Live animation cinematic shadow play is an innovative theater experience
By William Nedved
A little over a thousand years ago, the Persian poet Ferdowsi of Tous began the process of collecting and putting into verse the millennium-old mythological tales of Iran. Thirty years and 60,000 verses later, Ferdowsi completed the Shahnameh or The Book of Kings, a monumental tome considered one of the world’s great literary epics, along with Gilgamesh and The Odyssey.
The Book of Kings remains a popular work throughout the Near East, Central Asia and India, but is mostly unknown in the West. Iranian visual artist and filmmaker Hamid Rahmanian is actively changing that with Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic, a cinematic shadow play running at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills from Friday, October 20 – Sunday, October 29.
Feathers of Fire is one of the great love stories in The Book of Kings. The action-packed tale follows star-crossed lovers Zaul and Rudabeh who triumph at the end against all odds. Rahmanian’s stunning graphics, derived from the visual tradition of the region, are rendered as puppets, costumes, masks, scenography and digital animation, all of which come to life in a “live animation” on a cinema-size screen.
Rahmanian and his collaborators are not only interested in presenting an innovative theater experience, but creating a cross-cultural dialogue. “It is our intention to highlight the strength of the Persian culture and promote a more complex and interesting view of Iran here in the United States,” says Rahmanian. He and his collaborators are creating other stories from The Book of Kings, which they are collectively calling “The Shahnameh Project.”
In addition to 13 public showings at The Wallis, Feathers of Fire will also present two performances for nearly 1,000 elementary school children as part of the GRoW @ The Wallis Focus and Partner School Program. “We offer school matinees for children to interact with our artists,” explains Rahmanian. “We hope to inspire young minds for new perspectives on the people and cultures around them and beyond.”
Reviewing an earlier engagement of the play at UCLA, the Los Angeles Times noted that audiences of different cultures and ages at Feathers of Fire “fulfills Rahmanian’s deepest dream: to share his homeland’s rich visual and literary culture with the West.”
Presented in collaboration with Mark Amin, Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic is conceived, designed and directed by Hamid Rahmanian, in collaboration with Larry Reed and Shadowlight Productions, produced by Fictionville Studio and Banu Productions. The production is made possible by generous support from Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills. Farhang Foundation is the proud community sponsor.
Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic plays in the Bram Goldsmith Theater at The Wallis, Friday, October 20 – Sunday, October 29. The play is suitable for ages five and up. The running time is 70 minutes, followed by a 20 minute “behind the scenes” presentation. There will be an option-captioned performance on Saturday, October 21 at 2pm. Tickets are available at TheWallis.org/Feathers or by calling Wallis Ticket Services at (310) 746-4000. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills.