Wednesday, June 12, 2019

We Are Pussy Riot in Chicago


The Hammer

I have seen
The old gods go
And the new gods come.

Day by day
And year by year
The idols fall
And the idols rise.

Today
I worship the hammer. 



We Are Pussy Riot or(everything is PR), a factual portrayal of “Pussy Riot” the Russian political activist group, is in its second week of performances at Red Tape Theatre. This Highly theatrical and informative play, performed in didactic style and guerrilla performances form, challenges the audience members with an intentional *hammer to encourage thinking instead of letting them sit back and be immersed in emotions of the story. 

In an anarchic and chaotic opening scene, with a striking 1984 George Orwellian setting, the three punk rock characters, Nadya, Katya and Masha re-enact an anti-establishment and anti-patriarchal religion act, while singing in loud, fast-paced songs accompanied by electric guitars, sharp-edged movements and short dialogue. Influenced by the Riot Grrrl Movement, the young members of the Pussy Riot group try to express their protest on crucial subjects such as: growing inequalities, social injustice, poverty, corruption, bureaucracy, dictatorship and the absence of true democracy. Their anarchism and propaganda gestures are their only instrument to protest against the authorities and challenge the lethargic societies, aiming to awaken the public to see glimpses of realities, challenging them to think, to act and react.

The satirical language combined with serious narration by Sergei, a professor of history gives the play a tinge of docudrama which brings to mind a quick glimpse of “La Commune” by prominent filmmaker Peter Watkins.

Kate Hendrickson, the director brought together a stylistic direction fitted with the nature of the play.The artistic use of theatrical elements such as shadow puppetry, various physical actions, invasion of bodies and lands, rape and giving birth scenes, work beautifully conveying the thoughts behind the play on the essence of patriarchy and tyranny. Some scenes reflect Chaplin’s the Great Dictator and others Federico Fellini’s Satyricon where male authorities repeatedly and metaphorically come out of the women’s wombs.

The real Pussy Riot group considers itself a part of the global anti-capitalist movement, and their focus is more on global economic inequality, women’s rights, LGBT rights and Trotskyist’s theory of permanent revolution. My personal hope in the play was to see deeper aspects of their activism to broaden the audiences’ perspective on broader issues. Their outrage about imperial politics, their belief in radical feminism and economic equality which bring crucial subjects to light and make the audience think globally towards the world we live in.

A true theatre encourages conversations among the audience as well as the actors, directors and playwrights. It inspires them to do a deeper research on the truth and experience the essence of actual process and tangible experience. This show truly does so. 

I was immensely impressed with the actors’ artistic talents and devotion to the show. Casey Chapman as Vladimir Putin is outstanding, resilient and realistic. Emily Nichelson, Stephanie Shum, Anne Sovenneville  Emilie Modaff and William Rose II, truly shine on the stage. Their performances range from great vocal presence, body movements to the energy and insight to engage with the audience. The production shows a strong collaboration and sincerity behind the scene and the ending is spectacular when the actors introduce themselves....

I highly recommend it.

*Bertolt Brecht: “Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Red Tape Theatre
4546 N. Western Ave.
Chicago IL 60625

By: Barbara Hammond
Director: Kate Hendrickson
Cast: Dionne Addai, Casey Chapman*, Zoë DePreta*, Jalyn Green, Nora King*, Emilie Modaff*, Emily Nichelson*, Alec Phan, Joseph Ramski*, William Rose, Stephanie Shum*, Ann Sonneville*
Producer: Amrbose Cappuccio*
Artistic Director: Max Truax*
Stage Manager: Tara Malpass
Assistant Stage Manager: Alex Oparka
Production Assistant / Props Designer: Amelia Mroczkowski
Original Music Composed and Arranged by: Emilie Modaff*, Alec Phan
Movement Director: Charlotte Long*
Scenic Designer: Chris Popio
Costume Design:  Rachel Sypniewski
Lighting Designer: David Goodman-Edberg
Sound Design: Steve Labedz*
Casting Director: Catherine Miller
Poster Design:
Bridget Schultz*
Teaser Poster Design: Joseph Ramski*
Marketing Director: Casey Chapman*
Still Photos: Austin Oie*

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Flood in Iran

Disastrous flood is devastating Iranian people and ruining their lives since Persian New Year (Norooz). It's heartbreaking to see how they struggle through this catastrophic situation...and the whole world is silent!!...as if humanity is only a forgotten word in an archaic book!



Friday, March 29, 2019

Reading in Vancouver

I will read some stories from my new collection of short stories in Vancouver in Persian.


My New Book


My new collection of short stories "The Woman Reluctantly Said Goodbye" and " A Girl called Bibi Botol Dezfuli"  is published by Mehri Publications in London.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Love

“Don't you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn't just an hour - but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands - and who knows what to do with it?”

Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

In The Blood



Written by Suzan-Lori Parks

Directed by Chika Ike

Cast: Casey Chapman*, Richard Costes, Jyreika Guest, Emilie Modaff, Kiayla Ryann*, Max Thomas


On the opening night of Friday January 25, during the show, Emily Dickinson’s definition of poetry dominated my thoughts about the power of words and the art of performance: “If I feel physically as if the top of myhead were taken off, I know that is poetry.” As a writer of epic theatre, believing in the theatre of ideas and the art of thinking,I absolutely cannot deny profound emotional engagement. I believe the main character, Hester La Negrita, the mother of five multi-racial children, is a different Mother Courage in her own unique way. As she provides and shares food with her children, plays with them and tells them stories, I’m reminded of my observations in Harlem, New York, the streets of Chicago, and real incidents in Cairns Australia and many other places. So often the truth is unseen or misjudged by many people.



Such a socially responsible play gives me hope and inspires me deeply.  That’s the way I would write plays, I would see the world, I would scream for empathy, I would communicate and I would understand and learn about human conditions.



The show began highlighting the word “Slut” on the wall. Hester’s teenage son, tries hard to wipe it out. A Billy Club which was stolen by one of her sons became a part of Hester’s identity until the end when a pair of high heeled shoes hidden in the corner of the room were revealed as part of her identity as well… A foreshadowing…





My curiosity was aroused, intellectually and emotionally.


As the play progresses, it gradually introduces the harsh reality of Hester’s illiterate, impoverished life as a single mother. Her expressions of love, sensuality and need for being acknowledged as a human being are explored through scenes with the fathers of her children. The doctor, the preacher, the first love and the ménage à trois with the social worker’s husband. The encounters with the Doctor and the reverend/preacher are the most provocative scenes. That’s where we experience explicitly how certain women are horrendously exploited; and physically and emotionally subjugated. That’s where we learn how the doctor disdains her, takes advantage of her sexually, culminating in the ultimate violation of her womanhood. Robbed of her identity she is left to endure pain through the rest of her life.



The doctor wrote SPAY on a piece of paper and looked at Hester with contempt!  I heard a fairly loud gasp of horror from an audience member behind me!


Amiga Gringa from the same ghetto, who sells her children in order to survive, constantly encourages Hester to do the same thing. She speaks humorously about how everything in capitalism is about consumerism. Everything is for selling and buying and that’s the only way to stay alive!  


In the confinement of the intimate space of the theatre, I was “so cold no fire could warm me”.



Bearing the pain through struggling, the high spirited Hester, loses her health and strength, and becomes mentally frustrated and despondent. The marriage dream scene beautifully portrays her fantasies about marriage in which her first love unexpectedly appears. That’s when she wears her high heeled shoes for the first time in her life.  Shoes she hid for a special day!
 
The play combines provocative dialogue with unique soliloquies, where the fathers of her children and the social worker/welfare lady tell their selfish truths about her and express their own situations. With shattered dreams, when her teenage son questions Hester about being a slut, her hopes are ended. That’s the time the Billy Club is used!






Chika Ike with her deep understanding of the play, is enormously successful in bringing the words into life on an intimate stage where the audience could be a part of the larger experience. The cast, most with double roles, enhanced the drama. Jyreika Guest is enchanting. She acts with a blend of Hester’s different characteristics; courage, strength, motherly expressions, honesty, sensuality, generosity and humor. Her dance like movements and the roughness at the same time make her unforgettable!

 Jyreika Guest

I believe in Red Tape Theatre! I believe in their mission in engaging people in a free exchange of ideas and their offering such socially conscious plays without the financial stress of ticket. I understand the need for such theatre from the core of my being!


Thanks to the entire crew.

Pictures are courtesy of Red Tape Theatre