Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alum Almanya Narula ’16, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting, brings her award-winning solo show Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy to Chicago on Monday, December 11, following its engagement at New York City’s 15th Annual United Solo Theatre Festival, where Narula won the award for Best Actress. The show’s Chicago premiere takes place at the Edge Theatre, located at 5451 N. Broadway in Chicago’s Edgewater/Andersonville Theatre District. Tickets for the 7 PM performance are only $10 for students and theatre artists. For tickets, click here.
Narula’s Chicago appearance is presented by the Sarah Siddons Society, an organization dedicated to funding scholarships for promising theatre arts students at top Chicago-area colleges and universities, including Columbia College, DePaul University, Roosevelt University, and Northwestern University. Narula is a 2015 Sarah Siddons Scholarship recipient.
The show brings to life the story of Noor Inayat Khan (1914-1944), a British spy who fought the Nazis and played an integral role in the Allied victory in World War II. In 1943, Khan, a children’s book author, Sufi singer, and direct descendant of the Indian emperor Tipu Sultan, became the first woman and the first Indian to be sent out as a spy and wireless operator into Nazi-occupied France under British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s orders. Her work in the field under the code name Madeleine saved many lives that were instrumental to the success of the Allied invasion of France on D-Day in 1944. But after betrayal by a double agent, Khan was caught and detained for interrogation. She never broke under torture. Following several escape attempts Khan was forced to sign a document to either declare that she was staying put or be subject to “Nacht und Nebel” (Night and Fog) — disappearance without a trace by sending the captive to a concentration camp. In this imagining of the last 30 minutes of her life, Khan — now cornered by the Nazis with nothing but death assured to her — reminds us who she is, why she matters, and why she will always be a part of history. As previously reported in this blog, Narula self-produced and starred in her one-person show at the 2022 Hollywood Fringe Festival in California.
Narula, who is Indian and Thai, was interviewed for the Chicago Reader, Chicago’s premier alternative publication, by the Reader’s theatre editor, Columbia College alum Kerry Reid ’87. In the interview Narula recounted how she first heard about Khan:
“I grew up in Thailand and my mom was operating as a single mom. She worked multiple jobs for us to survive. She was a teacher, and she’d work after school and tutor. She didn’t want me to stay home alone, so she’d tell me, ‘Go to the mall. Go to the bookstore,’ or whatever. I would go to this bookstore and most of the time I would just read comics and things like that. For some reason, that day I was compelled to open up a World War II history book.” There she found a footnote referencing Khan: “‘Indian princess, World War II British spy.’ I didn’t read much more than that because my mom came and I had to put the book away, but it just stuck in my head for years.” To read the full interview, click here.