An immersive, devised original adaptation of Farid ud-Din Attar’s Sufi Poem
Directed by Rachel Bowditch
@ The Unexpected Gallery
February 22, 23, 24 & 25, 2017
The Conference of the Birds is a dream project of mine. I saw Peter Brook’s production when I was 14 years old in Singapore and it changed my life. As it toured Asia and Africa, Brook’s production transformed village squares into performance venues, building bridges over language barriers through theatrical poetry and landscapes. Now, 26 years later, we have created an original devised adaptation of Farid ud-Din Attar’s 12th Century epic Sufi poem from the source text.
In Fall 2015, I invited a team of collaborators Mahya Razavi (MFA in Design/scenic/costume designer), Fatemeh Madani Sarbarani (Phd TPOA/translator), and Dan Tobin (MFA in Performance/dramaturg) to meet once a week for a semester to begin to transcribe and outline the entirety of Attar’s epic poem. Fatemeh closely read the original Farsi alongside the English translation. These weekly meetings resulted in an 80-page document of raw source material that served as the basis for our devised performance. In Spring 2016, Dallas Nichols joined our team (MFA in Media Design) as our media and lighting designer. We held several design retreats. In Fall 2016, the devising ensemble—Dan Tobin, Dallas Nichols, Mahya Ravazi, Audrey Pfeifer (undergraduate Theatre), Amanda Pintore (MFA in TFY), Jordan Klitzke (MFA in Dance) and I met once a week to begin devising from the raw material joined by our production manager Malena Groez. Emma Weber(MFA in Design) joined our team as a co-costume designer and Anthony Lee (undergraduate design) as our technical director.
The Conference of the Birds is a very timely counterpoint to the negative portrayal of Iranian culture in the media—the equation of the Middle East with terrorism and anti-Islamic sentiments. This piece brings to life the beauty, fragility, and poetry of Attar’s poem and reminds us of all the good in world. Our scenic designer, Mahya Ravazi, traveled to Iran in December to get all of our costumes and props as well as study the Dervish dance to teach our ensemble. Her mother, who had a visa to attend the performance, can no longer attend due to the new visa policies restricting travel from Iran. In order to ensure her family can see the performance, we will be live streaming the performance directly to Iran. This performance is an act of resistance to the policies of the current administration.
To be an artist today is an act of resistance.
This project was funded by a Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Faculty Research Grant
Director/Producer/concept and vision
Rachel Bowditch, Daniel Bird Tobin, Mahya Razavi, and Fatemeh Madani.
Rachel Bowditch, Dallas Nichols, Mahya Razavi, Dan Tobin, Amanda Pintore, Audrey Pfeifer and Jordan Klitzke
Daniel Bird Tobin
Old Man, Majnoon
Assistant Costume Design
Daniel Bernard Roumain
Live Persian Music
THP 213/THP 301 students
"Phoenix Rising: The Conference of the Birds" Ecumenica: Journal of Theatre and Performance. Special Issue: Muslim Worlds. Fall 2018. Volume 11. Issue 2. pp. 47-54.