, artists, advocates and academics whose families came to the U.S. from countries including Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Palestine. None are professional or amateur actors. They were selected through an extensive interview process conducted by Sara Zatz, associate director at Ping Chong + Company, and Sherrine Azab of Detroit-based theater company A Host of People. Zatz and Azab are writing the script in collaboration with the performers and directing the production. Adapting and occasionally theatricalizing stories from the interviews, the script weaves participants’ individual experiences together in a chronological narrative that connects the personal to the political.

The Undesirable Elements/Dearborn cast is comprised of:

Salam Aboulhassan, 37, a PhD candidate in sociology at Wayne State University

Rasha Ahmed Almulaiki, 26, program director for the nonprofit Global Ties Detroit

Shahad Atiya, 30, an immigration and criminal defense attorney

Mary Kamal Gagnon, 32, a visual artist and educator

Layla Elabed, 28, a program coordinator for ACCESS’ Sexual Assault Prevention Program

Nuzmeya Bader Elder, PhD, 64, an educator and mental health counselor

“Being part of this project means embracing and sharing ownership of my lived experience without being filtered through other people’s instinctual categorization of who I am, where I’ve been, and where I want to go,” says cast member Rasha Ahmed Almulaiki.

“I too was really captivated by the idea of giving a first-hand narrative of life in Dearborn that maybe a lot of people are not familiar with or can’t conceive because of the misrepresentation that occurs in the media,” cast member Mary Kamal Gagnon says. “I also felt this project aligned with my own healing and could be cathartic.”

“People are being very brave and vulnerable, baring their souls on stage for strangers, and perhaps even more challenging, for their families and friends,” says writer/director Sara Zatz, who has worked on Undesired Elements productions since 2002.“They want their voices to be heard, and this is a platform that is a different and unique way of putting your story out in the world,” she says.

Tickets for Undesirable Elements/Dearborn – $10 Museum Members and $15 general public – are available online now at Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended, as tickets may not be available at the door.

Undesirable Elements/Dearborn is the closing presentation of the Winter/Spring 2018 season of Global Fridays performances at AANM. The Global Fridays series is made possible in part by Comerica, DTE Energy Foundation, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, CJAM-FM and The Monitor. Undesirable Elements/Dearborn is specifically made possible in part by Knight Foundation Fund and Metabolic Studio.

Undesirable Elements/Dearborn is presented in conjunction with the opening of Mihrab: Portraits of Arab Muslim Women by Hend Al-Mansour. This temporary exhibition features installation portraits of three Arab Muslim women from Minnesota. Each work explores the women’s relationship with Islam – as interpreted by Saudi American artist Hend Al-Mansour. The Mihrab series uses the architectural prayer niche found in mosques as a framework for the portraits. Visitors are encouraged to enter the installations to fully experience the work and the women’s stories.

Global Fridays patrons attending the performance on Friday, May 11 may also enjoy an exhibition preview and reception beginning at 6:30 p.m. The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday, May 12, and runs through Sept. 30, 2018, in AANM’s Main Floor Gallery.

Global Fridays: Undesirable Elements/Dearborn

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 11-12, 2018

Aliya Hassan Auditorium at AANM

13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126

Tickets $10 Museum Members, $15 general public

Online at and at the door

Exhibition preview and reception

Mihrab: Portraits of Arab Muslim Women by Hend Al-Mansour

6:30 p.m. Friday May 11, 2018

Main Floor Gallery and Community Courtyard, AANM

13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126

FREE and open to the public

Exhibition runs May 12 through Sept. 20, 2018; it is free with Museum admission.


The Arab American National Museum (AANM) documents, preserves and presents Arab American history, culture and contributions.

AANM – a national institution of Dearborn, Mich.-based human-services agency ACCESS – is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums; an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution; and a founding member of the Immigration and Civil Rights Network of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

The Museum is located at 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI, 48126. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday; Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is $8 for adults; $4 for students, seniors and children 6-12; ages 5 and under and Museum Members, free.

Visit or call 313.582.2266 for further information.

Ping Chong + Company ( creates theatrical works addressing the important cultural and civic issues of our times. Their over 100 original productions have been performed at theaters and festivals around the United States and the world. The New York City-based company was founded in 1975 by leading theatrical innovator and National Medal of Arts recipient Ping Chong, with a mission to create works of theater and art that explore the intersections of race, culture, history, art, media and technology in the modern world. Today, Ping Chong + Company produces original works by a close-knit ensemble of affiliated artists, under the artistic leadership of Ping Chong. Their art reveals beauty, precision and a commitment to social justice.


Kim Silarski | Communications Manager | Arab American National Museum

13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126 | Office 313.624.0206 | Cell 313.670.1300


Connect with us | ACCESS | Arab American National Museum |
National Network for Arab American Communities | Center for Arab American Philanthropy

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