Arts Listings

The Theater: ‘What Do the Women Say?’ at La Peña

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Tuesday March 11, 2008

Golden Thread Productions, the Bay Area troupe that specializes in expressions of Middle Eastern culture and identity, will present What Do The Women Say?—five pieces ranging stylistically from theater to performed poetry—at La Pena Cultural Center Friday at 8 p.m. to celebrate International Women’s Day. 

"It’s our third annual show,” said Golden Thread founder Torange Yeghiazarian. “It showcases work which women have created and perform, showing their perspectives, reflecting what’s going on in the news, or more universal issues of a woman’s place in the world, or the female body as a symbol relating to land—fighting over land, over women’s bodies. Women are also often more affected by war and political turmoil in that they’re the ones usually staying behind, those who have to rebuild, reestablish society.” 

In that mode, one of the pieces, “The Body Washer,” by Rosemary Frisino Toohey, sees the death of an Iraqi woman at a checkpoint through the eyes of three other women—an American soldier, an American journalist and another Iraqi woman who washes the body.  

Other pieces include featured artist Lana Nasser’s short stories, “Arab Women Talking,” which Yeghiazarian characterizes as “informed by dreams and myth, symbolic in that sense, of the female body through time.”  

Iranian poet Haleh Hatami will use photos and spoken word to explore “homesickness and longing—the physical experience of longing for our deepest origin.” 

Elmaz Abinader, a local poet who has been recognized with awards from PEN and The Goldies, will perform “The Torture Quartet” with music. And Sara Razavi will do Yussef El Guindi’s play, “The Monologist Suffers Her Monologue.”  

"It’s the first time we’ve had something written by a guy in this kind of event,” Yeghiazarian said. “And it also shows another aspect of what we try to do. The performer is Iranian, playing a Palestinian woman. We want everybody, actors as well as audience, to connect with what’s not your own story, to bring your own experience to what is often intimately another’s. It’s a cliché about the average American not being able to tell a Palestinian from an Iraqi—but it’s the same in the Middle East much of the time.” 

The whole program runs under 90 minutes with no intermission. Next, Golden Thread will premiere a full-length comedy by El Guindi at SF’s Thick House in June, Jihad Jones and the Kalishnikov Babes, about an Arab-American actor offered a big break to play in a film by a great American director, as a terrorist.