'Conference of the Birds' is a Persian poem adapted for the stage

The performance by the Brandeis Theater Company, directed by Hafiz Karmali, runs from Nov. 20 to 23

Photo/Mike Lovett

Performers from Conference of the Birds during a dress rehearsal.

Directing a play is about more than just entertaining an audience, says Hafiz Karmali, Brandeis Theater Company’s guest director of “The Conference of the Birds,” in production at the Laurie Theater through Nov. 23.

“This project is part of an idea to share more of Islamic culture, including the literary world of Islam and the performing arts,” Karmali says. “I want to make it clear to the audience that the fanatics do not represent Islam. There are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide; these radical groups are just one very extreme fringe.”

Based on the 12th-century poem by Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar, “The Conference of the Birds” tells the story of a group of birds that have concluded the world is in chaos, and who decide to go on a journey to find their king. The production fuses symbols and references to Muslim, Judaic and Christian culture.

But for all of its cultural, spiritual and religious symbolism, the performance also aims to be fun, Karmali says. “It’s written in a way that’s very lively and humorous, and we haven’t shied away from that,” he says. “This isn’t a church event, it’s fast paced dance theater.”

Karmali recently directed “War & Peace,” an antiwar farce by Tawfiq al-Hakim, and “Rumi x 7 = Tales from the Masnavi” at the ReOrient 2012 Festival held by Golden Thread Productions in San Francisco. He focuses on cross-cultural performances and promoting positive messages of his faith.

The production is a collaboration of the Department of Theater Arts, the Peacebuilding and the Arts Program and MusicUnitesUS. Cynthia Cohen, director of the Peacebuilding and the Arts Program, learned of Karmali's work through the Acting Together Project, which focuses on using performance art to build peace.

“At this moment in history, having people share the richness and spiritual depth of Persian culture is so valuable,” she says. “Some of these texts are so powerful, and they can be adapted with integrity to help people express their desires and dreams in a way that can capture attention and open hearts.”

Visit Brandeis Theater Company for information about tickets and show times.

Categories: Arts

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