Posted by Suzanne Kai - on Sunday, 12 March 2023

By Suzanne Joe Kai and Martha Shaw Hollywood March 12, 2023 Everything Everywhere All at Once wins Best Picture!  Nominated for an astounding 11 awards and taking home 7 that night, this film and its historic implications are epic.  Michelle Yeoh is the first Asian actress to win the Best Actress award for her role in the most nominated film "Everything, Everywhere All At Once."  A film industry veteran, Yeoh, 60, received great praise for her role and during her...

Desipina & Co. Presents Pooja Kumar, Sunkrish Bala, Joe Petrilla, Eileen Rivera, Jon Norman Schneider & Rajeev Varma in Rehana Lew Mirza’s Barriers at HERE, 9/7-18

Posted by Lia Chang on Tuesday, 23 August 2011.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11th tragedy, and to celebrate their tenth season Desipina & Co. – a fusion arts company focusing in film and theatre, dedicated to promoting cross-pollinations of artistic, political and cultural dialogues – will present BARRIERS, a play by Rehana Lew Mirza (THE GOOD MUSLIM) about a South Asian family’s loss from the 9/11 attacks and the backlash they endure, featuring a cast that includes Pooja Kumar (Miss India USA 1995, “Hiding Divya”) and Sunkrish Bala (ABC-TV’s “Notes from the Underbelly”). Previews of BARRIERS will begin Wednesday, September 7 prior to an official opening date of September 9 at HERE (145 6th Avenue, enter on Dominick, 1 block south of Spring Street) in New York.

Rehana Lew Mirza’s play BARRIERS takes place four months after the 9/11 attacks and focuses on the Chinese/Pakistani Abbas family and the loss of their eldest son Nabhil who had been in the World Trade Center during the attack. When Sunima, the Abbas’s only daughter, comes home to announce her pending engagement to a white man – she finds her joyful news lost in a mire of household problems and quickly becomes trapped in the shared family loss that was never dealt with. As this multi-cultural family begins to fragment, they begin to piece together the past each one hides, and the future they all share.

Originally mounted in 2002 at HERE and then subsequently co-produced with the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2003, BARRIERS is returning to the stage to look back on the ten-year anniversary of the September 11th tragedy.

Directed by Colette Robert, BARRIERS features a cast that includes: Pooja Kumar, Sunkrish Bala, Joe Petrilla, Eileen Rivera, Jon Norman Schneider and Rajeev Varma. BARRIERS is an Equity approved showcase.

BARRIERS is produced by Ying Le for Desipina & Co. and has a design team that includes Katherine Akiko Day (set and costume design), Colin Whitely (sound design), and Marie Yokoyama (lighting design).

BARRIERS is a part of HEREstay, HERE’s curated rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as technical and administrative support.

Rehana Lew Mirza’s full-length plays include BARRIERS (HERE; Asian American Theater Company, SF); THE GOOD MUSLIM (Theater Row); RADIO DIARIES OF HANK, YANK, & PRANK; PARTICLES OF PAKISTAN (E.S.T. Sloan Commission); if it’s sad i don’t want to see it (O’Neill semi-Finalist) and LONELY LEELA. She was the 2010 IAAC playwright in residence at The Lark Development Center, a 2008-2010 TCG Future Leader fellow with New Georges, a Leopold Schepp scholar, a 2G Resident Artist, LMCC artist grantee, John Golden Award winner, Princess Grace finalist, and a Sundance Feature Film Lab finalist. She is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Desipina & Co.

Colette Robert’s recent directing credits include: PLUCK & TENACITY (Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival Winner), SERIAL.BLACK.FACE (The Culture Project/Women Center Stage), when last we flew (FringeNYC– winner of Fringe Excellence Awards in Playwriting and Performance, Fringe Encore series, GLAAD Media Award– Outstanding Off-Off-Broadway Play), and STOCKTON (EST/Youngblood).

Pooja Kumar was crowned Miss India USA in 1995. In 2003, she received the Screen Actors Guild Emerging Actress Award for her role in the film “Flavors.” Her other credits include: “Hiding Divya,” “Park Sharks,” “Bollywood Beats,” and “Anything For You.”

Sunkrish Bala was recently seen on ABC TV’s “Notes from the Underbelly.” His other credits include guest starring roles on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “My Name is Earl,” “CSI: NY,” “Bones,” etc. Sunkrish will be seen in MTV’s upcoming comedy series “I Just Want My Pants Back,” slated to premiere in January 2012.

Joe Petrilla most recently played Hamlet at Webster Hall. He has performed at the Cell, Metropolitan Playhouse, Ensemble Studio Theater, Galapagos Art Space, and as part of the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab. He co-starred in the film “The House is Burning,” a debut at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, playing opposite Oscar-winner Melissa Leo.

Eileen Rivera’s credits include: THE ENCOUNTER (Diverse City), ROSA LOSES HER FACE (Queens Theater in the Park), BEAST (NYTW), PLEASE DON’T EAT THE DAISIES (workshop, La Jolla Playhouse), SIDES: THE FEAR IS REAL (Culture Project), DOGEATERS (Public/NYSF), etc.

Jon Norman Schneider

Jon Norman Schneider

Jon Norman Schneider’s credits include: Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them (Actors Theater of Louisville, Humana), A PLAY ON WAR, BLIND MOUTH SINGING (NAATCO), CHING CHONG CHINAMAN (Pan Asian Rep), QUEENS BOULEVARD (the musical) (SIGNATURE), DURANGO (Public), THUNDER ABOVE DEEPS BELOW (2G), etc.

Rajeev Varma created New Zealand’s first Indo-Asian theatre company, The Untouchables Collective, in 2003. Raj was a lead in New Zealand’s first Prime Time Indo-Asian sketch comedy show, “1000 Apologies.” Other credits include “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Young Hercules” and “Cleopatra 2525.”

BARRIERS and Desipina & Co. programs are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the Asian Women’s Giving Circle, the Nancy Quinn Fund (a project of ART/NY), Off Broadway Angels, and Dramatists Guild Fund.

Desipina & Co. is a not-for-profit fusion arts company focusing in film and theatre and dedicated to promoting cross-pollinations of artistic, political, and cultural dialogues. Co-founded by sisters Rehana Lew Mirza and Rohi Mirza Pandya, Desipina & Co. exists to acknowledge the unique differences that exist within the Asian-American communities; to promote understanding and to blur the self-imposed boundaries placed upon the vastly diverse minority group that makes up a growing percentage of the current US population.

The first performance of BARRIERS, on September 7th, will be a benefit performance with post-performance discussion and reception presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) and Desipina.

Scheduled September 7 through September 18, performances of BARRIERS will run Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm and 7:00pm (exception: no 7:00pm performance on Sunday, September 18). The two performances on Sunday, September 11th (at 2pm and 7pm) will be “pay what you can” with part of the proceeds going to support The Neil G. Shastri Foundation (, an educational foundation named in honor of a September 11th victim who was of South Asian heritage. Tickets are $18 general admission. BARRIERS will be performed at HERE 145 6th Ave. (Enter on Dominick, 1 Block South of Spring).

Tickets & Information at: or call 212-352-3101.

For more information on BARRIERS or Desipina & Co., please visit

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

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