Hamid Rahmanian

Two Chairs
"Song of the North"
Artistic Discipline: TheaterPerforming Arts
Category: Local Arts Support
Grant Year: 2020
Location: Brooklyn Heights

Two Chairs supports the work of artists and media makers through all parts of the creative process, from production to distribution. The organization promotes collaboration between artists and organizations, pool resources, and share information. Two Chairs distributes work on a variety of platforms for maximum impact to global audiences, engage the public in the presentation of new ideas and works of art, and provide educational outreach materials that deepen audiences' interaction with the artists and their work.

This 90-minute, family-friendly shadow theater production combines puppets, performers, and animation on stage in a highly precise choreography, performed behind a screen (16x35) set up at the edge of a proscenium. The audience watches the entire show back projected onto the screen, immersed in a live animation adventure. The story is adapted from the epic tale Shahnameh, which is considered a national treasure in Iran. The work incorporates visual traditions of Iran as the vehicle to tell the story of a woman whose strength and perseverance makes her a cherished heroine.

Bijan, an Iranian knight, crosses enemy territory to attend a festival and falls madly in love with Princess Manijeh. As the festival ends, Manijeh leans over her lovestruck inamorato and sings an enchanted melody, putting him to sleep. Bijan awakens inside the enemy castle with Manijeh by his side. When the king learns of the intruder’s presence, he orders Bijan thrown into a well and disowns his daughter.

At the well’s edge, Manijeh sings and entertains Bijan with stories of yore and begs for food. She learns that the great hero Rostam was sent from Iran to find Bijan and sets out to locate him. Manijeh and Rostam go on a perilous adventure to rescue Bijan. Manijeh confronts her father for his heartless act and begs him to make peace with Iran. When he refuses, she sings out a magical melody that puts her father’s army to sleep. She returns to the well and frees Bijan and together they cross the border before the Turanian army can regroup. Safe in Iran, Manijeh is commended for her strength and determination and the two lovers live happily ever after.

This show is part of a larger Shahnameh project which is intended to highlight and modernize the literary and visual traditions of Iran and provide audiences with the opportunity to engage in a robust dialogue about different cultures, explore common archetypes, and mythologies in new ways and contribute to the promotion of underserved voices within the Brooklyn community and beyond.