Ammar ALI is a third year student in the Journalism Department of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad. He has twice won the Best First Play Award at the University of Baghdad Theatrical Festival, first for If the Donkey Spoke and most recently for Love in Recent Days.
Commissioned Works (8-10 minutes each):
COURAGE* by Amir Al-Azraki: After losing his wife to sectarian violence, will a musician's passion for pursuing his art put his own life in danger?
MY RIGHT by Ammar Ali: A man grapples with history, the past, and the duality of the self...but which self will prevail?
THE BIRD BREEDER by Sarem Dakhel: Razzaq can't live without his birds, but in a climate of nationalism, is he willing to pay the ultimate price?
MOCK COURT by Catherine Filloux: When a terrifying post-9/11 reality becomes a schoolyard game, can life go on as normal?
HOW ABOUT THESE FIRES...?! by David Kranes: Can two artistic souls make it work in a dystopian world of megafires?
SHELTER DRILLS by Heather Raffo: How far will mothers go to protect their children?
TRAIN OF DEATH by Hassab Allah Yahya: How much is one life worth? A train conductor faces an ethical dilemma as the lives of 52 men hang in the balance.
*included in the program, but not staged
Sarem DAKHEL is a playwright and director born in Baghdad in 1963. He holds a PhD in theatre direction. Among other accomplishments, he has directed Tennessee Williams' I Can't Imagine Tomorrow, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Seneca's Oedipus, and Jose Triana's Night of the Assassins.
Catherine FILLOUX is an award-winning playwright who has been writing about human rights and social justice for more than twenty years. Her play LUZ recently premiered at La MaMa in New York City, where she is a Resident Artist. Filloux’s new play about the civil rights movement and the KKK will open at La MaMa in 2014. Catherine’s libretto, New Arrivals, recently premiered at Houston Grand Opera. Filloux’s more than twenty plays have been produced in New York and around the world. She also wrote the libretti for the operas Where Elephants Weep, produced in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and The Floating Box selected as a Critics Choice in Opera News. Filloux’s plays are widely published, and she is featured in the documentary film Acting Together on the World Stage. Catherine received her M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and her French Baccalaureate in Philosophy with Honors in Toulon, France.
As artistic director of Robert Redford’s Sundance Playwrights Lab for 14 years, David KRANES served as dramaturg and mentor for many celebrated works in American theatre, including Pulitzer Prize winners Angels In America (Tony Kushner) and The Kentucky Cycle (Robert Schenkkan); he has worked with renown playwrights Donald Marguiles, Milcha Sanchez Scott, and Philip Gotanda, actors Kathy Bates, John Malkovich, and J.T. Walsh, and theatre artist Julie Taymor. A widely anthologized short-story writer, Kranes has received a Pushcart Prize, the Utah Governor’s Award in the Arts, the CBS Playwrights Award, the National Repertory Play Contest, and the Wrangler Award for Best Short Story Collection for Low Tide In The Desert. His plays have been produced at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Mark Taper Forum and other theatres. An award-winning teacher, David has taught at the University of Utah and has led writing workshops throughout the U.S. and Europe. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, he is co-founder of the Sawtooth Writers Conference.
Heather RAFFO’s Off Broadway hit, 9 Parts of Desire detailing the lives of nine Iraqi women received a Lucille Lortel Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn and Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin playwriting awards. 9 Parts had international productions/translations in Brazil, Greece, Sweden, Turkey, Malta, France, India, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Scotland, England and Canada. Heather created a concert version of the play for The Kennedy Center with renowned Iraqi maqam musician, Amir ElSaffar. She is currently developing a libretto about the life of a US Marine who served in Fallujah for an opera commissioned by the Annenberg Foundation and City Opera Vancouver. Recent acting credits include the feature film Vino Veritas, Food and Fadwa, (New York Theater Workshop), and In Darfur (The Public Theater, Delacourt). She has taught and performed at universities and arts centers around the world, engaging students about the politics and arts of Iraq and about her own experience as an Iraqi-American. She holds a BA in English from the University of Michigan and an MFA in acting performance from the University of San Diego and also studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Hassab Allah YAHYA, born in Mosul in 1944, is a graduate of the Teachers’ Institute in Mosul and has worked as a journalist since 1964. He is the author of more than eighteen novels, collections of short stories, and collections of plays, including The Day Knocks on Doors, Concealment, The Comedy of a Writer in Times of Lying, Obsessions, Terrorism: Stories, Finger of Cloves: Plays for Adults and the Young (published in Kurdish), and Tales from the Country between Two Fires: Stories and Plays. He is also the author of several books for children and many critical works, including: Iraqi Theatre: Causes and Attitudes, The Character of Dictator in World Theater, and In Theatre Discourse: Iraqi Vision in Theatre.
Born in Basra, Amir AL-AZRAKI received his BA in English from the University of Basra, his MA in English literature from Baghdad University and his PhD in Theatre Studies from York University in Toronto, Canada. During the first years of the Iraq War (2003-2006), Al-Azraki, in addition to teaching English drama at the University of Basra, worked as a fixer and translator for various international news outlets such as The Dallas Morning News and Al Mirbad TV and Radio, run by the BBC World Service Trust. While completing his dissertation, “Clash of the Barbarians: The Representation of Political Violence in Contemporary Plays About Iraq,” he taught modern and Western Drama at York University and continued to develop “Transforming the Learning Environment Through Forum Theatre: Developing a Basra University Model,” a collaboration between the University of Basra, the Central School of Speech and Drama, and the University of London. Also a performer and playwright, Al-Azraki has presented talks and papers at F.O.O.T., Performing Back: A Conference on Post-Colonial Theatre, TCG National Conference, and the Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences, UMass. Among his plays are: Waiting for Gilgamesh: Scenes from Iraq, Stuck, Notorious Women, Lysistrata in Iraq, The Land, Home Woes, and Judgment Day.