To increase the impact of our vitally important work Golden Thread commissions new plays and facilitates innovative collaborations. We accept unsolicited play submissions by playwrights of Middle Eastern heritage as well as anyone writing about the Middle East. We actively research and sometimes contribute to the sorely limited pool of Middle Eastern plays in English translation. In the past fifteen years, we have premiered more than 60 new plays most of them by new playwrights or those rarely produced in the US.
Inspired by the process of alchemy, Kimia facilitates the creation of new plays through innovative collaborations and artistic exchange. By highlighting unexpected connections and/or sharing inspiring literary gems, we invite artists to explore uncommon themes and topics.
Golden Thread’s first collaboratively created play was Love Missile, an anti-war musical developed by Hal Gelb, Torange Yeghiazarian and puppeteer Janaki Ranpura. Johannes Mager composed the original score and Norman Gee directed. Other Kimia projects include Benedictus, a collaboration of Iranian, Israeli and American artists exploring the political stalemate among their nations. The collaborative team was comprised of playwright Motti Lerner, director Mahmood Karimi Hakak, dramaturge and co-producer Roberta Levitow, set designer Danny Michaelson and producer Torange Yeghiazarian. In addition to its world premiere in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2007, Benedictus was staged at Theater J in DC and has received numerous readings around the country. Inspired by the Sufi fable, When the Waters Were Changed, Ecstasy | a waterfable by Denmo Ibrahim was developed through an ensemble generative process. Evren Odcikin directed; Vince Delgado and Roman Kosins composed the original score performed live by Roman and the ensemble which included Bobak Bakhtiari, Deborah Eliezer, Max Koknar, Cec Levinson, Garth Petal, Nora El Samahy, Alika Spencer and Heidi Wolff. Additional development ensemble members included Madeline Brown, Wesley Cabral, Ryan Eggensperger, Matthew Lowe, Nicole Lungerhausen, Rami Margron, Emily Morrison, Sara Razavi, Christopher W. White and Torange Yeghiazarian.
Middle East America
Middle East America: A National New Plays Initiative is a first-of-its-kind tri-coastal collaboration involving San Francisco’s Golden Thread Productions, New York’s Lark Play Development Center, and Chicago’s Silk Road Rising. This initiative was designed to encourage and support the development of Middle Eastern American playwrights and Middle Eastern American plays, of the highest artistic caliber, and to enrich the canon of American dramatic literature. We aim to challenge both the lack of representation and the one-dimensional stereotypical representation of persons of Middle Eastern descent on America’s stages. The goal of this initiative is to provide additional opportunities for writers of Middle Eastern backgrounds, to expand cultural representation of Middle Eastern Americans, and to integrate Middle Eastern American plays into the American theatre repertoire. The program offers $10,000 plus development and production opportunities to a playwright of Middle Eastern American heritage to write a new play.
The first MEA prize was awarded to Adriana Sevahn Nichols to create Night Over Erzinga which was premiered by Golden Thread in San Francisco in 2011 under the direction of Hafiz Karmali, original score by Penka Kuneva; and by Silk Road Rising in Chicago in 2012. Second and third awards were granted to Yussef El Guindi and Mona Mansour.
On September 2010, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 49% of Americans held an unfavorable view of Islam, a significant increase from 39% in October of 2002. To positively shift America’s perception of Islam, Golden Thread launches Islam 101, an initiative to develop and tour dynamic and entertaining performances inspired by Islamic art and philosophy. Through this work, we also reach out to Muslim communities with thoughtful performances that are identity-affirming. By bringing both communities together at performances, we create opportunities for interaction and dialogue among communities that may otherwise rarely interact in the same cultural setting.
While education and community-building are important goals of Islam 101, artistic excellence and innovation is of paramount importance. The first play in the series, Rumi X 7 = Tales from the Masnavi, premiered in November 2011 fuses classical Persian poetry with circus arts and commedia dell arte. The seven-member ensemble is culturally diverse (Iranian, Tajik, Turkish, Italian, Greek) and aesthetically distinct including professional clowns, classically-trained dancers, acrobats, ensemble actors and musicians. The director, Hafiz Karmali is noteworthy in combining classical theatre training (Carnegie Mellon and ART) with Islamic philosophy (Sorbonne) with field work experience in Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Together, this exciting troupe has created an eclectic performance based on seven stories from Rumi’s Masnavi that will tour in 2012 and 2013.
The second play in the series, The Fifth String: Ziryab’s Passage to Cordoba is based on the colorful character and life of Ziryab, the 9th-century musician and cultural guru. Credited with transporting Persian and Arabic music to Andalucía, Ziryab left Baghdad in 850’s and settled in Cordoba where he established a conservatory of music, later run by his daughter, and became a leading figure in fashion, cuisine and court culture. Some historians credit Ziryab with developing Flamenco music; he added a fifth string to the oud (lute), the predecessor of the guitar, and was renowned for his singing voice and vocal harmonies. Ziryab’s immigration and accomplishments will be at the heart of the story as will Cordoba’s significant role as a cultural magnet and art/philosophy incubator. Typical of Golden Thread’s theatrical approach, parallels will be drawn to contemporary concepts and happenings. The versatile cast is nimble; excellent at improvising and audience interaction, practices common to popular performance traditions in the Middle East and Europe. The Fifth String is slated to premiere in San Francisco in fall 2013.