Everyone should see this play... I was spellbound.
— New Works Festival Attendee
World Premiere in Association with Pioneer Theatre Company

A Distinct Society

April 5-30, 2023


By chance and geographic anomaly, a quiet library in northern Vermont straddles the U.S.-Canada border. Most years it’s just a curiosity, but during the “Muslim ban,” it becomes an unlikely meeting place for an Iranian family who find themselves on opposite sides of an invisible divide. When the Québécoise librarian, a U.S. border patrol officer, and a local teenager become involved, all must choose between breaking the law and saving themselves. A favorite from our New Works Festival!


At TheatreWorks we offer a variety of accessible programming with each production.



SIREN: Kirsten “Kiki” deLohr Helland is a Seattle-based, award-winning performer and collaborator. Seattle Repertory Theatre: Lizard Boy. The 5th Avenue Theatre: The Sound of Music (Maria), Grease (Rizzo), Oklahoma! (Ado Annie), Elf (Jovie), Hairspray in Concert (Penny Pingleton), Pirates of Penzance, Rent and Titanic in Concert. Village Theatre: Les Misérables (Eponine), Trails (Amy), The Tutor (Hildegarde).  Village Theatre Beta Series: String (Lachesis), Afterwords (Jo). ArtsWest: American Idiot (Whatsername). Film: Laggies. When she isn’t acting, Kiki enjoys True Crime Documentaries, singing with her lifelong best friend Justin Huertas and spending as much time in Disneyland as possible. She holds a B.F.A. from Pacific Lutheran University.


TREVOR: Justin Huertas is an award-winning playwright, composer-lyricist, and actor. His original musical Lizard Boy world-premiered at Seattle Rep (4 Gregory Awards, Seattle Times Footlight Award), toured to San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre (Craig Noel Award), and had two staged readings at Playwrights Horizons. His follow-up fantasy The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion (with additional music by Steven Tran) premiered at ArtsWest Playhouse & Gallery. Lydia & the Troll is third in his series of Seattle-set modern-myth musicals. Justin wrote music and lyrics for Book-It Repertory Theatre’s Howl’s Moving Castle and for The Lamplighter with co-authors Sara Porkalob and Kirsten “Kiki” deLohr Helland. Find him on social media: “Justin Writes Musicals.”


CARY: A California native, William A. Williams is a musician/actor now based out of New York City. Seattle Repertory Theatre: Lizard Boy (Cary), Of Mice and Men (Whit). Balagan Theater: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Dr. Horrible). Contemporary Classics: …Spelling Bee (Leaf Coneybear), Zanna, Don’t! (Steve, Arvin) Village Theatre: Beauty and the Beast, Showboat, The Gypsy King. Seattle Shakespeare Company: Romeo and Juliet, Comedy of Errors. William played guitar in productions of Spring Awakening (Balagan), Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (ArtsWest) and took on the bass guitar for The Iceman Lab at Target Margin in NYC. He can often be spotted rummaging through endless crates of vinyl records, singing standards in dingy bars, or producing funky tracks in his humble home studio. William received a B.F.A. from Cornish College of the Arts.


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the cast


DANIEL ALLITT (Declan Sheehan) is making his professional debut at TheatreWorks. He workshopped Catch as Catch Can for the recent production at Playwrights Horizons. Mr. Allitt earned his BFA from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts where he performed Twelfth Night (Viola, Sebastian) at Shakespeare’s Globe.


VANEH ASSADOURIAN (Shirin Gilani) is excited to be making her TheatreWorks Silicon Valley debut. Vaneh is an actor, voiceover artist, and audiobook narrator based in Los Angeles. Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, she started in the theatre at the age of four where she performed with Shant Yev Shantik Theatre Company. Most recently, Vaneh was seen in the world premiere of A Distinct Society at Pioneer Theatre Company. Notable collaborations include work with Geffen Playhouse, the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Skylight Theatre Company, and the Hammer Museum. Her voice can be heard as a narrator for Apple News + and on numerous audiobooks on Audible. A lover of languages, Vaneh is fluent in Farsi and Armenian and speaks conversational German. She holds a BA in Acting and Directing from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television and is represented by SLJ Management.


CARRIE PAFF (Manon Desjardins) is thrilled to make her mainstage TheatreWorks debut with this beautiful play. Off-Broadway: About Alice (Theatre for a New Audience), Ideation (59E59). Regional: A Distinct Society (Pioneer Theatre Company), King Charles III and After the War (American Conservatory Theater), The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin, Stage Kiss, and Stupid Fucking Bird (San Francisco Playhouse), Double Indemnity (A Contemporary Theater),  Holmes & Watson (Arizona Theatre Company), A Streetcar Named Desire and Tiny Alice (Marin Theatre Company), The Real Thing, A Delicate Balance, and Betrayal (Aurora Theatre), The Other Place (Magic Theatre), The Big Meal (San Jose Rep), Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress (Leicester Square Theatre, London). Carrie holds a master’s degree from New York University. She can be heard in Pixar’s Finding Dory, The Good Dinosaur, and Lamp Life.


JAMES RANA (Payman Gilani) has appeared on Broadway in The Band’s Visit, and Off-Broadway in The Government Inspector (Red Bull), Serendib (Ensemble Studio Theater), Shogun Macbeth (Pan Asian Rep), Marat/Sade, Macbeth, Mother Courage (Classical Theatre of Harlem), and As You Like It (Worth Street Theatre). National and international credits include The Band’s Visit (First National Tour; LA Critics Circle Nomination), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Royal Shakespeare Company), Macbeth (Bonn Biennale/Globe Neuss). Regional credits include Denver Center, Luna Stage, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Shakespeare Theatre Co., Shakespeare & Co., East Lynne Theater. Film/Television: Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Madam Secretary, A Girl Like You with A Boy Like Me. MFA – Trinity Rep.


KENNY SCOTT (Bruce Laird, he/him) is thrilled to be making his TheatreWorks debut! Recent credits include productions with Aurora Theatre Company (Paradise Blue), California Shakespeare Theater (Lear), Marin Theatre Co. (Two Trains Running), Crowded Fire (Inked Baby, SUBVERiTas), ZSpace (The Institute for Counterfeit Memory), The New Conservatory Theatre Center (Mystery of Love and Sex), The Forum (Sarafael), Idiot String (Port Stories), and Quantum Dragon Theatre (Ageless). A company member with the Oakland Theatre Project (Hamlet, Mother Courage) as well as Shotgun Players (The Claim, The Light). He attended Morgan State University, and was a member of the Laney College Fusion Theatre Project (Más, The Late Wedding, and In The Wound).


KAREEM FAHMY, Playwright

KAREEM FAHMY (Playwright) is a Canadian-born playwright and director of Egyptian descent. He received the 2022 Woodward/Newman Playwriting Award (American Fast), has a NYSCA/NYFA Playwriting Fellowship, the Janet Sloane Literature Residency at Yaddo, is a two-time finalist for the National Showcase of New Plays, and was named a Rising Leader of Color by TCG. His plays include American Fast (Rolling World Premiere: Artists Repertory Theatre, City Theatre, InterAct Theatre), A Distinct Society (Pioneer Theatre Company, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Writers Theatre), Dodi & Diana (Colt Coeur, O’Neill NPC Finalist), Pareidolia, The In-Between, and an adaptation of the acclaimed novel The Yacoubian Building. Kareem’s work has been seen at Atlantic Theatre Company, Denver Center, Northlight Theatre, Capital Repertory Theatre, New York Stage & Film, and more. Co-founder/Chair of the Middle Eastern American Writers Lab. Member: SDC.


GIOVANNA SARDELLI (Director) is TheatreWorks’ Artistic Associate and Director of New Works. TheatreWorks directing credits include Nan and the Lower Body, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, They Promised Her the Moon, Archduke, Crimes of the Heart, The North Pool, and Somewhere. She previously directed A Distinct Society at both TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival and at Pioneer Theatre Co. Other directing credits include Describe the Night (Obie Award Best New Play, TW NWF 2014) at Atlantic Theater Co., the World Premiere of Archduke (TW NWF 2016) at Mark Taper Forum, and An Entomologist’s Love Story (TW NWF 2014) at San Francisco Playhouse. She has directed and developed plays around the country.

JO WINIARSKI, Scenic Design

JO WINIARSKI (Scenic Design) is making her TheatreWorks debut with A Distinct Society. Off-Broadway credits include HYPROV, Accidentally Brave, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, and Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Regional design credits include Pioneer Theatre Company; Guthrie Theater; Arizona Theatre Company; Utah Shakespeare Festival (over 40 shows); The Old Globe; Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Dallas Theater Center; and Geva Theatre Center. Additional credits include Wishes for Disney Cruise Line. Jo was the art director on Late Night with Seth Meyers (episodes 1-844) and received an Emmy nomination for art direction for A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All.

DINA EL-AZIZ, Costume Design

DINA EL-AZIZ (Costume Designer, she/her) is a designer whose regional theatre credits include: Layalina (Goodman Theatre); A Distinct Society (Pioneer Theater); English (Studio Theater); Selling Kabul (Seattle Rep); Unseen (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); When Monica Met Hillary (Miami New Drama); This is Who I Am (OSF/Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co./Guthrie Theater/American Repertory Theater/PlayCo); 9 Parts of Desire (Portland Center Stage); King Lear (Northern Stage); Noura (The Guthrie); Noura (The Old Globe); Selling Kabul (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Off-Broadway: The Vagrant Trilogy (The Public Theater); Weightless (WP theater), Spindle Shuttle Needle (Clubbed Thumb); Heartland (Geva Theater/59E59); First Down (Noor Theater/59E59); Hindsight (Fault Line Theater). Other theatre credits: One Night, P*ssyC*ck Know Nothing, Marjana and the Forty Thieves, Pay No Attention To The Girl (Target Margin Theater). Design for Stage and Film MFA– New York University Tisch School of the Arts. www.dinae.me

PAMILA Z. GRAY, Lighting Design

PAMILA Z. GRAY (Lighting Design) designed TheatreWorks productions of Nan and the Lower Body, Ragtime, Tuck Everlasting, Bridges of Madison County, Confederates, Cyrano, Once on This Island, Sense and Sensibility, The Light in the Piazza, Tinyard Hill, Baby Taj, My Ántonia, Kept, and A Civil War Christmas, among others. Her work on Bingo! The Musical was seen in Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, and the Bay Area’s Center REP. Her designs have also been seen in Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, Houston, Dallas, and Washington, DC. She has won 7 Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards including her TheatreWorks designs for Grey Gardens, Floyd Collins, Cabaret, and Almost September, which also garnered a Bay Area Drama-Logue Award. She has won four Dean Goodman Awards, including both Ragtime and The Cripple of Inishmaan at TW. Ms. Gray is a graduate of Northwestern University.


ELTON BRADMAN (Sound Design ) is a composer/sound designer whose 2022-2023 credits include world premieres (Lear at California Shakespeare Theatre and Mindplay at the Geffen Playhouse), six productions for Oakland Theater Project, as well as shows at Z Space, South Coast Rep, UC Riverside, Pioneer Theatre Company, and Aurora Theatre Company. Other recent adventures include teaching an undergraduate sound design course and co-writing a musical adaptation of beloved children’s book Giraffes Can’t Dance. Stop by and say hello at eltonsounds.com!


TORANGE YEGHIAZARIAN (Cultural Consultant) is the Founding Artistic Director Emeritus of Golden Thread Productions, the first American theatre company devoted to the Middle East. Torange’s plays include Isfahan Blues, 444 Days, The Fifth String: Ziryab’s Passage to Cordoba, and Call Me Mehdi. Her articles on contemporary theatre in Iran have been published in The Drama Review (2012), American Theatre Magazine (2010), and Theatre Bay Area Magazine (2010). She has contributed to the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures and Cambridge World Encyclopedia of Stage Actors. Born in Iran and of Armenian heritage, Torange holds a Masters degree in Theatre Arts from San Francisco State University.

JANEL MILEY, French Canadian Dialect Coach

JANEL MILEY (French Canadian Dialect Coach) coached TheatreWorks mainstage productions of The 39 Steps and The Language Archive, as well as Born in East Berlin for the New Works Festival. She has served as a Dialect/Text coach for productions at theatres and universities across the country, including Twelfth Night at University of Evansville, Spamalot at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Erik Ehn’s adaptation of Mother Courage and Her Children at West Virginia University. Ms. Miley holds an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She currently teaches voice and speech at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a member of AEA, Voice and Speech Trainers Association, and a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.

SARAH SHIPPOBOTHAM, Persian Dialect Coach

SARAH SHIPPOBOTHAM (Persian Dialect Coach) is an actor, dialect coach, intimacy consultant, and Professor in Acting and Dialects at the University of Utah. Sarah trained as a Voice and Dialect Coach at The Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Her work as Dialect Coach for Pioneer Theatre Co. includes Fireflies, Once, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Oslo, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Last Ship, and Oliver! Other Dialect/Voice coaching credits include eighteen seasons with the Shaw Festival (Canada), and shows for Salt Lake Acting Company including Sleeping Giant and Passing Strange. 2011/12 Sarah spent 7 months in New Zealand working as a Dialect Coach on The Hobbit films.

MAYA HERBSMAN, Intimacy Coordinator

MAYA HERBSMAN (Intimacy Coordinator) is an award-winning Middle Eastern Ohlone Land-based intimacy professional and educator. Maya has been the first intimacy professional at theaters across Northern California including Berkeley Rep, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, San Francisco Playhouse, Shotgun Players, Golden Thread Productions, Z Space, Cutting Ball Theater, Crowded Fire Theater, San Francisco Opera and more. Her work has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, J Magazine, and HowlRound. She is currently on faculty at American Conservatory Theater, The Urban School of San Francisco, and Stanford University. Recent Theatreworks credits include Sense and Sensibility, Ragtime, and Nan and the Lower Body.

JUDITH NIHEI, Artist Counselor

JUDITH NIHEI (Artist Counselor) is a San Francisco-based licensed psychotherapist in private practice. She has been a theatre director, dramaturg, writer, actor, and administrator. A founding member of Seattle’s Northwest Asian American Theatre, she returned home to work with San Francisco’s Asian American Theatre Company and began a long career in improv with The Committee. She consults for schools, nonprofits and community-based organizations, facilitating the incorporation of stress-reduction and cultural humility as an integral part of trauma-informed services. Clients have included Edgewood Center for Children and Families, Japanese Community Youth Council, and Theatre Communications Group, Inc. She continues her improv career as one of The Bad Aunties.

JEFFREY LO, Casting Director

JEFFREY LO (Casting Director) is TheatreWorks’ Casting Director and Literary Manager, and has previously directed TheatreWorks’ productions of Little Shop of Horrors, The Language Archive, and The Santaland Diaries. A Filipino-American director and playwright, his additional directing credits include Vietgone and The Great Leap at Capital Stage, The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin and Hold These Truths at San Francisco Playhouse, and Between Riverside and Crazy at San Jose Stage Co. He is the first recipient of TheatreWorks’ Susan Fairbrook Playwright Fund for emerging playwrights, the Leigh Weimers Emerging Artist Award, the Arts Council Silicon Valley Emerging Artist Laureate, and Theatre Bay Area Director’s TITAN Award. In addition to his work on stage, Mr. Lo does work nationally promoting equity, diversity, inclusion, and access in the arts. He is a graduate of the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute and a proud alumnus of the UC Irvine Drama Department. JeffreyWritesAPlay.com


TAYLOR MCQUESTEN (Stage Manager, she/her) works internationally as a stage and tour manager, electrician, and stuntwoman. Select credits include ten seasons at Tony Award-winning TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (Resident Stage Manager), Production Stage Manager for Lizard Boy, Tour Manager for Evan Rachel Wood and Zane Carney’s band EVAN+ZANE, SF Sketchfest (Assistant Technical Director), California Shakespeare Theater (Production Electrician), Legion A/V (Head of Lighting), Playfaire Productions (Swordswoman), The Independent SF (Lighting Designer), Highlander Films (Production Assistant), American Conservatory Theater, Center REP, Cabrillo Stage, Hillbarn Theatre, and Magic Theatre. She also trains historic mêlée weapons at Davenriche European Martial Arts School under master swordsman, Sir Steáphen Fick.

EMILY ANDERSON WOLF, Assistant Stage Manager

EMILY ANDERSON WOLF (Assistant Stage Manager) has been the Assistant Stage Manager for TheatreWorks’ Little Shop of Horrors, Archduke, Frost/Nixon, Fun Home, Crimes of the Heart, Jane Austen’s Emma, Triangle, Fire on the Mountain, Peter and the Starcatcher, Sweeney Todd, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Little Women, and Other Desert Cities. She was also the Assistant Stage Manager for threesixty Entertainment’s First National Tour of Peter Pan; Journey to the West at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and with American Musical Theatre of San Jose. Ms. Wolf also works as a stagehand throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and is a proud member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. She holds a BA in Theatre, Cum Laude from Mount Holyoke College.

TIM BOND, Artistic Director

TIM BOND (Artistic Director) joined TheatreWorks as Artistic Director in July 2020. He made his TheatreWorks directorial debut in 2021 with August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean,  followed by this season's Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer. He is a nationally-known director and educator with past leadership roles as Producing Artistic Director at Syracuse Stage, Associate Artistic Director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Artistic Director at Seattle Group Theatre, and tenured full Professor and Head of the Professional Actor Training Program at the University of Washington School of Drama. Over the last 37 years, Tim has directed at many theatres including the Market Theatre, Baxter Theatre Centre, Guthrie Theater, Seattle Rep, Milwaukee Rep, The Wilma Theater, Arena Stage, GEVA Theatre Center, Cleveland Play House, Indiana Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, PCPA, Arizona Theatre Co., Portland Center Stage, Dallas Theater Center, A Contemporary Theatre, Empty Space Theatre, Paul Robeson Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre. He is the recipient of two Backstage West Garland Awards, two Syracuse Area Live Theatre (SALT) Awards, and a Dallas-Fort Worth Critics Forum Award.

DEBBIE CHINN, Executive Director

DEBBIE CHINN (Executive Director, she/her) joined TheatreWorks as Executive Director in November 2022. Over the past 30 years, Debbie has held C-suite leadership positions at Anna Deavere Smith Projects, Opera Parallèle, Carmel Bach Festival, California Shakespeare Theater, Baltimore’s Center Stage, and Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. Debbie is a board member of Playwrights Foundation, San Francisco Community Music Center, the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, and is on the Advisory Council and on the EDI Committee of West Edge Opera. She most recently served as Board Chair of Theatre Bay Area. On a national level, she has been appointed to the Leadership Council of the National Small Business Association.Her book, Dancing in Their Light, published March 2022, chronicles her family’s historical connection to the missionaries of China and of the pioneering impact her family of immigrants have made to advance the fields of research, science, medicine, academia, engineering, arts, humanities, and culinary hospitality in the United States. Debbie was the creative consultant for writer William Kinsolving on the development of his new musical, That Week With The Bachs, which was presented at the Spacious Grace Festival in the nave of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco in February 2023. debbiechinn.com


Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts