Fewer stories resonate with viewers as they grow older. Children are young, naive, and innocent — they have a fresh outlook on every new experience. The first time they see blood in a television series or movie, they experience that telltale rush of adrenaline. But there are some stories that resonate even with adults. Those that tell a new story. Those that provide a fresh outlook. Those that make us laugh or cry. Or those that are told through a different format — like a play. “Honor Killing” is one such tale for which most audience members were not ready.
Sarah Bierstock’s “Honor Killing” first premiered in the Florida Gompertz Theatre from April 4, 2018 until May 25, 2018.
The story revolves around American reporter Allisyn Davis, who works for The New York Times. When she travels to Pakistan in hopes of reporting on an honor killing, she discovers not necessarily that there is more to the tale — but that there is more to learn about society by learning about the tale.
Honor killings infrequently occur in the United States, but in other countries they remain a pervasive problem. They usually occur when a family’s patriarchy believes the family has been “shamed” — and that the only way to wipe the slate clean is by killing the person responsible. This person is usually a female member of the family, such as a daughter. The crimes usually include divorce, failing to abide by or agree to the terms of an arranged marriage, or choosing to have a relationship with someone who shares different religious or cultural beliefs.
These murders are often a public spectacle used to warn other members of society not to make the same mistakes that have already been made. These killings take place through a variety of means, including: beheading, stabbing, cutting a throat, using acid, strangling, and stoning — but there are others.
Honor killings are still legal in some jurisdictions, but in others they are simply “overlooked.” That said, the “shamed” family members still understand that the law frowns upon murder, and that certain “classes” of people will have a better legal outcome should they be charged with and convicted for murder.
This leads to the use of young children to commit these acts. The children are compelled by “duty” to obey their elders, and failing to carry out a murder on behalf of one’s father or mother (against a sister, for example) could result in yet more violence, exile, or other consequences.
“Honor Killing” has since gone on to the Athena Project in Denver, Colorado and the WAM Theater in West Stockbridge, Connecticut, and was read at the PROJECT W Festival at Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City. Bierstock has gone on to write at least two other plays, “MAD” and “Graceland 2.0.” She continues to act and write, attempting to push the envelope further with each performance or playwright.