Silk Road Theatre Project
Silk Road Theatre Project showcases playwrights of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean backgrounds, whose works address themes relevant to the peoples of the Silk Road and their Diaspora communities. Through the creation and presentation of outstanding theatre, we aim to promote discourse and dialogue among multi-cultural audiences in Chicago.
A Playwright's Theatre
If theatre were a democracy, the playwright would be "first among equals." But theatre is governed by different rules; the playwright's words reign supreme. And it is our love for those words, the written text, and the magic that often occurs when text meets stage, that compels us to be a showcase for Silk Road playwrights.
We believe strongly that representation begins at home. A playwright's subjectivity is greatly informed by his or her family background and the cultural milieus that inspire one's creativity. Thus we are committed to presenting works by playwrights who hail from the communities about which they write. The plays we produce convey narrative and voice from unique Silk Road perspectives, and feature complex, three dimensional protagonists of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean backgrounds.
In giving voice to playwrights seldom heard on the American stage, we aim to integrate those playwrights within the canon of American theatre.
Silk Road Theatre Project is a creative response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The consequences of that catastrophic day are sure to reverberate for years to come, posing unique and urgent challenges for artists of all backgrounds, and inspiring us to educate, promote dialogue, and heal rifts through the transformative power of theatre.
Company co-founders and life partners, Malik Gillani and Jamil Khoury, felt galvanized to respond to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments that swept the US in the aftermath of the attacks. Their hope was to counter negative representation of Middle Eastern and Muslim peoples with representation that was authentic, multi-faceted, and grounded in human experience. That theatre would be the medium in which they'd "create change" was a given; a decision dictated by their mutual love of theatre, and Khoury's vocation as a playwright.
Their idea quickly expanded beyond the Middle East to encompass that vast geographical area known historically as the Silk Road, a territory stretching from China to Italy . Silk Road Theatre Project thus officially came into existence in the summer of 2002, becoming the nation's first ever theatre company dedicated to representing such diverse groupings of peoples and cultures.
Our Importance to Chicago
We believe our broad-based cultural "constituencies" are what distinguish us among Chicago theatre companies. As citizens of the world, we share a keen appreciation for the role art plays in fostering understanding between peoples. Recognizing that America's relationships with countries of the Silk Road have become increasingly characterized by conflict and complexity, we feel it is imperative to communicate the histories, perspectives and beliefs of Silk Road peoples to American audiences.
Silk Road communities number over 1.5 million people in the Chicago metropolitan area, yet we seldom see ourselves represented on Chicago's stages. The absence of such visibility reinforces our marginalization within American culture, and inhibits us from building bridges of understanding and empathy with the broader American public. This lack of Silk Road representation also discourages young people in our communities from pursuing careers in the performing arts. It erodes appreciation for theatre within our communities, and stifles the development of a potentially large theatre-going audience.
Therefore, we engage our mission with an overtly activist bent. We provide mentoring and professional opportunities to artists of Silk Road backgrounds. We partner with grass roots, community based organizations. We aim to expand the theatre community's discourse on race and ethnicity. And we demonstrate that theatre with Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean content can generate mainstream interest and success.