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New David Kranes play premieres at Baghdad-Iowa Book Wings Exchange

Book Wings commissioned playwright David Kranes.
Book Wings commissioned playwright David Kranes.
Salt Lake City-based playwright and fiction writer David Kranes, former artistic director of Robert Redford’s Sundance Playwrights Lab, will travel to Iowa City, IA next week to participate in Book Wings, a theatre collaboration that will connect actors, writers, directors, and translators from the University of Baghdad with counterparts at the University of Iowa. The project uses the latest digital videoconferencing technology to connect stages 6,500 miles apart to present a series of specially commissioned short plays. Kranes is one of six distinguished playwrights in Iraq and the United States commissioned by Book Wings to create a short play on “Courage,” a theme he helped identify.

Kranes’ play, HOW ABOUT THESE FIRES...?! has been translated into Arabic for the performance. As part of the exchange, he also helped refine the English translation of Iraqi playwright Sarem Dakhel’s THE BIRD BREEDER.

The bilingual performance is free and open to the public in Iowa City and Baghdad, and will be viewable worldwide via live Internet stream. Audience members in Iowa City, Baghdad, and online are invited to Tweet comments and questions for Kranes and others during the live question and answer session following the performance using the hashtag #bookw.

Kranes, who has 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) will stay in Iowa City to attend a seperate Book Wings collaboration on March 13, this one linking actors in Iowa to the renowned Moscow Art Theatre (home stage of Chekhov). It was Moscow Art Theatre director Anatoly Smeliansky who hatched the idea for Book Wings in 2010, in collaboration with University of Iowa International Writing Program Christopher Merrill, as a way to give actors, directors, writers and creative thinkers of all stripes a way to meet and collaborate in the virtual world.

[Click to Enlarge] Actors on the University of Baghdad stage rehearse for Book Wings during a Zoom test call on March 3, 2014.
[Click to Enlarge] Actors on the University of Baghdad stage rehearse for Book Wings during a Zoom test call on March 3, 2014.
Artistic and production teams in Baghdad and Iowa City have been working together for more than six months to prepare for the performance, despite the violence in Iraq, with daily suicide bombings, IED attacks, and assassinations.

In addition to Kranes, Book Wings will feature works commissioned from Catherine Filloux, co-founder of Theatre Without Borders, Mosul-based playwright, novelist, and journalist Hassab Allah Yahya, and Baghdad-based playwright and director Sarem Dakhel. Read full bios and summaries of the commissioned works at:

“At its best theatre reminds us that our lives hang in the balance at every moment, whether we know it or not,” says International Writing Program director Chris Merrill. “Such knowledge is general in Baghdad, of course, and no doubt it will shape the experience of those who attend Book Wings, in person or online.”

Read the plays:

Book Wings is made possible by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at U.S. Department of State, the University of Baghdad, and the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, Department of Theatre Arts, the Virtual Writing University, Information Technology Services, and UITV

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