Farid-ud-Din Attar’s Play: Conference of the Birds

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Poet: Farid-ud-Din Attar
Director: Wendy Jehlen
Group: Anikaya, USA
Language: English (???)
Duration: 1 hr 20 mins

The Play
Conference of the Birds is an evening-length movement theatre work, conceived and directed by Wendy Jehlen and inspired by the epic poem of Farid ud Din Attar. It is a tale of a group of birds that set off in search of the mythical bird, the Simurgh.  Many of the birds abandon the quest. When the remaining birds arrive in the land of the Simurgh, they find themselves reflected… they are the Simurgh. We use Attar’s text as a frame for narratives gathered from refugees and other migratory people, symbolizing the journey that we, the diversity that is humanity, take together. It is a story of found community, of the necessity of difference. Conference of the Birds has been supported by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, The Boston Foundation, Jacob’s Pillow, Arts Emerson, Theatre Communications Group, New Music/USA and National Endowment for the Arts.

Director’s Note
Conference of the Birds poses the question: How can we be different together? The performance proposes an answer. Anikaya explores this question by translating contemporary migrant stories into dance. In the creation of the work, the company directly engaged with refugee and other migrant communities throughout the creative process. Through a community-based, artist-led process, we have created a framework within which a dynamic evolving presentation can happen – relevant to the moment. Conference of the Birds addresses many narratives at once. It addresses issues pertinent to religious and cultural minorities, gender and sexuality, refugees, and works to counteract xenophobia in its many manifestations – both in content and in the composition of the company. Re-contextualising this classical Sufi text illuminates current moment in history, bringing to full circle the idea that human history is a history of movement, mingling and entanglements.

The Director
Wendy Jehlen’s career has been marked by international explorations, study and creative collaboration. Wendy engages in collaborations across languages, culture, media and genres. Her work questions the boundaries that we imagine between ourselves, and seeks to break down these imagined walls through an embodied practice of radical empathy. Her unique approach to choreography incorporates elements of Bharat Natyam, Odissi, Capoeira, Kalaripayattu, West African dance, Butoh, and a wide-range of contemporary movement forms. Her emotionally powerful choreography has been created and performed in the US, Canada, Italy, India, Japan, Brazil, Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Mali and Turkey. Her works include Delicateness in Times of Brutality (2017), a duet with Deaf Butoh artist Dakei; Entangling (2015), a duet inspired by Quantum Entanglement; The Deep (2015), a work for 25 dancers created in Brazil; Lilith (2013), a solo on the first woman; The Knocking Within (2012), an evening-length duet on a disintegrating relationship; Forest (2010), a journey through the archetypal forest; and He Who Burns (2006).

The Poet
Abū Ḥamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm, better known by his pen-name Farīd ud-Dīn Aṭṭār, was a Persian poet, theoretician of Sufism, and hagiographer from Nishapur who had an immense and lasting influence on Persian poetry and Sufism. Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr (The Conference of the Birds) and Ilāhī-Nāma (The Book of Divine) are among his most famous works.

The Group
Anikaya’s mission is to break down the perceived boundaries between people, cultures and art forms. Our work has so far extended to the US, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, France, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mali and Turkey. Anikaya weaves together music, dance and storytelling to create works that pull from the full range of the body’s communicative capabilities. We incorporate traditional forms, internalizing them and then allowing them to reemerge as part of a new contemporary movement vocabulary. The result is work that is resonant of deep-rooted traditions, without being bound to any particular genre, place or practice. The ensemble includes performers from Benin, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, India/South Africa, Japan, Turkey and the US.

Cast & Credits
Dancers                                   Ibrahim Abdo (Egypt), Yasin Anar (Turkey), Sarveshan Gangen (South                                                      Africa/India), Kae Ishimoto (Japan), Danang Pamungkas (Indonesia),                                                        Luciane Ramos da Silva (Brazil)

Music created by                     Fraction (Eric Raynaud) (France), Shaw Pong Liu (USA), Shaho Andalibi                                                  (Iran/Canada), Deraldo Ferreira (Brazil/USA)
Light Design                            Stephen Petrilli (USA)
Light execution                       Gregory Casparian (USA)
Projection Design                  David Bengali (USA)
Calligraphy artist
& content consultant              Pouya Jahanshahi (Iran/USA)

Director/Choreographer        Wendy Jehlen (USA)

Contacts
Director, Anikaya
67 Dane St., Somerville, Massachusetts,
USA- 002143
M: +1 6178617930
E: [email protected]

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Manohar Khushalani

Prof. Manohar Khushalani is Currently a Visiting Faculty at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi. The courses he teaches are: Animation & Graphics, Non-Linear Editing for Film and Radio and Theatre Appreciation.  He has won Excellence in Teaching awards for all the courses he has taught at IIITD Based on a Belief that Culture and Environment are the two keys to global sustainability , Manohar Khushalani has launched two portals: A Portal on Environment and Water called One Vorld at url: www.onevorld.org and two Ezines on Culture called Stage Buzz at url: www.stagebuzz.in & www.stagebuzz.info He has taught extensively in varied subjects such as Dam Safety, Instrumentation, CAD, IT, Animation, Theatre, Newspaper Editing. He has conducted Courses on Environment Management, Water Shed Development, Team Building and Personality Development. He is an Expert Member of Prasar Bharti’s Committee for Grading & Short listing Films for Telecast on all channels of Doordarshan.  He is a Radio Anchor for All India Radio and has moderated several programs for the Rajdhani Channel He is a well-known Theatre Actor/Director and Critic, has been involved in theatre since 1977. He has worked as an actor in over 50 plays with almost every leading director/Actor in the Country including Badal Sircar, Feisal Alkazi, Amal Allana, M.K. Raina, Anuradha Kapoor, Maya Rao, Manohar Singh, Prasanna, Rati Bartholomew and Sushmita Mukherji. He has been active in the social sector as a street theatre activist. As a member of Workshop Theatre, Theatre Union and Prayog, Khushalani has participated in street plays taking up major social issues such as dowry, bride burning, Sati, banned medicinal drugs and communalism. Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can’t Pay Won’t Pay, both directed by him, received rave notices from critics and audiences alike. Other plays directed by him include Badal Sircar’s, Sagina Mahato and Boris Vian’s Empire Builders for Ruchika Theatre Group. Khushalani has also acted in a few films such as Sudhir Mishra's Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi , Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Café and Pradeep Krishan's Annie Gives Those Ones. He is an Animator & Graphics Designer and has directed a number of documentaries. He also held a number of Honorary positions and was President of North India Films Association, He was the Chairman of  Jury for UGC CEC Educational Films Competition and has been on their Preview Committee since last many years. He was on the preview committee of Door Darshan Channel 3, was a visiting Professor at National School of Drama, New Delhi, and Film & Television Institute of India, Pune, AJKMCRR, Jamia Milia Islamia and Professor in Media at FICT, Delhi  He has judged a large number of Drama Competitions and conducted a number of Theatre / Management Games Workshops with Institutions such as AIIMS, NTPC, CWPRS, NWA, Karve Nari Prakshishan Sansthan, FICT, IIT, MAMC, Gargi College, KNC, Tagore International School and Vivekananda School. He is a Theatre Critic for IIC Diary, has also been a Columnist with Midday and Pioneer Daily and wrote Column's Called Culture Cocktail and Footlights Respectively. He was also the Guest Editor for an issue on Folk Theatre of ICCR Journal Horizons. He has written for Times of Indian, Hindustan Times, Blitz, Hard News, Hindu Business Line, Theatre India & Art Times. He has designed dams and hydraulic structures for the Government. He is a programmer and has developed Engineering design software in Fortran. He is a co-author of Irrigation Practice & Design (Vol 1 to5 - 1500 pages) published by Oxford & IBH and sponsored by National Book Trust. He has been a Director, Environment and Sociology, at the National Water Academy, Khadakwasla and Director, Environment Management Directorate, Central Water Commission and Member Secretary, National Environmental Monitoring Committee for River Valley Projects. He was also Director of Instrumentation Directorate in the Dam Safety Organisation. He was Chief General Manager and Head of Water Resources at Scott Wilson and is an accredited consultant with numerous other organizations He is a Delhi Public School, BITS Pilani, IIT Delhi and FTI Pune Alumini. He was also the President of BITS Pilani Alumni Association, Pune.

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