Thursday, March 5, 2009

HBO documentary on transexuals in Iran coming up in May




A film by Tanaz Eshaghian

Premieres May 20, 2009

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country with strict social mores and traditional values, sex-change operations are legal. Over twenty years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious edict) making sex change permissible for “diagnosed transsexuals.” Yet homosexuality is still punishable by death.

With Iran’s international arms negotiations dominating news headlines worldwide, a very private kind of drama is unfolding behind the scenes. Highly feminine and attracted to members of the same sex, yet forced to live in secret for fear of retribution, a generation of young Iranian men are adopting an identity legally allowed to them—transsexual. In pursuit of what one man calls simply, “a decent life,” they flock to the country’s best-established gender reassignment surgeon, Dr. Bahram Mir Jalali, and are counseled by 24-year-old Vida, a post-op woman who claims to be “reborn” but warns of dangers that still await.

Iranian-American filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian accompanies several young men as they contemplate and prepare for their transformation, then follows them into and out of surgery. Intimate and unflinching, BE LIKE OTHERS is a fascinating look at those on the fringes of Iranian life—those looking for acceptance through the most radical of means.

About Tanaz Eshagian:
Tanaz Eshaghian was born in Iran in 1974 and left with her mother at the age of six, at the start of the Iran-Iraq war. She grew up in New York City, where she still lives, and graduated from Brown University in 1996 with a BA in Art Semiotics. Tanaz began making films a few years later, with a focus on documenting the Iranian experience in America. In 2001 she made the short documentary I CALL MYSELF PERSIAN. Framed by the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 and the World Trade Center attacks, the film reveals how Iranians living in the U.S. are often stereotyped and held responsible for anti-American activity, and weighs the effects on their identity. Her second film, the 63-minute LOVE IRANIAN-AMERICAN STYLE (2005), was shot over a period of four years and documented her own traditional Iranian family’s obsession with marrying her off. Sexual purity, money and a mother’s worries come together in this humorous guided tour lead by Tanaz through the Iranian-Jewish communities in New York and Los Angeles. BE LIKE OTHERS is her first film set in Iran—a country she had not visited for decades.

Lauren Schwartz
Donna Daniels Public Relations, LLC
20 West 22nd Street, Suite 1410
New York, NY 10010

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Arab-Israeli conflict focus of Chciago theatrical play


Theatre Mir gives voice to the Arab-Israeli conflict
in theatrical production and special programs

at the Chicago DCA Storefront Theater
March 5 – April 5, 2009

Theatre Mir, in association with Chicago DCA Theater, presents the Midwest premiere of The Arab-Israeli Cookbook by British playwright Robin Soans. The production comes to Chicago DCA Theater’s Storefront Theater at 66 E. Randolph Street, from March 5 through April 5, 2009. Members of the press are invited to the opening performance on Saturday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m.

The Arab-Israeli Cookbook brings Arab and Israeli voices together in the stories of ordinary people living in a rich yet divided world in Israel and the West Bank. Based on real-life interviews, this deeply human play weaves the stories and recipes of more than forty characters who reveal common culture and experiences amidst the daily conflict. In restaurants, shops, cafes, and homes, everyone has a story to tell and a recipe to cook.

In 2003, playwright Robin Soans and directors Rima Brihi and Tim Roseman – the one Arab, the other Jewish – traveled to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The play was originally presented in a hit production at London’s The Gate Theatre. It has since been produced in Canada, Japan, and the United Stated and broadcast on BBC World Service in 2006. Theatre Mir’s production is the play’s Midwest premiere.

Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $23 for general admission, $18 for seniors, and $15 for students. Discounts are also available for groups of ten or more. All tickets are available by calling 312.742.TIXS (8497), visiting, or stopping by the box office, open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.; and one hour prior to each performance. Post-show discussions moderated by Scott Hibbard and Khalil Marrar of the DePaul University Political Science Department will follow the preview performances on March 5 and 6.

Cast and Production Team
Walter Brody, Maggie Cain, Susaan Jamshidi, Stephen Loch, Julian Martinez, Mark Richard, Frank Sawa, and Rachel Slavick.

Production Team
Rob Chambers (Director), Marianna Csaszar (Sets), Brandon Wardell (Lights), Laura B. Kollar (Costumes), Brett Masteller (Sound), Christina Pretsch and Chris Chapin (Stage Managers), Eva Breneman (Dialects), Zev Valancy (Dramaturgy), Andrea Fears (Assistant Director), Danica Ivancevic (Producer).

Special Events
In association with the production, Theatre Mir and Chicago DCA Theater will present a series of special events designed to further explore the themes and issues raised in The Arab-Israeli Cookbook.

Monday, March 16, 7pm
Discussion “Staging Conflict: Theatrical Narratives of the Holy Land”
Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center
FREE, Reservations encouraged at 312.742.TIXS (8497), or at
Silk Road Theatre Project and Theatre Mir present scenes from their productions of Motti Lerner’s “Pangs of the Messiah” and Robin Soans’ “The Arab-Israeli Cookbook,” two plays portraying unique perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the former an intra-Jewish story about a family of religious West Bank settlers set in 2012 and the latter a verbatim play based on interviews with Christians, Jews and Muslims living in Israel and the West Bank. The program includes a lively panel discussion on the challenges of dramatizing the personal and political within the context of the Middle East.

Wednesday, April 1, 6:30pm
Film Screening “Encounter Point”
Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center
FREE, Reservations encouraged at 312.742.TIXS (8497), or at
“Encounter Point” is a poignant documentary about a former Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved brother who risk their lives and public standing to promote a nonviolent end to the conflict. Their journeys lead them to the unlikeliest places to confront hatred within their communities. The film explores what drives them and thousands of other like-minded civilians to overcome anger and grief to work for grassroots solutions in the face of government inaction. It is a film about the everyday leaders in our midst.

Saturday, April 4, 11am
World Kitchen Class “The Arab-Israeli Cookbook”
Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph
$30, Tickets go on sale Wednesday, March 4 at 12 noon
The Department of Cultural Affairs’ World Kitchen offers this special hands-on cooking class that brings some of The Arab-Israeli Cookbook’s Middle Eastern recipes into your home kitchen. Students must be 16 years or older. Tickets can be purchased at Chicago DCA Theater’s box office, at 312.742.TIXS (8497), or at

Theatre Mir was created in 2007 to actively engage audiences about issues affecting our world today – to entertain as well as to inform. Inspired by the Russian word “mir”, which means both peace and world, Theatre Mir's mission is to create opportunities through entertainment and related education programs for artists and audiences to explore issues facing our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society and world today. The company presented a production of “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” in 2008 at the Raven Theatre. More information on Theatre Mir can be found at

The Storefront Theater and the Studio Theater, its companion theater located in the Chicago Cultural Center at 77 E. Randolph Street, comprise Chicago DCA Theater, an anchor of the downtown theater district. Chicago DCA Theater offers downtown audiences an off-Loop theater experience with an exciting look at the vibrant emerging and developing theater companies that call Chicago home. Proposals for creative and innovative productions for the January to June 2010 season are now being accepted until May 15, 2009.

Discounted parking is available at Wabash Randolph Self Park at 20 E. Randolph. Patrons can receive the $14 rate by validating their ticket at the Storefront Theater box office.

For more information about Theatre Mir’s The Arab-Israeli Cookbook and Chicago DCA Theater, visit call 312.742.TIXS (8497) or visit The enhanced website features more information about DCA Theater performances and programs, including a blog, photo galleries, and visitor information.

Note to Press: Electronic images are available at or by request.