SAN FRANCISCO — Golden Thread Productions, the first American theatre company devoted to the Middle East, is presenting its biennial signature program: ReOrient 2017 Festival of Short Plays featuring plays and artists from Armenia, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the U.S. all on one stage.
Think you know the Middle East? Think again. An Arab-American couple must choose a name for their unborn child. A troupe of actors rehearse a political play under the watchful eye of the government. A leftie Iranian-American and a Trump supporter find themselves together at a Thanksgiving dinner. These are just some of the stories of ReOrient 2017 will perform November 17-December 10 at Potrero Stage (formerly Thick House, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco) Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. (No performance on Thanksgiving Thursday, November 23). Opening night is Monday, November 20, at 8 p.m.
“Nowhere else in the US, and certainly not anywhere in the Middle East, will you be able to find such a diverse collection of plays from and about the Middle East on one stage,” founding artistic director Torange Yeghiazarian explains. “As Washington promotes fear and an isolationist superior stance, programs like ReOrient that present nuanced narratives and accessible human stories, are essential in shifting the conversation to our shared vulnerabilities.”
This year’s festival presents seven eclectic world premiere short plays as one evening of theatre. The ReOrient 2017 playwrights, who were selected by a panel of theatre luminaries from 79 submissions from 14 countries, include three local playwrights: Palestinian-American playwright Betty Shamieh, E.H. Benedict, whose “Orhan” was part of ReOrient 2012, and Torange Yeghiazarian. Also returning to ReOrient is Palestinian-Irish playwright Hannah Khalil, whose “Bitterenders” was a favorite from ReOrient 2015. New to the festival are emerging Turkish-American playwright Melis Akerand Arab-Armenian-American Sevan K. Greene, whose full-length “Stuff” was presented as part of the New Threads staged reading series in 2016. Rounding out the line-up is Japanese-American poet Junichi P. Semitsu, whose beautiful poem “Shelter” will be adapted to a soundscape by Yeghiazarian and sound designer James Ard.
ReOrient, now produced every two years, is Golden Thread’s signature program and is a hugely ambitious undertaking for this intrepid theatre company with this year’s festival is employing 33 artists. The ReOrient 2017 directors include Golden Thread veterans Erin Gilley, Evren Odcikin and Sara Razavi, alongside Bay Area favorite Tunisian-American director Susannah Martin.
This year’s ReOrient Festival marks the first collaboration between Golden Thread and the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA). The partnership brings together two organizations that value challenging cultural preconceptions through provocative programming and dialogue. For ReOrient 2017, LMDA will provide a team of professional dramaturgs who bring their expertise in new play development, research, and content creation for Golden Thread’s artists and audiences. LMDA’s Regional Vice President of Metro Bay Area Nakissa Etemad serves as lead dramaturg. The team includes Anna Woodruff, who is working on Manar, and publications dramaturgs Emily DeDakis and Vidhu Singh.