In countries most familiar to Americans for harboring terrorists or being falsely accused of stockpiling WMDs, we might not think there's much time for culture. But that would just be ignorant and imperialistic thinking, wouldn't it? If you've ever wondered about the plays of Pakistan or what kind of theater has blossomed in Basra, Iraq, wonder no more, with From Babylon to Hollywood: How Theater Bridges the U.S. and the Middle East, an evening "devoted to theater from/to the Arab/Muslim world." Shahid Nadeem has been jailed for human-rights work in his native Pakistan and also happens to be its leading playwright. Dr. Waleed Shamil has headed the Department of Theater Arts at Baghdad University since 1992 (having completed postgrad studies in Los Angeles). Basra-born playwright Amir Al-Azraki, now a professor and Ph.D. candidate in theater studies at Toronto's York University, worked as a translator during the first years of the Iraq war. These and other distinguished artists will present excerpts from their plays and engage in a discussion moderated by Torange Yeghiazarian, artistic director of San Francisco's Golden Thread Productions. A fund-raiser for the Levantine Cultural Center (which has brought Middle Eastern theater and performance to L.A. for a decade), the night includes a silent art auction and a performance by the famed Saadoun Al-Bayati Ensemble.
Fri., June 17, 7 p.m., 2011