Golden Thread Presents Mona Mansour’s WE SWIM, WE TALK, WE GO TO WAR
Golden Thread Productions, the first American theatre company devoted to the Middle East, responds to our current political divide with We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War, a play that takes the form of a literal conversation on stage. While trying to navigate the currents of the Pacific, an Arab-American woman and her nephew, who has enlisted in the U.S. military, dive into the murky waters of family, identity, and politics. Stylistically adventurous and playful, We Swim expands into a nuanced dialogue about what it means to be American, Arab, and Arab-American at our current moment in time.
The world premiere play by the Whiting Award–winning playwright and Golden Thread Resident Artist Mona Mansour is directed by Golden Thread’s own Evren Odcikin, who has been developing the play with Mansour since its inception. We Swim runs November 16-December 16, 2018 at Potrero Stage (1695 18th Street, San Francisco) and performs Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. (No performances on Thursday, November 22 and 29). Opening night is Monday, November 26 at 8pm. For tickets ($15-$38) and more information on the production, please visit goldenthread.org.
The play is inspired by conversations Mansour has had with her own nephew, who is in the military. Founding Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian says of the play: “This beautiful play brought to mind my own struggle with my cousins enlisting, and the pain I felt each time I imagined them being called to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. I could not bring myself to talk to them about my fears. And the fact that Mona is courageous enough to bring this conversation to the stage, well, I’m deeply grateful for it. And I’m proud that Golden Thread committed to developing and producing this play from day one.”
American Thatre Magazine has said about Mansour’s writing: “What distinguishes Mansour’s work is its compassion for the thorny nature of family, identity, and politics,” and We Swim is no different. The play lives in the prickly complications of our current moment, but approaches it from a personal and family-oriented perspective. The play offers its audience an opportunity to examine America’s relationship with its military, as well as its growing Middle Eastern immigrant population. It blurs the lines between “us” and “them,” and presents a provocative exploration of the tragic and indelible ripples of war.
As the title suggests, a third of the play takes place in the ocean with the characters swimming. Director Evren Odcikin says: “Throughout this play’s three-year development journey, we’ve been talking a lot about Thornton Wilder and his belief that theatre keeps its audience in an “eternal now.” As we ask our audience to take this personal and emotional journey that might feel dangerous in this political moment, we will also ask them to join us as we create simple magic that transports the characters to the ocean in the way that only theatre can. I am thrilled to dive into this deeply theatrical world with our talented team of designers and movement specialist Slater Penney.”
We Swim is a prime example of Golden Thread’s commitment to changing the narratives in the U.S. as they pertain to Middle Eastern characters and stories. Mona Mansour is the third winner of the Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award, which commissioned this play from a proposal in 2014 and has supported its development through numerous readings and workshops. Middle East America: A National New Plays Initiative was created by Golden Thread Productions (San Francisco), The Lark (New York City), and Silk Road Rising (Chicago). Additionally, the play received development at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, a program of Playwrights Foundation, and at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War cast features Tre’Vonne Bell (The American), Joshua Chessin-Yudin (He), Adam El-Sharkawi (The Arab), and Sarah Nina Hayon (She). The creative team includes Hala Baki (assistant director), Cassie Barnes (lighting designer), Kate Boyd (scenic designer), Sara Huddleston (sound designer), Mona Kasra (projection designer), Michelle Mulholland (costume designer), Carla Pantoja (fight choreographer), Slater Penney (movement specialist), Karen Runk* (stage manager), Benjamin Shiu (assistant stage manager), Chris Swartzell (technical director), and Grisel Torres (production manager).
This is Mona Mansour’s (Playwright) fourth production with Golden Thread, where she is a resident artist. The Vagrant Trilogy was recently produced at the Mosaic Theater in D.C. directed by Mark Wing-Davey. From the trilogy, The Hour of Feeling was premiered at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville (directed by Mark Wing-Davey) and a new Arabic translation was presented at NYU Abu Dhabi as part of its Arab Voices Festival in 2016; Urge For Going was produced at the Public LAB (directed by Hal Brooks) and at Golden Thread (directed by Evren Odcikin); and The Vagrant was commissioned by the Public and workshopped at the 2013 Sundance Theater Institute. Other plays include The Way West (Labyrinth Theater, directed by Mimi O’Donnell; Steppenwolf, directed by Amy Morton; Marin Theatre Company, directed by Hayley Finn); Unseen (Gift Theater, directed by Maureen Payne-Hahner), In the Open (Waterwell, directed by James Dean Palmer). Mona was a member of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group and a Core Writer at Minneapolis’ Playwrights’ Center. With Tala Manassah, she has written Falling Down the Stairs for an EST/Sloan commission, and the short plays Kamal’s Letter and The House, which have both been produced as part of Golden Thread’s ReOrient Festival. Their short play Dressing is part of Facing Our Truths: Short Plays About Trayvon, Race and Privilege, a collection of plays commissioned by the New Black Festival. Commissions include Playwrights Horizons, Old Globe Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “American Revolutions.” TV credits: Queens Supreme, Dead Like Me. 2012 Whiting Award. 2014 Middle East America Playwright Award. monamansour.com
Evren Odcikin (Director) is the Director of New Plays and Marketing at Golden Thread and a founder of Maia Directors, a consulting group for organizations and artists engaging with stories from the Middle East and beyond. Golden Thread credits include Mona Mansour’s Urge For Going, Yussef El Guindi’s Language Rooms (LA Times Critic’s Pick), Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s Autobiography of a Terrorist, Kevin Artigue’s The Most Dangerous Highway in the World, Denmo Ibrahim’s Ecstasy, a waterfable, and numerous short plays in ReOrient Festivals. He has worked at Berkeley Rep, South Coast Rep, the Lark (NYC), O’Neill Theatre Center, Kennedy Center, InterACT (Philadelphia), Cleveland Public Theatre, TheatreSquared (Arkansas), Magic Theatre, SF Playhouse, Crowded Fire, TheatreFirst, and Playwrights Foundation with such writers as Melis Aker, Christopher Chen, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Prince Gomolvilas, Lauren Gunderson, David Jacobi, MJ Kaufman, Hannah Khalil, Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Michael Lew, Rehana Mirza, Marisela Traviño Orta, Betty Shamieh, Caridad Svich, and Lauren Yee, amongst many others. Awards include a 2015 National Directors Fellowship and a 2013 TITAN Award from Theatre Bay Area. He was named a “Theatre Worker You Should Know” by American Theatre Magazine in 2016. Next up: Jordan Tannahill’s Late Company at NCTC and Gabriel Jason Dean’s Heartland at InterACT. odcikin.com
WHAT: World Premiere
We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War
by Mona Mansour
directed by Evren Odcikin
Dive into the murky waters of family, identity, and politics.
WHEN: November 16-December 16, 2018
Thursdays–Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 3pm
Opening Night: Monday, November 26 at 8pm
No performances on Thursday, November 22 and 29
WHERE: Potrero Stage (1695 18th Street, San Francisco)
TICKETS: $15-$38 | goldenthread.org