ReOrient Festival of Middle East-Themed Plays Turns 20

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Amitis Rossoukh as Ayca in 'The Basement' by Mustafa Kaymak, produced in the 2019 ReOrient Festival of Short Plays. (Jesse Sutterley)

When speaking of the Middle East, it’s important to remember that it’s a region comprised of many countries spread over almost three million square miles. This variety is showcased admirably by Golden Thread Production’s signature festival of short plays, ReOrient.

First founded in 1996, Golden Thread’s mission to center works by Middle Eastern playwrights, or dealing with Middle Eastern themes, has been best expressed through ReOrient, now celebrating its 20-year anniversary. Selected from over 100 submissions, the seven plays that make up this year’s festival range widely, by both theme and region.

The festival includes works by ReOrient regulars such as Betty Shamieh and Yussef El Guindi, plus four newcomers including Turkish-Kurdish creative Mustafa Kaymak and Lameece Issaq, the Artistic Director of NYC’s Noor Theatre. Each playwright explores a unique circumstance and genre within their respective plays. From Iranian-American writer Niku Sharei’s science fiction-influenced In Spenglic to 1999 MacArthur Fellow Naomi Wallace’s startling, poetic The Book of Mima, set in war-torn Yemen, the thread that ties each together may be the Middle Eastern experience, but it’s a thread with many strands and textures.

Sofia Ahmad in 'An Echo of Laughter' by Betty Shamieh, produced in the 2019 ReOrient Festival of Short Plays.
Sofia Ahmad in 'An Echo of Laughter' by Betty Shamieh, produced in the 2019 ReOrient Festival of Short Plays. (Jesse Sutterley)

In addition to the plays—directed by a team that includes Golden Thread’s founding Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian and KQED Bay Brilliant artist Lisa Marie Rollins—this year’s festival also marks the launch of a national coalition of MENA-centered theater-makers (Middle Eastern and North African), with a "convening" containing several events free and open to the public.

The ReOrient Festival runs Oct. 18-Nov. 10 at Potrero Stage in San Francisco. Details here. ReOrient's convening of MENA theater artists runs Nov. 9 and 10; details here.