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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