'We Swim' Asks: How Do You Talk To Someone You Love Who Disagrees With You? Next Month
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. 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). Golden Thread thanks Sam Mazza Foundation, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, California Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, The Fleishhacker Foundation, and The Tournesol Project for their support. Golden Thread is a resident company of Potrero Stage, operated by PlayGround. This production is made possible in part through the Potrero Stage Presenting Program.