Where is home for the outsider? What would have happened if Duke Ellington’s right-hand man, the composer and lyricist Billy Strayhorn, went on a road trip to Isfahan with a popular Iranian actress? Golden Thread Productions joins forces with the African-American Shakespeare Company (AASC) to present the world premiere of Isfahan Blues, a new memory play from TorangeYeghiazarian inspired by Duke Ellington’s 1963 tour of Iran.
With an original score from Marcus Shelby, Isfahan Blues is what might be called—to use a musical term often employed by Ellington —a “fantasia.” It aims to shed light on a little-known historical moment when a uniquely American art form inspired generations of young Iranian musicians. What would it be like for a black musician and lyricist, inspired by the life and character of Billy Strayhorn, to leave the tour and strike out on a road trip to the legendary city of Isfahan with Bella? And what was it like for an Iranian woman in the early sixties to touch a third rail in her own culture, by insisting on her own independence?
We feature artists on BayMozaic because they improve our lives. A community or network of artists amplifies their contribution. Golden Thread Productions exemplifies the tradition of Bay Area art community-building through its 20 years of performances and arts advocacy here, nationally and in the Middle East. While politics may find their way in its myriad productions, Golden Thread aims “to create a world where the common human experience supersedes cultural and political differences.”
Together, Golden Thread and the AASC bring two communities together. This is the first time that AASC is producing an original play that is not part of the classical canon/repertoire. The joint project plays against heightened diplomacy between the US and Iran and against national events underscoring the racial divide in the US. Both collaborating institutions have a track record of confronting intolerance, fear and ignorance—much as racial politics were in Ellington’s lifetime. This project tells an important and largely unexplored story, to convey the power of music and art to bridge differences—and to remind us that while governments come and go, people can connect across cultural divides.
About the companies: Golden Thread produces passionate and provocative plays from and about the Middle East. The award-winning African-American Shakespeare Company (AASC) highlight artist of color’s dynamic cultural vibrancy within classical productions.
Where: Buriel Clay Theater, San Francisco When: May 2 – May 24, 2015 Time: Friday and Saturday at 8pm; Sunday Matinee at 3pm
Tickets: $15-$34.00 available through African-American Shakespeare Company or Golden Thread Productions
Creative Team Playwright: Torange Yeghiazarian. Original Music: Marcus Shelby. Director: Laura Hope. Dramaturg: Nakissa Etemad. Featuring: Vida Ghahremani & L. Peter Callender
(Haleh; Photos courtesy of Golden Thread Productions)