Thursday, May 7, 2009

Beyond the Mirror, Featuring Afghanistan's Exile Theatre, Heading to San Francisco

About 3-1/2 years ago, I had the privilege of seeing Beyond the Mirror, a collaboration between the American theatre troupe Bond Street Theatre and Afghanistan's Exile Theatre, in its NYC premiere at Theatre for the New City. What impressed me most about this piece was that it provided us with a chance to engage with artists from a country that ours has been intimately involved with for nearly a decade yet with which we have very little first-hand experience. I wrote this in my review:

Consider it: four performers from Afghanistan, a country we invaded just four years ago, are here in America, working with members of the New York-based Bond Street Theatre to share stories of their own lives and experiences and those of their countrymen and -women, in their own words, in their own language, in their own theatrical and musical vocabulary. The courage required to do this—a dangerous and fearful proposition on a number of levels—is breathtaking. I always say that people who work in the world of independent theatre do so only because they have something compelling and important to impart to audience. These remarkable performers, who have journeyed more than 6,000 miles to bring their play to us, exemplify that idea, and reinforce the great power of theatre to break down barriers and bring people from different cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds together. That they stay after each show for a half-hour talkback with the audience reveals still more about the nature and level of their commitment. How many Afghan people can be visiting the United States at this moment? We are honored to host these guests from Kabul's Exile Theatre. The thousand or so people who will actually take advantage of this opportunity to see and hear them during Beyond the Mirror's three-week run at Theater for the New City are privileged beyond measure.

So I'm excited to be able to report--for our friends on the Other Coast--that Beyond the Mirror is headed to San Francisco in May and June. Here are the details, courtesy of publicist Jonathan Slaff:

Beyond the Mirror began in the Afghan refugee camps in northern Pakistan in 2002. Members of Bond Street Theatre, performing for children in the refugee schools, met a dauntless group of Afghan actors who dared to present live theatre despite the restrictions of the times. This group was Exile Theatre.

The two companies were immediately drawn to each other's theatrical views, and planned to create a new work together. This plan came to fruition the following year in Kabul and, since that time, has grown into a full length theatre work. Beyond the Mirror made its world premiere at the 2nd Afghan Theatre Festival in Kabul in August 2005. Since then, the play has been presented in Japan, Baltimore and New York, and now makes its West Coast premiere at two prestigious San Francisco festivals.

Beyond the Mirror is a journey through three decades of war and occupation in Afghanistan and a search for stability and peace. Woven through myths and memories, filmed montages and first-hand accounts, traditional dances and live music, story-telling and family histories, Beyond the Mirror weaves an intricate tapestry of events, both desperate and hopeful. Don't miss the chance to see this unique, rare and moving piece!

San Francisco International Arts Festival -- presenting acclaimed international companies
May 29, 30 and 31 -- Friday & Saturday @ 9:00 pm, Sunday @ 1:00 pm
Cowell Theater -- Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
Tickets at or 1-800-838-3006

Fury Factory Theatre Festival -- presenting cutting edge work by ensemble theatres
June 11, Thursday at 9:00 pm; June 12, Friday at 7:00 pm; June 18, Thursday at 7:00 pm
Traveling Jewish Theatre -- 470 Florida Street, San Francisco
Tickets at or 415-292-1233

Please check for video-lecture and workshop schedule and additional performances. Lectures and workshops are currently available for booking. Contact

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