The Company

Managing Multiple Identities: Jamil Khoury on Radio Tahrir by R. Sheth

Managing Multiple Identities: Jamil Khoury of Silk Road Rising Theater, Chicago, talks about how Arabs and others negotiate their identities in the US context and how SRR's theater and films render this dynamic through artistic expression. A production by Tamara Issak. And in-studio guest Shair Abdul Mani, NYC Imam, comments on the gap between African American and immigrant Muslims. With listener calls.

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A Contrarian View: Race, Representation, and Islamophobia in Ayad Akhtar’s "Disgraced" by R. Sheth

The 2015-16 theatre season represents a first in American theatre history. A play written by a Muslim American playwright of Pakistani heritage will receive more productions nationwide than any other play. In fact, Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced is the first play ever to feature a Muslim protagonist (apostate or otherwise) to have garnered this level of attention and acclaim. From Chicago’s American Theatre Company, to Lincoln Center, to London’s West End, to Broadway, to a Tony nomination, to scheduled productions at over 50 U.S. theatre companies, to an HBO film deal, to foreign language translations, Disgraced has become nothing short of an international phenomenon. And yet, the play’s resounding success begs an obvious question: Why is a play that affirms so many popular fears about Muslims the toast of the American theatre season? 

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PARSING
DISGRACED
: An Assault, A Critique, and A Truce
by R. Sheth

The staff at Silk Road Rising crafted a set of questions for me about Ayad Akhtar’s play Disgraced. I found them immensely cathartic to answer. Many of the ideas and opinions expressed below will be integrated and expanded upon in a soon-to-released larger piece that I’ve been developing with South Asian American scholars Fawzia Afzal-Khan and Neilesh Bose.

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Silk Road Goes on the Road With Big Grant by R. Sheth

by Jonathan Abarbanel, Footlights 
September 2015

Silk Road Rising has received $150,000 Nation Grant (the largest grant in its history) from ArtPlace (sic) America, a consortium of foundations, financial institutions, and federal agencies. The grants are made to support the arts in a specific place within a community with the intent of having a broader impact on that community. For example, it might be a mosque in Naperville—and that's precisely it in this instance as Silk Road develops new work Mosque Alert, by Artistic Director Jamil Khoury. He explains Mosque Alert is "an artistic and civil engagement project that dramatizes the difficulties Muslims face across the country, due to Islamophobia and cultural biases, when attempting to build houses of worship." Khoury says it was inspired by the 2011 "Ground Zero" controversy in New York City. Over the next 18 months, Silk Road Rising will use the Old Nichols Library in downtown Naperville as its fictional mosque. They will work with community partners to generate community-wide conversations that examine fears associated with the building of a mosque—fictional or otherwise—in a Western community. Khoury will use this input to further shape the play. Mosque Alert will receive its world premiere production next March at Silk Road Rising's permanent theatre in The Loop.

PLEASE NOTE: This article was originally printed in Footlights, September 2015.

Read the article in PDF format here.

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Identity Nation: One Theatre Maker's Perspective by R. Sheth

Theatre makers are often called upon to respond to the challenges facing our world. It is assumed, rightfully so, that we contemplate those challenges, pose relevant questions, and conjure would-be “real life” scenarios through dramatized storytelling. And the global challenge I find most alluring? That beckoning gulf dividing nation-states and how they define national identity. I think a lot about nation-states and the cultures and identities they produce and export. Some of these polities are quite durable (including, I believe, the US), while many others won’t survive to see the 22nd century.

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Silk Road Solos: The Genealogy of a Timeless Genre by R. Sheth

Silk Road Rising
By Jamil Khoury
January 30, 2015

As evidenced by the lineup, we’ve committed to producing a diverse and eclectic group of stories seldom heard on Chicago’s stages, and already we’re making plans with additional artists. The strong link between contemporary solo performance and the historic Silk Road acts as a vivid reminder: the present is best served when we honor the past and imagine a just future.

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Fears of the Artist by R. Sheth

Some people thought me heroic, even thanked me for being so brave. I had said what others thought but were afraid to speak. Afraid of retribution, afraid of never working again. And it was that expression of fear that I heard over and over again, usually couched within anecdotes, one more disturbing than the next. Had I been whisked away to another sector, I wondered? Was I singlehandedly battling Monsanto? For what I did was neither courageous nor controversial. I’m an artistic director. I was doing my job. If theatre makers are in the business of representation, but are not allowed to challenge representation, something is terribly wrong. If storytellers can’t call out a storyteller, then how in God’s name will we ever change the world? Yet in speaking out I came to realize that the very structure of our sector is built upon the fears of the artist.

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