You Over There, Let’s Work Together!

by Fatima Zahra El Filali

in Global Citizenship,MetLife/TCG A-ha! Think It Do It

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Golden Thread Productions is America’s first theatre company dedicated to developing and producing plays from and about the Middle East. When creating Middle East inspired theater outside of its geographical boundaries, one cannot help but pause and ask:

What are THEY doing over there?

How are THEY doing it over there?

Where are THEY doing it?


Can WE do it together somehow?

Our project, currently titled Samizdat: Middle East, is an attempt at answering these questions and more.

We would like to have a feel, a glimpse, at a theater scene located on the other side of the globe. A sort of audio-visual documentation and, most importantly, we intend to create a dialogue. We want the theater artists over there to speak to us over here. We want to create exchanges that will result in collaborative work involving Middle Eastern as well as American theater artists, and build a tunnel for sharing creative ideas that relies on a minimal amount of resources.

Founded in 1996, Golden Thread Productions is based in San Francisco, but in touch with a large network of artists in the Middle East, as well as Middle Eastern American artists in the US. It is important to note that our work emphasizes the human experience beyond the political and cultural realms. But overcoming physical obstacles such as borders, distance, and Visa challenges has been very difficult in recent years. How do we overcome this challenge? With Samizdat, we will be virtualizing and expanding our stage beyond our theater using widely available handheld tools. The only physical medium required for the participants is a smart phone. It is much cheaper and easier than standing in line for a visa, buying a 3 stop flight, and sweating through TSA.

We will team up theater artists, based anywhere from Islamabad to Casablanca to Lebanon, Wisconsin, and will converse via cellphone recorded videos. Despite the medium being reminiscent of the Arab Spring, these videos do not have to evoke any political ideals or advocate for a coup d’état – although we are not opposed to that. Generally speaking though, when they aren’t rioting, Middle-easterners certainly have other things to do!

Under the motto of “Guidance and no limitations”, we will provide general ideas and expectations for the exchanges and let creativity run. We will be supervising the project and supporting the participants with all the needs they might have. Ultimately, the resulting collaborations will be screened, discussed, and hopefully the exchanges will continue on with or without the involvement of Golden Thread.

One problem though: still debating our project’s title… ugh, can we ever agree on anything?!

The title Samizdat sums up a lot of our intentions behind this work, but might be misleading with its political connotation. Samizdat’s literal meaning: self-publishing, and the process of exchange it involves definitely mirrors a few aspects of our project. However, a term coined during the Cold War and at the height of Soviet state control, Samizdat’s main goal was to surmount censorship in a harsh political climate.

Is this history too limiting to our border-bending, revolution-taunting artists?

That is an open question that only the participants can answer.

Fatima Zahra El FilaliFatima Zahra El Filali is the Alo? Project Manager at Golden Thread Productions. As a visual artist, her work has been shown at the Regis Art Center in the University of Minnesota as well as in MCAD, among other venues. As an actress, Fatima has worked with Pangea World Theater and Mizna in Minneapolis. She is now a Web Science graduate student at the University of San Francisco, and Media Manager at Born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco, Fatima received her BA in Art, and BS in Computer Science from St Cloud State University in 2009. She is fluent in Arabic, French and English.

The intent of the MetLife/TCG A-HA! Program is to enable theatres to dare to try new approaches to problem-solving artistic, managerial, production and/or technological challenges–to try things the organization doesn’t and couldn’t normally do. To learn more about the program, click here.