SAN FRANCISCO—Golden Thread Productions takes a radical turn this fall by introducing Bay Area audiences to two new irreverent performances that challenge expectations of Middle Eastern art and artists. Winner of the New York and Toronto Fringe Festivals in 2012, “Mahmoud” by Tara Grammy is a hilarious solo performance co-written and directed by Tom Arthur Davis that takes an exacting look at racism against Middle Eastern immigrants, and homophobia within immigrant communities. From Toronto’s Saboteur Productions, “Dear Armen” by Kamee Abrahamian and Lee Williams Boudakian is an audience-interactive performance with live music by Haig Ashod Beylerian that interrogates conventional heteronormativity through an integration of traditional Armenian dance, erotic performance, and spoken word.
Each performance is one hour long, and will run for two weeks only. “Mahmoud” runs October 16 – 26; “Dear Armen” runs October 30 – November 9 at the Thick House (1695 18th St., San Francisco). Opening nights are Fridays, October 17 and October 31. General admission is $25, and $20 for students, and seniors, and TBA members.
Golden Thread’s Founding Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian says: “A new wave of Middle Eastern artists with performances that push boundaries is taking cities like London, Berlin, and Toronto by storm. It’s about time San Francisco caught up with all the excitement and I’m thrilled for Golden Thread to introduce these vital new international voices to Bay Area audiences.”
Winner of numerous awards including Best of Fringe (Toronto 2012) and Overall Excellence in a Solo Show (New York Fringe 2012), “Mahmoud” is a one-woman show about an aging Iranian engineer-cum- taxi driver, a fabulously gay Spaniard, and a young Iranian-Canadian girl, all trying to get by the day-to-day grind in a big metropolitan city.
“Iranian-born Grammy offers an exuberant, hyper-polished, pitch-and-rhythm-perfect sojourn within the lives of three disparate Toronto immigrants,” explains Julio Martinez from Arts in LA. “The highlight of this production is the taxi ride argument between adult Tara, who has had the privilege of enjoying many visits to modern-day Iran, and Mahmoud, who hasn’t seen his home country for more than a quarter century.”
“Davis stages the scene to haunting effect. It is achingly poignant that long-suffering Mahmoud cannot appreciate this young woman’s transcendence over history, while Tara cannot express empathy for the self-built wall of terror that permanently places Mahmoud in exile.”
“Dear Armen” follows the story of a genderqueer writer and student, Garo, as they study the life and work of Armen Ohanian, an enigmatic Armenian performer and survivor of the early 20th-century anti-Armenian pogroms in Baku. As Garo grapples with the discrepancies between Ohanian’s biography and memoirs, they are forced to confront memories from the past, unraveling experiences around gender, sexuality, ethnicity, family, and the role of the artist. The creators of “Dear Armen” add, “In bringing Armen Ohanian to our protagonist Garo’s story, we give a young transgender Armenian a mentor and heroine to project their own pain of exile and exclusion onto. Armen becomes a literary friend and figure absent from the young Garo’s life, and together their poetic search for self-expression, artistic innovation, and cultural connection blend into a poetry of words, movement, and music. Our hope is to connect these stories with both Armenian and non-Armenian audiences, and in particular, to reach those who see themselves on the fringes, and who are searching for representations of themselves on the stage and in stories.”
Golden Thread Productions is the first American theatre company focused on the Middle East. The Fall 2014 Season presented at the Thick House, will also include the New Threads play-reading series: “ReOrient” 2015 Sneak Peak (9/29), “The Luxor Express” by Daria Polatin (10/6), “Isfahan Blues” by Torange Yeghiazarian (10/13), “Sabra Falling” by Ismail Khalidi (10/20), and “Baghdad Wedding” by Hassan Abdulrazzak (10/27). Golden Thread will continue its long-standing history of staging surprising and rarely seen perspectives in American theatre by bringing back “The Fifth String: Ziryab’s Passage to Cordoba.” A timeless feast for the eyes, this ensemble performance with live music will run for one week at ODC in San Francisco, December 4 to 7, to close Golden Thread’s Fall 2014 Season.
Golden Thread Productions is a nationally recognized non-profit organization universally acknowledged as the leading theater company devoted to Middle Eastern voices and experiences. Founded in 1996 by Torange Yeghiazarian, Golden Thread Productions develops and produces complex and surprising plays from and about the Middle East that celebrate the multiplicity of its perspectives and identities. The company’s mission is to make the Middle East a potent presence on the American stage and to make theatre a treasured cultural experience for audiences of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
Golden Thread’s founder, Torange Yeghiazarian explains “in our vast imagination, the Middle East is defined not by geographical boundaries and political separations, but as the shared experience of the people, who throughout history have been touched by its tales, melodies and aromas. The Middle East lives inside us, as we redefine ourselves, we redefine the Middle East.”
In 2013, Golden Thread was recognized by American Theatre Wing, the producers of the Tony Awards, for its important work in the national theatre scene, and was featured in the Bay Area in ABC 7’s Profiles of Excellence for its work in the local community.