Performers from India and Iran, Colombia and Cuba, Beirut and Johannesburg told tales, played music and danced on Saturday afternoon in Prospect Park, in a grassy sun-baked field called the Peninsula — which is past the Eastern white pine trees and Japanese pagoda trees, the American hornbeam and English elm and Norway maple.
“I had a dream,” said Pooya Mohseni, portraying a character named Shahrzad, dressed in a flowing red robe and a hat full of flowers. “A dream of liberation. A dream of getting out of the plague.” As she spoke, Sade Namei, portraying Ma’erekeh, dragged around a child’s wagon of pots and pans and recycled bric-a-brac. She had pinned a homemade sign to her Peter Pan-like costume: “Hi. I am Vaxxed (since 2021.)”
This was the beginning of “Glimpse,” one of the dozens of shows in the nine-day Global Forms Theater Festival, showcasing 100 immigrant artists from 34 countries.
“This is our only in-person event; everything else is virtual,” Daniella Topol told me during an intermission. She is the artistic director of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, which co-produced the festival with New York Theatre Salon. “Glimpse,” she said “is focused on gathering together, coming out of COVID together. We’d been dreaming of doing this in person for a while; we took a leap of faith when we began planning for it last fall.” They only got the permit after the Governor starting lifting the lockdown in April.
In “Glimpse,” Shahrzad goes on a journey where she meets other storytellers from other lands. The journey lasted three hours, but that certainly gives the wrong impression. This was not the kind of theater where people glare at their seatmates for checking their smart phones. There were no seats, and no phones. A team of serious teens was playing soccer at stage left (if there had been a stage), and the audience sat in the equivalent of Row Z (if this had been an indoor theater building) because that’s where the shade was. As the performers circulated around a field brilliantly lit by the sun’s intense rays, two little girls stood on a blanket underneath a nearby tree busily sticking their tiny toys on their Grandpa’s head. A young woman shimmied to the beat of the band Maraca Bruja, while a young man, holding a Jack Russell Terrier in his lap, bounced in syncopation. Nobody seemed to mind, not even the dog.
Near the end, Shahrzad arrived at the land of Lenape, and told the story of a dancer who danced the most beautiful dance ever seen. In the story, a little girl wanted to know how she could dance so freely. A star dropped from the sky to explain: “The dance comes from deep within you….when your conscious and subconscious work in unison…
The place you were born is in you! It breathes, it lives in you. The smell, the taste, the song of your land lives in you! You carry your land, your roots in you.”
After so many grand or monetary pronouncements about the dramatic arts, it was something of a revelation to leave “Glimpse” by walking through a public park filled with barbecues and birthday celebrations, at least one of which featured a Spanish-speaking clown in full makeup and costume. It all felt like theater to me — the urge seemed the same. “Glimpse” offered a glimpse of one of the things “reopening” could come to mean.
Director and Curator – Shadi Ghaheri
Music Curation in Collaboration with – Sadra Shahab
Dramaturg – Diana Fathi
Set Designers – Maamoun Tobbo
Costume Designer – Stine Dahlman
Mask/Puppet Designer – Afsaneh Ayani
Sound Designer – Tye Hunt Fitzgerald
Stage Manager – José Noel
Assistant Stage Manager – Ariane Terrell
Actors and Dancers –
Alfredo Colon and Company