Artists and Scholars

Lesley Ferris, Lead PI, Distinguished Professor, Theatre, publishes widely, directs nationally and internationally, and serves as the Artistic Director of Palindrome Productions (London). Dr. Ferris continues to lead and direct this theatre project, which will be able to fully incorporate Afghan perspectives with the proposed funding. Committed to diversity in the arts, her current work focuses on international women playwrights. Most recently, she developed and produced a cadre of new short plays based on publications by Afghan women journalists entitled Sahar Speaks: Voices of Women from Afghanistan which she includes in her TH 2100 H Introduction to Theatre course and her TH 5771.06 International Theatre and Performance course that centers on women playwrights from across the globe. She will be teaching this course again in the fall and plans to focus on Afghanistan by using scripts from Sahar Speaks as well as The Great Game: Afghanistan (2009), a collection of short plays from the UK that provide an historical overview of the country and its historic link to Britain (1842 to 2009). The artistic reputation of this ground-breaking work demonstrates the ways that live performance can offer avenues for an unprecedented opportunity: the recommendation of British General Sir David Richards launched performances for the Pentagon in 2011.

Alam Payind, PI, Director of Middle East Studies Center, will advise the project’s cultural components. Born and raised in Afghanistan, he will provide ongoing cultural consultation for the project. He speaks Pashto, Dari and Urdu with native fluency and travels extensively within Afghanistan. During recent trips he has witnessed the Taliban’s resurgence in Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, and other provinces. He has publicly recited the poetry of Khosh alKhan Khatak, Hafiz, and Rumi to audiences throughout the world, and others from the Pashto, Persian, Urdu cannons, in addition to his own works.

Janet Parrott, Co-PI, Chair/Theatre. As Theatre’s senior video artist, Janet will supervise the video documentation of the project. She will select the two-film/video students, mentor them, and co-edit final results. Janet will oversee the department’s commitment to this project and support curricular strategies for ensuring that students take full advantage of the opportunity to learn about Afghanistan and the role of Afghan women in the contemporary world though the artistic practice of theatre.

Kevin McClatchy, Co-PI, Theatre. Kevin’s research agenda focuses on issues of conflict and war. He will coordinate veteran student engagement and outreach to veterans. In partnership with Janet Parrott, he organized an international art centered symposium entitled “Responsibility, Morality and the Costs of War: PTSD, Moral Injury and Beyond” (2015) that included workshops with veterans and a performance of his own solo work Scrap Heap. Kevin works closely with veterans on campus and in Columbus running workshops using Shakespeare’s Henry V. He is committed to including an Afghan play as one of the required course scripts.

Guest Artists/Scholars Presenting Work:

Nushin Arbabzadah, Afghan playwright, scholar, translator, and journalist, was a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Center for India & South Asia and now teaches in UCLA’s Department of Communications. Previous work includes advising on culture and immigrant identities with the British Council. Publications include “Women in Religious Patronage in the Timurid Empire,” in Nile Green (ed.), Afghan’s Islam: From Conversion to the Taliban (University of California Press, 2017), and her most recent book is Afghan Rumor Bazaar: Secret Sub-Cultures, Hidden Worlds and the Everyday Life of the Absurd (Hachette, 2013). She has written numerous articles on women’s rights, intercultural issues, and the War on Terror for numerous outlets including The Guardian and Open Democracy as well as radio interviews with the BBC Farsi, BBC London and Voice of America. She was runner-up at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference (2016). Her play, Afghan Women Don’t Cry, received a staged reading in the War Plays Festival in London in 2018.  She will deliver the 2019 Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute Annual Lecture, and will also adapt one of the stories written by Afghan women journalists for Sahar Speaks which will be performed as a one-act play.
Interview with Columbus Alive:

Natalie Alvarez is a Canadian theatre and performance scholar known for her critical analysis of Latina plays. Her publications include edited play collections and essays such as “Transcultural Dramaturgies: Latina Theatre’s Third Wave,” published in Palgrave Macmillan’s Contemporary Women Playwrights : Into the 21st Century (2013). The plays she analyzes utilize a hemispheric perspective that examines Chilean, Mexican, and Cuban refugees. Her current work –Immersions in Cultural Difference: Tourism, War, Performance (University of Michigan Press, 2018)—scrutinizes a variety of performance-based training including immersive simulations for military personnel. As part of this work, her essay “Managing Affect in Mock Afghan Villages” examines the role of Afghans playing the roles of villagers in military training camps in Canada and Britain.

Alia Bano is a London-based playwright and teacher of Pashtun origin. As a Royal Court Theatre’s young playwright she had a powerful debut success in 2009 with Shades (Methuen, 2009) about the trials around dating in the Muslim community. In addition to being named as “Most Promising New Playwright” by the Evening Standard, the play was enthusiastically received by the British press. Since then she has produced a range of new plays: Hens (2010) at the Riverside which was filmed and shown on the Sky Arts Channel, Gap (2011) at the National Theatre, published in Connections: Plays for Young People (Bloomsbury/Methuen), and Buried (2011)part of the Royal Court’s Rough Cuts season. Alia is currently commissioned to adapt a story by an Afghan woman journalist by Palindrome Productions. She will adapt one of the stories written by Afghan women journalists for Sahar Speaks which will be performed as a one-act play.

Joël van Houdt is a photojournalist currently based in Moscow. In 2007 he began working on ‘Entering Europe’ documenting the life of an educated Moroccan refugee before, during and after migrating to Spain. The project was widely exhibited and won best photo at Germany’s Lead Academy in 2011. A six-month project in Afghanistan in 2010 turned into a five-year stay and he continues to return as often as possible to cover the ongoing conflict. In 2017, he exhibited “Kuja Meri?” (Where are you going?), his project on Afghan refugees. It opened in London and again in 2018 where, working with the Afghan ArtLords, the large-scale photos appeared on blast walls in the center of Kabul.