by Mona Mansour
While trying to navigate the currents of the Pacific, an Arab-American woman and her nephew, who has enlisted in the military, dive into the murky waters of family, identity, and politics. Adventurous and playful, We Swim takes the form of a literal conversation on stage, and expands into a nuanced dialogue about what it means to be American, Arab, and Arab-American at our current moment in time. Lebanese-American writer Mona Mansour returns to Golden Thread for her fourth production — her most ambitious and personal to date.
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.
November 17, 2018 - December 16, 2018
1695 18th Street, San Francisco
Written by Mona Mansour
Directed by Evren Odcikin
Featuring Tre'Vonne Bell, Joshua Chessin-Yudin, Adam El-Sharkawi, Sarah Nina Hayon
Design Team: Cassie Barnes (lighting), Kate Boyd (scenic), Sara Huddleston (sound), Mona Kasra (projections), Michelle Mulholland (costumes)
Dramaturgy by Sonia Fernandez
Hala Baki (assisstant director)
This production runs 75 minutes with no intermission.
This play was commissioned by Middle East America: A National New Plays Initiative, created by Golden Thread Productions (San Francisco), The Lark (New York City), and Silk Road Rising (Chicago). Mona Mansour is the third winner of the Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award, which was previously awarded to Adriana Sevahn Nichols and Yussef El Guindi.
HIGHEST RATING! “A unifying cleanse… Mansour’s disarmingly naturalistic dialogue helps make these seismic structural shifts work. Over and over again, you might find yourself thinking, ‘Wow, this is how people actually talk’ — not to stoke drama for some playwright’s convenience, but to hedge, to test boundaries, to pursue what they want, and then to placate, to retreat, to regret.” —Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle (read full review)
“We Swim has an off-handed beauty… Its pleasures are engaging in ways that political theatre rarely is.” —John Wilkins, The Free Audience
“A poetic visual approach… Feels refreshing from the get-go.” —Jim Gladstone, Bay Area Reporter
“Imaginative… There’s humor and an engaging earnestness.” —Jean Schiffman, San Francisco Examiner
“Excellently choreographed… Odcikin’s direction is to be commended.” —Carol Benet, For All Events
“Working on a bare-bones unit set designed by Kate Boyd and enhanced by Mona Kasra’s projections, Odcikin has done an impressive job of shaping the conversations.” —George Heymont, My Cultural Landscape
“Compelling… Director Evren Odcikin handles changes of pace and place handily.” —Sam Hurwitt, Mercury News
Dive into Stage Magic
Have you ever tried swimming on stage? We have. Assistant director Hala Baki takes you behind the scenes as the We Swim creative team tackles this fun theatrical challenge.
Fairuz: The Voice of Home
The beloved Lebanese singer Fairuz’s music plays an important part in We Swim. ASWAT Ensemble soloist Rana Mroue explains the historical importance of this artist in the Arab world.
Backstage Musings: We Swim Actors Reflect on the Play
The cast of the world premiere discuss the play and their development and production experience.
A gulf between a family in Golden Thread’s We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War
San Francisco Chronicle’s Lily Janiak recommends We Swim
SF/ARTS Theatre Pick
Jean Schiffman names We Swim one of her November picks for theatre.
Commissions with a Mission: To Create a Middle Eastern American Plays
American Theatre Magazine’s Lizzie Simon writes about our Middle East America commissioning initiative after attending the 2016 Middle East America Convening.
Mona Mansour Interview
Director Evren Odcikin interviewed playwright Mona Mansour in advance of an earlier workhop of this play at the Lark in New York City.
This is Mona Mansour’s fourth production with Golden Thread, where she is a Resident Artist. The Vagrant Trilogy was recently produced at the Mosaic Theater in D.C., directed by Mark Wing-Davey. Of the trilogy, The Hour of Feeling premiered at the Humana Festival (directed by Wing-Davey), and a new Arabic translation was presented at NYU Abu Dhabi as part of its Arab Voices Festival; Urge for Going was produced at the Public Theater (directed by Hal Brooks) and at Golden Thread (directed by Odcikin); The Vagrant was workshopped at the Sundance Theater Institute. Other plays include The Way West (Labyrinth Theater, directed by Mimi O’Donnell; Steppenwolf, directed by Amy Morton; Marin Theatre Company, directed by Hayley Finn); Unseen (Gift Theater, directed by Maureen Payne-Hahner). Mona was a member of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group and is a member of New Dramatists. With Tala Manassah, she has written Falling Down the Stairs recently part of Atlantic Theater’s Middle Eastern Mixfest, as well as short plays Kamal’s Letter and The House, both presented at Golden Thread’s ReOrient Festival. Their play Dressing is part of Facing Our Truths: Short Plays About Trayvon, Race and Privilege, a collection of plays commissioned by the New Black Festival. 2012 Whiting Award, 2014 Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award, 2018 MacDowell Fellow. monamansour.com
Evren Odcikin is the Director of New Plays and Marketing at Golden Thread and a founder of Maia Directors, a consulting group for organizations and artists engaging with stories from the Middle East and beyond. Golden Thread credits include Mona Mansour’s Urge For Going, Yussef El Guindi’s Language Rooms (LA Times Critic’s Pick), Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s Autobiography of a Terrorist, Kevin Artigue’s The Most Dangerous Highway in the World, Denmo Ibrahim’s Ecstasy, a waterfable, and numerous short plays in ReOrient Festivals. He has worked at Berkeley Rep, South Coast Rep, the Lark (NYC), O’Neill Theatre Center, Kennedy Center, InterACT (Philadelphia), Cleveland Public Theatre, TheatreSquared (Arkansas), Magic Theatre, SF Playhouse, Crowded Fire, TheatreFirst, and Playwrights Foundation with such writers as Melis Aker, Christopher Chen, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Prince Gomolvilas, Lauren Gunderson, David Jacobi, MJ Kaufman, Hannah Khalil, Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Michael Lew, Rehana Mirza, Marisela Traviño Orta, Betty Shamieh, Caridad Svich, and Lauren Yee, amongst many others. Awards include a 2015 National Directors Fellowship and a 2013 TITAN Award from Theatre Bay Area. He was named a “Theatre Worker You Should Know” by American Theatre Magazine in 2016. Next up: Jordan Tannahill’s Late Company at NCTC and Gabriel Jason Dean’s Heartland at InterACT. odcikin.com
Cast: Tre’Vonne Bell, Joshua Chessin-Yudin, Adam El-Sharkawi, and Sarah Nina Hayon.
Creative Team: 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 consultant), Karen Runk^ (stage manager), Benjamin Shiu^ (assistant stage manager), Chris Swartzel (technical director), and Grisel Torres^ (production manager)