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Middle Eastern, North African, and Southwest Asian (MENASA) Theatre

Content in this section focuses on theatre made by practitioners from the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia (MENASA), or of MENASA descent. Start with essays like “Erasing the Middle East: White Gatekeeping and the Painful Path of Progress,” “Middle Eastern America and the Theatre of Belonging,” or the report on the National Convening for Artists of Middle Eastern, North African, and Southwest Asian Descent. And don’t miss the video series of artists of Middle Eastern and North African heritage discussing their identity, work, and artistic choices.

The Latest

NO SUMMARY: Critiquing the Critics
Video
NO SUMMARY: Critiquing the Critics
The Reception of MENA Productions
Friday 11 November 2022
United States
Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival
Podcast
Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival
by Nabra Nelson, Marina J. Bergenstock, Raffi Feghali
4 October 2022
The Future Is in Culture
Essay
The Future Is in Culture
A Conversation with Iman Aoun
by Ash Marinaccio, Iman Aoun
15 September 2022
event poster for no summary Critiquing the Critics: The Reception of MENA Productions .
NO SUMMARY: Critiquing the Critics
Video

NO SUMMARY: Critiquing the Critics

The Reception of MENA Productions

Friday 11 November 2022
United States

Golden Thread presented the conversation NO SUMMARY: Critiquing the Critics: The Reception of MENA Productions  livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network on Friday 11 November 2022 at 11 a.m. PST (San Francisco, UTC -8) / 1 p.m. CST (Chicago, UTC -6) / 2 p.m. EST (New York, UTC -5).

Kunafa and Shay Teaser Image.
Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival
Podcast

Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival

4 October 2022

In this special episode, Marina and Nabra sit down with Lebanese actor, theatremakers, and peacebuilder Raffi Feghali to talk about the Buffer Fringe Festival. Buffer Fringe is an annual festival with a mission for peacebuilding and social justice, organized by Home for Cooperation and situated in the buffer zone in Cyprus. Buffer Fringe runs 7-9 October 2022, presenting three days of international, interdisciplinary, experimental performances under the theme of Pockets (beyond). Join us as we explore improv in Lebanon, experimental theatre in a geographically contentious area, and artistic curation for peacebuilding.

Four actors sit and stare at the ceiling.
The Future Is in Culture
Essay

The Future Is in Culture

A Conversation with Iman Aoun

15 September 2022

Multidisciplinary artist Ash Marinaccio sits down with the co-founder and artistic director of ASHTAR Theatre Iman Aoun to discuss this year’s ASHTAR International Youth Festival in Palestine.

Event poster for No Summary.
NO SUMMARY: Meet the Cast of The Language of Wild Berries by Naghmeh Samini
Video

NO SUMMARY: Meet the Cast of The Language of Wild Berries by Naghmeh Samini

Sheila Devitt Introduces and Interviews Cast Members of The Language of Wild Berries, a United States premiere by Naghmeh Samini

Thursday 1 September 2022
United States

Golden Thread Productions presented NO SUMMARY: Meet the Cast of The Language of Wild Berries by Naghmeh Samini livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Thursday 1 September 2022 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

event poster for NO SUMMARY: What can the wise fool Nasrudin teach us?.
NO SUMMARY: What Can the Wise Fool Nasrudin Teach Us?
Video

NO SUMMARY: What Can the Wise Fool Nasrudin Teach Us?

Bringing Middle Eastern Storytelling to Young Audiences

Friday 24 June 2022
United States

Golden Thread Productions presented NO SUMMARY: What Can the Wise Fool Nasrudin Teach Us? livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Friday 24 June 2022 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

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Season Debrief
Podcast

Season Debrief

8 June 2022

To end the season, this episode will have Marina and Nabra sitting down to tea to talk about highlights from this season and what is to come in the future.

Kunafa and Shay Teaser Image.
Balancing Comedy and Drama as a MENA Playwright
Podcast

Balancing Comedy and Drama as a MENA Playwright

With Yussef El-Guindi & Leila Buck

1 June 2022

As politicized ethnic groups, playwriting comes with a sense of responsibility and history for many MENA and SWANA writers. Balancing drama and comedy in plays that deal with MENA politics, identity, and history can be difficult, but is also crucial for inviting audiences into our stories and addressing stereotypes and historical harm. Join two prominent playwrights and pillars of the MENA community, Yussef El-Guindi and Leila Buck, as we have an open conversation about how they approach their writing and reflect on what their work means in a greater societal context.

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Multihyphenate Artists
Podcast

Multihyphenate Artists

With Denmo Ibrahim and Sarah Fahmy

25 May 2022

Artistic identities can be complicated, and many theatremakers work equally within two or more disciplines simultaneously. The most interesting work is rarely created in a vacuum. These multidisciplinary artists create diverse projects in all senses of the word, broadening our idea of what theatre can and should be. Today, two such multihyphenate artists, Denmo Ibrahim and Sarah Fahmy, converse about their multiple identities, how they reconcile and manage their myriad expertise, and the role of multihyphenate artists in today’s theatre landscape.

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Creating the Change: Featuring Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi
Podcast

Creating the Change: Featuring Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi

With Raymond Bobgan and Omar Kurdi

18 May 2022

MENA artists continue to work hard to create representation in large theatrical arenas by pushing for their work to be produced on contemporary stages. However, since some major theatres only allot 1 or 2 slots a year for plays by BIPOC artists, and MENA artists have frequently been ignored. They have found other ways to create thriving artistic spaces for actors, directors, and playwrights alike. Masrah Cleveland Al Arabi has created a space for MENA artists to thrive. This artist-led organizational infrastructure serves as an example of how change can be made within existing theatrical structures. Today we are joined by Raymond Bobgan and Omar Kurdi.

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Iranian Theatre Companies
Podcast

Iranian Theatre Companies

With Parmida Ziaei (Seda, Seattle) & Shadi Ghaheri (Peydah, NYC)

11 May 2022

In the greater conversation about MENA or SWANA identity, many national and ethnic groups do not neatly fit into that category or are in between geographic areas. One of the largest groups that are both within and without what is considered the “Middle East” is Iran. So many Iranian leaders are making intentional space for the diversity and specificity of their culture by creating companies for Iranian artists. In this episode, we highlight two Iranian theatre companies: Seda Iranian Theatre Ensemble in Seattle, WA, and Peydah Theatre Company in NYC.

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Centering Perspectives of Color in Theatre Criticism
Podcast

Centering Perspectives of Color in Theatre Criticism

With Arti Ishak and Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel

4 May 2022

For artists, getting a quality review of their show is often critical to continued success. It can make or break new plays and emerging artists. However, works by BIPOC artists have often been subjected to the white critical gaze in reviews, which has frequently not made any attempt to account for the complexity of culture outside of the reviewer’s own understanding. There has been a major push by BIPOC artists to counter the white supremacy of reviews, including who writes the critiques and what they write about. In this episode, Arti Ishak and Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel talk about their experiences as MENA artists and critics, how they negotiate the field of criticism, and what changes can and must be made to the landscape.

event poster for no summary: Tap In, Tap Out: On Dangerous Storytelling.
NO SUMMARY: Tap In, Tap Out: On Dangerous Storytelling
Video

NO SUMMARY: Tap In, Tap Out: On Dangerous Storytelling

Kholoud Nasser, theatre artist and trauma-informed therapist, hosts a conversation with intimacy coordinator Maya Herbsman and fight director Carla Pantoja

Thursday 28 April 2022
United States

Golden Thread Productions presented NO SUMMARY: Tap In, Tap Out: On Dangerous Storytelling livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Thursday 18 April 2022 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

Kunafa and Shay Teaser Image.
Community Engagement through Art and Programs
Podcast

Community Engagement through Art and Programs

With Pirronne Yousefzadeh & Lia Fakhouri

27 April 2022

Community engagement is more than a post-show talk or touring production. These two directors and administrative leaders are community engagement practitioners in everything that they do, including their artmaking and program curation. They work both as independent artists and through organizations. We will discuss the nature of community engagement as an artistic practice, how their MENA backgrounds influence their practice, and how the theatre atmosphere is or should shift to be community engaged in an authentic and equitable way.

Kunafa and Shay Teaser Image.
Site-Specific and Devised Theatre in Lebanon
Podcast

Site-Specific and Devised Theatre in Lebanon

With Sahar Assaf & Zeina Daccache

20 April 2022

Site-specific performances have the possibility to truly make all the world a stage. To produce site-specific and devised theatre performances in the United States and abroad, artists must engage with the questions of the politics of any space, what communities inhabit or use it, and who is invited into it. Sahar Assaf, a Lebanese theatremaker and the new artistic director of Golden Thread Productions, and Zeina Daccache, an actor, director, and the founder of Catharsis: Lebanese Center for Drama Therapy come together to talk about site-specific and devised theatre pieces in Lebanon, the rest of the MENA world, and the United States.

Kunafa and Shay Teaser Image.
Theatre as Advocacy/Palestinian Theatre
Podcast

Theatre as Advocacy/Palestinian Theatre

With Ahmed Masoud and Hanna Eady

13 April 2022

Theatre is a powerful tool for political and community advocacy efforts. From the stage to the streets, theatre can illuminate underheard narratives, reveal different perspectives on political events, and humanize the struggles of groups. There is a long history of theatre as a tool for advocacy in the Palestinian community in the US and abroad. In this episode, we talk to two Palestinian writers and theatremakers who have been using the art form as a way to bring awareness to the conflict in Palestine, give audiences with concrete tools for change, and provide direct relief to Palestinians internationally.

Kunafa and Shay Teaser Image.
Representation Behind the Scenes
Podcast

Representation Behind the Scenes

With Betty Shamieh & Tracy Francis

6 April 2022

Last season we talked about on-stage representation in contemporary theatre. But what does representation look like behind the scenes and why is it important? How does the process change when there are MENA creative team members, production staff, directors, and playwrights involved from the inception of a project to its closing night? What role does this representation play in new work development? We will discuss all of this and more with playwright Betty Shamieh and artistic director of Boom Arts Tracy Francis as they share their past experiences, insight, and ideas for the future.

event poster for a conversation about drowing in cairo.
Meet the Cast of Drowning in Cairo by Adam Ashraf Elsayigh
Video

Meet the Cast of Drowning in Cairo by Adam Ashraf Elsayigh

A world premiere centered on three Arab gay men trying to rebuild their lives after their arrest on a gay nightclub in 2001

Friday 25 February 2022
United States

Golden Thread presented a conversation with the cast of Drowning in Cairo by Adam Ashraf Elsayigh livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network on Friday 25 February 2022 at 11 a.m. PST (San Francisco, UTC -8) / 1 p.m. CST (Chicago, UTC -6) / 2 p.m. EST (New York, UTC -5).

event poster for no summary with headshots of artistic director Sahar Assaf and playwright Adam Ashraf Elsayigh.
NO SUMMARY: Adam Ashraf Elsayigh
Video

NO SUMMARY: Adam Ashraf Elsayigh

Sahar Assaf in conversation with playwright Adam Ashraf Elsayigh, author of Drowning in Cairo

Friday 3 December 2021
United States

Golden Thread presented NO SUMMARY with Adam Ashraf Elsayigh livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network on Friday 3 December 2021 at 11 a.m. PST (San Francisco, UTC -8) / 1 p.m. CST (Chicago, UTC -6) / 2 p.m. EST (New York, UTC -5).

event poster for menatma fall convening with group photo of MENA artists.
Middle Eastern North African Theatre Makers Alliance Fall Convening
Video

Middle Eastern North African Theatre Makers Alliance Fall Convening

Panel Conversations about Women Playwrights and Queer Artists

Saturday 6 November and Sunday 7 November 2021
United States

Middle Eastern North African Theatre Makers Alliance presented their Fall Convening livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Saturday 6 November and Sunday 7 November 2021.

event posters with speaker headshots for MENASA Women Save the Kingdom NO SUMMARY.
NO SUMMARY: MENASA Women Save the Kingdom
Video

NO SUMMARY: MENASA Women Save the Kingdom

A Conversation About Shahrazad Squad, a Project which Gathers MENASA Women/Non-binary Creatives, Cultural Producers, and Changemakers In Person and Online

Friday 29 October 2021
United States

Golden Thread presented NO SUMMARY: MENASA Women Save the Kingdom livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Friday 29 October 2021 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

event poster for artists ideas now our camp on fire.
ARTISTS/IDEAS/NOW—Our Camp on Fire
Video

ARTISTS/IDEAS/NOW—Our Camp on Fire

Looking at the Perspective of the Climate Crisis Through the Eyes of Refugees and People Under Threat of Displacement

Wednesday 13 October 2021
Liverpool, United Kingdom

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival presented ARTISTS/IDEAS/NOW—Our Camp on Fire livestreaming on the commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv Wednesday 13 October 2021 at 10 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 12 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 1 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4) / 6 p.m. BST (London, UTC +1) / 19:00 CEST (Berlin, UTC +2).

event poster with artist headshots for NO SUMMARY theatre from the streets.
NO SUMMARY: Theatre from the Streets of Palestine, India, and Venezuela
Video

NO SUMMARY: Theatre from the Streets of Palestine, India, and Venezuela

A Conversation about the International Pilot Program Aiming to Bring Forth Truthful Stories and Realities of the People of Palestine, India, and Venezuela

Friday 24 September 2021
United States

Golden Thread presented NO SUMMARY: Theatre from the Streets of Palestine, India, and Venezuela livestreaming on the commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Friday 24 September 2021 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

A woman with a blue headscarf, red shirt, and jeans sits next to a man in a brown vest, gray shirt, and tan pants on stacks of books. The man is holding a book open and both people appear to be speaking. They are in front of other piles of books with half of a chalkboard visible in the background.
Afghan Art and Advocacy
Podcast

Afghan Art and Advocacy

With Yousof Sultani

20 September 2021

On this special episode of Kunafa and Shay, Marina and Nabra are joined by actor and activist Yousof Sultani, who discusses his experiences in the theatre field as an Afghan American artist and the advocacy and community organizing he does for the people of Afghanistan.

Afghan Art and Activism Panel event poster.
Afghan Art and Activism: Panel Discussion
Video

Afghan Art and Activism: Panel Discussion

Friday 17 September 2021
Seattle, Washington, United States

Seattle Rep presents a panel discussion on Afghan art and activism livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv Friday 17 September 2021 at 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. PDT (Seattle, UTC -7) / 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 8 p.m. - 9 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

A woman in red lighting holding her iPhone as if to take a picture.
The Politics of Rebuilding Theatrical and Civic Communities: Global Autocracy, Brexit, and Racism
Essay

The Politics of Rebuilding Theatrical and Civic Communities: Global Autocracy, Brexit, and Racism

16 September 2021

Verity Healey sits down with Javaad Alipoor to discuss themes that preoccupy Alipoor as a theatremaker and political person: racism, history, Brexit, international communities, politics, and how these things come into his work and collaborations with other artists.