'What Do the Women Say' Event Showcases Middle Eastern Women on Stage (March 8)

"What Do the Women Say?" is a wonderful event celebrating International Women's Day and hosted by Golden Thread Productions, America's only theater company dedicated to staging plays from and about the Middle East. The event will showcase the work of Middle Eastern women artists on Friday, March 8 at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, CA. Here is the line-up:

Layla Modirzadeh joins Minneapolis-based playwright, Kathryn Haddad and Bay Area hip hop artist, Tru Bloo in celebrating the poetry and performance of Middle Eastern women artists. Modirzadeh performs her solo-con-puppet comedy, "Lubbock or Leave It!: exploring themes of home and nationalism through satire. Haddad shares excerpts from her futuristic super hero play, "Zafira the Olive Oil Warrior." And commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Iraq Invasion, Tru Bloo performs poetry from the recently published anthology, "Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here," a tribute to Baghdad’s famous Bookseller’s Street.

This event is sponsored by WomenArts/Swan Day.

"Lubbock or Leave It!" is the story of Iranian New Yorker Leyla when she accepts a job teaching college in the most conservative town in the US: Lubbock, Texas! Set against a backdrop of American fundamentalism, Leyla and her canine cohort Daisy (played by a hand puppet) learn some hard lessons about xenophobia, nationalism, and dislocation.

"Zafira the Olive Oil Warrior" tells the futuristic story of a homeless Arab American schoolteacher turned superhero. She relives her experiences in an internment camp for Arabs and Muslims as she imagines herself victorious and powerful despite an increasingly hostile and ultra-nationalistic environment that has cast Arabs as enemies of the state.

Edited by San Franciso poet, Beau Beausoleil and Palestinian writer, Deema Shehabi, "Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts" Here is a collection of poetry and essays in response to the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. It features Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, Iraq’s preeminent modern poet, in addition to Mahmoud Darwish, Majid Naficy, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Natalie Handal. Local poets Julie Bruck, Dima Hilal, Elmaz Abinader and Deema Shehabi are also featured among others.

For tickets go to http://lapena.org/

Artists’ Biographies:

Kathryn Haddad is a Lebanese-American writer, teacher, and community organizer. She founded Mizna – one of the few Arab American Arts and literary organizations in the United States where she served as its Artistic and Executive Director for twelve years. Kathryn is a 2004 – 05 recipient of an Archibald Bush Leadership Fellowship for her work with the Arab American community. As a writer, she has received three Playwright’s Center Many Voices Fellowships, and has had several plays produced in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Area, including a staged reading of With Love from Gaza (1992), at Intermedia Arts, The Arab’s in my Head (1994) at Theater Mu’s New Eyes Festival, With Love from Ramallah (co-written with Juliana Pegues, produced by Mizna, and staged at Mixed Blood Theater) (2004), and Zafira the Olive Oil Warrior (2011) at Pangea World Theater. Kathryn has worked full time as a public school teacher since 1991.

Leyla Modirzadeh* is an Iranian-American writer, performer, and educator. She has acted in theatres across the country including Wisdom Bridge Theatre, (Chicago), A Contemporary Theatre, The Group Theatre, (Seattle), The Kennedy Center, (DC), and New York Theatre Workshop. Most recently, Lubbock or Leave It! performed in New York City at the Plus One Solo Festival, Dixon Place, and The Here Space. Over the last 17 years, she toured and collaborated with Obie Award winning theatre artist Ping Chong. Her animated and experimental films have been screened at national and international festivals (www.twolittleheads.com). She received her BA from UC Berkeley, MFA in Acting from University of Washington, MFA in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute, and trained at Second City in Chicago. Her most recent publication is a contributing chapter about documentary theatre in the book Arts Education for Social Justice: A Way Out of No Way published by Routledge Books. *Appears courtesy of Actors Equity

Tru Bloo is a Lebanese-Armenian hip hop-poetry fusion emcee, percussionist, composer, cultural and justice worker. A music prodigy, Tru studied classical guitar and music theory as a young adolescent and won her first poetry slam at age 15. As half of the hip hop duo, NaR (fire, in Arabic), Tru performed at national and international festivals. Experience Tru’s eclectic music and powerful poetry at her official website, therealtrubloo.com

Started in 1909 in the U.S., International Women’s Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

Founded in 1996, Golden Thread Productions is dedicated to exploring Middle Eastern cultures and identities as expressed around the globe. We present alternative perspectives of the Middle East by developing and producing theatrical work that is aesthetically varied and politically and viscerally engaging, while supporting countless Middle Eastern artists in all phases of their careers. Our mission is to make the Middle East a potent presence on the American stage and also to make theatre a treasured cultural experience within Middle Eastern communities. We build cultural bridges by engaging the community in an active dialogue and facilitating collaborations among artists of diverse backgrounds with the aim of creating a world where the common human experience supersedes cultural and political differences.

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