"Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic," most elaborate shadow theater experience ever created,
comes to Kaye Playhouse September 7-8.
Tale from historic epic, "Shahnameh," is staged with ingenious design and cinematic wizardry.
Exquisite production is a live animation experience for all ages.

September 7 & 8, 2018
The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, NYC 10065
Presented by Fictionville Studio
Friday, September 7 at 7:00; Saturday, September 8 at 2:00 and 6:00
Tickets $25-55. Purchase tickets: http://www.kingorama.com or Kaye Playhouse Box Office, 212-772-4448.
VIP tickets: $250 (two premium seats, a backstage tour with director Hamid Rahmanian, one signed copy of the pop up book," Zahhak: Legend of the Serpent King" and Feathers Of Fire tote bag. Available only at: http://www.kingorama.com/vip-tix.)
Show's website: http://www.kingorama.com/feathersoffire/
Running time: 80 minutes
Recommended to ages 5 and up.
Reviewers are invited to all performances.
Photos are available at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yYdbq7uPJHdAy1qXA
B-roll is available upon request.

NEW YORK, August 7 -- "Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic" is a visually breathtaking cinematic shadow play for all ages, created and directed by Hamid Rahmanian, a 2014 Guggenheim fellowship-winning filmmaker/visual artist. Inspired by the tenth century Persian epic "Shahnameh" (The Book of Kings), it dramatizes the origin story from the tale with elaborate shadow puppets, multimedia and live actors. The production, which debuted at BAM in 2016 and was presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art the same year, returns to New York next month for two days only. It will be presented by Fictionville Studio September 7 and 8 at Kaye Playhouse, 695 Park Ave. (at 68th Street), for three performances only before it travels to China and Paris.

The play is an action-packed magical tale of star-crossed lovers. An outcast albino boy, Zaul, is brought up by a bird-goddess and grows up into a wise ruler. He enters into a forbidden love with princess Rudabeh, the granddaughter of the dreaded Serpent King. Their young, impetuous romance survives many precarious adventures before they finally receive blessings for their union. When they ultimately have a child, it is Rostam, "the Hercules of Iran." Aspects of the story are reminiscent of "Romeo and Juliet," "Rapunzel," "The Firebird" and "Jungle Book."

Rahmanian's graphics, derived from the visual traditions of the region, are rendered in puppets, costumes, masks, scenography and digital animation, all of which come to life in a “live animation” shadow casting technique perfected by shadow master Larry Reed on a cinema-size screen. Reed was trained as a dalang ("shadow master") in the Balinese Wayang Kulit tradition and his productions combine multimedia and live actors. The puppets are handcrafted from special cardboard and colored celluloid. Backgrounds are projected by two high-end projectors donated by Canon USA for that purpose. There is an original score by Iranian-American musicians Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali that is played on the saz, ney and kamaan as well as sung.

Eight performers, 160 hand made puppets and 137 animated backgrounds come together to create a live animation experience with 1,163 cues--the most elaborate shadow theater experience ever created. The screen is 36' x 16' and set on a stage that is 30 feet deep. The experience is so much like watching a movie that audiences become unaware that they are watching a stage show. They are reminded of that reality when, at the end of the play, the stage is reversed to reveal the production's technical construction to the audience.

Unlike most shadow theater, the imagery is not limited to 2D projections. Actors wear laser-cut head gears developed by Reed that are shaped sort of like horse blinkers, with wings that project from both sides of the face at a slight angle. These are identically shaped in the profile of their characters' faces. With a quick flick of a character's head, its body can change direction too. Video projections are used for the first time as both a light source and a background. Perspective is not only changed by moving the characters closer to and farther from the screen, but also by zooming the background projections. In a cinematic touch, switching projectors advances the action by allowing a scene to be cut between wide shots and closeups. The production requires perfect timing and technical precision.

Hamid Rahmanian relates being inspired for this work by Lotte Reiniger's "Adventures of Prince Achmed" (1926), the first full-length animated feature (predating "Snow White"), which was composed entirely of expertly-cut silhourttes.

While we are most familiar with Shadow Theater in its Balinese and Chinese forms, it was also an important entertainment genre in Egypt, Syria and Iran during the 10th-13th centuries. This was a time in early Islam when the depiction of the actual face was not allowed, so the art form offered a "loophole" for Muslim performers.

Francis Ford Coppola has called the production "Fantastic!  One of the greatest epics of all time and my favorite 'Shahnameh' brought to life in a spectacular fashion by Hamid Rahmanian with shadow puppets design and cinematic wizardry." Puppetry International (Linda C. Ehrlich) called the play "a feast for the senses." PBS/KCET called it "jaw dropping." Edge Media (Dale Reynolds) declared, "It's unique and worthy of attention because, trust it, you have never seen this before." Santa Monica Daily Press (Cynthia Citron) exclaimed, "How do you describe perfection?  What can you say about a fantasy that keeps you spellbound and holding your breath for 70 minutes?  How can I write a 700-word rave about it?"

Following the production's debut at BAM in 2016, it was presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where 1600 people showed up for 1300 seats. It has been performed a total of 88 times in the USA and overseas, playing for 79,000 people. Engagements have included 17 American cities as well as Toronto, Poland and Taiwan. Following the Kaye Playhouse engagement, it will travel to China for performances at Shanghai Theater Academy November 11 to 16 and Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Center November 21-25. These will be followed by performances in Paris at Musée du quai Branly December 8-16.

The production is conceived, designed and directed by Hamid Rahmanian in collaboration with Larry Reed and ShadowLight Productions. It is produced by Fictionville Studio and Banu Productions and co-produced by Ahmad Kiarostami and Farhad Mohammadi. Original Music is by Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali. The performers are Ya Wen Chien, Gabriela, Garcia, Ariel Lauryn, Rose Nisker, Fred C. Riley III, Leah Ogawa, Mohammad Talani and Dina Zarif.

Videos and more information are available at: http://www.kingorama.com/feathersoffire.

Hamid Rahmanian earned a BFA in Fine Arts from Tehran University in 1987. He was one of 30 students (out of 17,000) selected for the university's graphic arts program. He moved to the US in 1992, working as a graphic designer and earning an MFA in computer animation from Pratt Institute. In 1996, he became the youngest ever recipient of the National Interest Waiver from the U.S. for his outstanding work as an artist. Hired by Disney, he contributed to "Tarzan," "The Emperor's New Groove" and "Dinosaur." He left Disney in 1998 and established his own production company, Fictionville Studio. The next year, his short film, "Am I Within," received Kodak's Best Cinematography Award, Best American Short from the LA International Short Film Festival and Special Achievement Award from the USA Film Festival. This was followed by three successful documentaries. His first feature length fiction film, "Day Break" (2005), premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, screened at the Venice and Tribeca Film Festivals, and won Special Jury Prize at the International Film Festival of Prime in 2006. Variety called it "An impressive debut feature that works like a ticking time bomb." By 2008, he had directed seven films. He was awarded a Guggenheim in 2014, the year he began experimenting with shadow theater techniques He first created a 20-minute shadow play with overhead projectors, "Zahhak: The Legend of the Serpent King," which was presented at at New York's Asia Society and BAM. "Feathers of Fire" followed in 2016, premiering at BAM and playing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That same year, he was commissioned by the Onassis Foundation to write and direct "Mina's Dream," a shadow play based the Greek tragedy of Antigone. He is currently designing animations for with Yo Yo Ma's Silkroad Ensemble production of "Heroes," an opera that is also based on "Shahnameh" ("The Book of Kings").

Rahmanian's films have been televised on PBS, Sundance Channel, IFC, Channel 4, BBC, DR2, and Al Jazeera. They endeavor to combat negative stereotypes about Iranians, to promote anti-capital punishment laws in the US and to raise funds and awareness for the plights of disadvantaged women and girls around the world.

Much of Rahmanian's work is dedicated to providing a "holistic" view of Iranian culture by exposing children (and their parents) to its formative legends. His principal effort in the last five years had been the creation of a set of four works, all in different media, based on "Shahnameh" ("The Book of Kings"), a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi. The national epic of Iran, it deals with the mythical and somewhat historical past of the Persian Empire, from creation to the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century. It is the world's longest work by a single poet and is considered responsible for the preservation of the Persian language from Arabic.

The first part of this massive project was the book "Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings," a 600-page illustrated new translation by Ahmad Sadri, illustrated by Hamid Rehmanian, that was published in 2013 by Quantuck Lane Press/WW Norton. (See: http://www.kingorama.com/epic-shahnameh/.) It is now in its sixth printing. The second part of the project was release of "Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings" as a 12-hour audiobook performed by Marc Thompson. (See: http://www.kingorama.com/shahnameh-audiobook/.) The third part was "Zahhak: The Legend of the Serpent King," the very first pop-up book on the epic, designed by Rahmanian and paper engineer Simon Arizpe, published by Fantagraphics Books. (See: http://www.kingorama.com/shahnameh-zahhak-the-legend-of-the-serpent-king/.)  The fourth part is the shadow play, "Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic."

Tickets to "Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic" at Kaye Playhouse are $25-55. Performances are Friday, September 7 at 7:00 and Saturday, September 8 at 2:00 and 6:00. To purchase tickets, go to http://www.kingorama.com or call Kaye Playhouse Box Office, 212-772-4448. VIP tickets are $250 for two premium seats, a backstage tour with director Hamid Rahmanian, one signed copy of the pop up book," Zahhak: Legend of the Serpent King" and a Feathers of Fire tote bag. VIP tickets are available only at: http://www.kingorama.com/vip-tix.

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Reviewers are invited to all performances.
Press Photos are available at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yYdbq7uPJHdAy1qXA
B-roll is available upon request.
Videos and more information are available at: http://www.kingorama.com/feathersoffire.