Chicago Theatre Review
Persian Mythology Made Epic
Feathers of Fire – Puppet Theatre Festival
Hamid Rahmanian, the great Iranian-American filmmaker and graphic artist, whose contributions at Walt Disney studios often inspires his work, began his own production firm in 1998. His Fictionville Studio has created films that have appeared on PBS, at Sundance and around the world at a number of international festivals. His work often seeks to eradicate the negative stereotypes of Iranians, promotes anti-capital punishment laws and raises awareness of disadvantaged women and girls around the world.
In this gorgeous, cinematic shadow puppet production, which plays upon a giant, movie screen, audiences are held spellbound by this artistic performance, adapted from an ancient Persian story. In collaboration with Larry Reed, Rahmanian takes his play from the 10th century Book of Kings, the Shahnameh. It tells the story of a young prince born with shockingly white hair, abandoned by his father and raised in the wild by a mother eagle. The boy is finally reunited with his father, the King. Back in court, he meets a beautiful girl of his dreams. Through a series of exciting episodes that involve sailing ships, sea monsters, feuding families and bloody battles, the young prince finally wins his bride and, with the birth of his own son the circle of life begins once more.
Filled with color and traditional Iranian visuals, the artist not only employs puppets to tell his tale, but uses elaborate masks, costumes, detailed and intricate scenery, digital animation and original Persian-inspired music to bring this myth to life. The result is awe-inspiring and demonstrates the universal appeal of a great story.
In addition to the majesty, power and beauty of this play and its elegant production, the event was marked this past weekend by a dark cloud. In an unthinkable act, the President issued an edict banning anyone, from a list of certain countries, from entering and leaving the United States. As a result, Dina, one of Hamid Rahmanian’s star performers, will be banned from accompanying the troupe out of this country, for fear of not being allowed back home. This callous act, which is causing pain, separation and danger to so many, threatens to destroy this wonderful, peaceful company of puppeteers, as well as many other artists. Hopefully, by the time the International Puppet Theater Festival returns in two years, our government will have come to its senses.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented January 26-29, at the Studebaker Theatre in the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Presented by Blair Thomas & Co, in association with Pasfarda Art & Culture Exchange, this was the final production of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, held January 19-29.