Featuring voices from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, England, and the U.S., Golden Thread's ReOrient 2012 Festival and Forum once again promises to turn San Francisco into a Mecca for innovative, spirited, and thought-provoking theatre from and about the Middle East. The ReOrient 2012 plays are diverse in style and content from writers with remarkably different backgrounds. The playwrights include MacArthur "Genius" Award winner Naomi Wallace, Middle East America Award winner and recipient of 2012 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Circle Best New Play Award Yussef El Guindi, leading modernist Egyptian playwright Tawfiq al-Hakim, winner of the William Saroyan Prize Silva Semerciyan, and local writers Elizabeth Benedict and Farzam Farrokhi. ReOrient 2012 performs in two series: Series A runs today, November 1-18, 2012 at Noh Space (2840 Mariposa St., San Francisco) and Series B runs for only two special performances November 16 and 17, 2012, at Z Space (450 Florida Street, San Francisco). Tickets for the festival are $20 (discounts available) and can be purchased at goldenthread.org.
"ReOrient proposes a conversation among the plays, and with the audience. This year's lineup questions conventional notions of identity, conflict, and even peace;" Golden Thread Founding Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian explains. "ReOrient is the only place you can encounter the diversity and richness of the Middle Eastern experience and the many ways the United States is an integral part of it."
Over its past 10 incarnations, the ReOrient Festival has emerged as a unique and much-needed medium to facilitate an exchange with the Middle East. San Francisco Bay Guardian has said about the festival: "The annual cavalcade of short plays about the Middle East that has itself provided, in addition to a dependable variety of aesthetic pleasures, crucial space for public consideration and dialogue."
Following its successful launch in 2009, ReOrient Forum-a special weekend of artistic conversation, networking and exchange-also returns November 17–18, 2012, at Z Space (450 Florida Street, San Francisco). Acclaimed author and distinguished scholar of Middle Eastern studies and comparative literature, Professor Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University will kick off the Forum with a keynote address. This year's Forum features provocative panel discussions on topics such as "The Arab Spring and Its Dramatic Reverberations," "Engaged Performance: Building Dialogue Through Artistic Exchange," "From 'War on Drugs' to 'War on Terror': Parallels in Latino/Chicano and Middle Eastern American Performance," and "Comedic Counter Terrorism." Performances include a staged reading of Yussef El Guindi's Mummy and the Revolution, the winner of the current Middle East America Award, and the Golden Thread Fairytale Players production of Rumi x 7 directed by Hafiz Karmali, a family friendly circus extravaganza based on the poetry of the universal Sufi poet Rumi. ReOrient Theatre Festival and Forum will close with a special concert by Bay Area saxophonist, Hafez Modirzadeh and Friends, followed by a reception. Panels and the staged reading are free and open to the public. Tickets are $20 (discounts available) for Rumi x 7 and $30 (discounts available) for the Closing Concert (discounts available) and can be purchased at goldenthread.org.
"As the Middle East goes through sweeping changes, we hunger for deeper understanding of the driving forces and how theatre informs and reflects the process," explains Torange Yeghiazarian. "The Forum is an opportunity to hear directly from Middle Eastern artists about their recent experiences, as well as explore unexpected bonds and shared strategies."
ReOrient Forum panel discussions and presentations will be live-streamed on #NewPlay TV, a program of Center for the Theater Commons / HowlRound.com. On Saturday, November 17, Series B performances will be followed by a Q&A session with featured playwrights from Iran and Iraq via the internet. As part of Golden Thread's thriving educational program, ReOrient 2012 will feature two student outreach performances of Series A on November 9 and 16 at Noh Space, and of Rumi x 7 on November 15 at Z Space. In addition, a ReOrient play contest for high school students is conducted; three winners will receive staged readings during the Forum.
ReOrient Forum is presented in partnership with Theatre Bay Area, Z Space, Playwrights Foundation, Theatre Without Borders, Theatre Communications Group, Lark Play Development Center, Silk Road Rising, freeDimensional, Hybrid Theatre Works, University of San Francisco Performance and Social Justice Department, and UC Berkeley Center for Middle Eastern Studies.