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Brief Encounter With ... Silken Veils's Leila Ghaznavi

By • Scotland
Nominated for a Fringe First Award 2010, Silken Veils brings together Rumi poetry, marionettes, shadow work, live performance and animation. As creator Leila Ghaznavi invokes the story of young Iranian woman, Darya, reliving her chilhood during the 1979 Iran/Iraq war, the show takes a critical look at recent Iranian history.


Why did you make Silken Veils?

I was inspired by a photograph I saw of a protest during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In it was a sea of men and one woman who was holding on to a man from behind. It really got me to thinking what it means to try and hold on to love through political turmoil. The personal challenge of this work was to create a piece that pulls from every skill set that I posses. Silken Veils is the culmination of over a decade of acting training from all over the world. I have combined my studies in the US with the techniques I learned from my time spent in Norway and Bali.

What is the most common question you get asked about Silken Veils?

The thing I get asked the most often is if Silken Veils is autobiographical. This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer because there are elements of Silken Veils that are based upon my own life experiences and the experiences of other Iranian émigrés. For example the main character Darya’s relationship with her fiancé is parallel to an ex-boyfriend of mine but all the characters in the play are fictional. I have interwoven fact with imagination to try and reveal the heart of the Iranian experience.

What makes Silken Veils unique?

Several things. First off it is a blend of Rumi poetry, marionettes and table top puppets, animation, dance and live performance. Each element of the production has been carefully chosen to create a world of memory that speaks to the heart of the characters. Second, the set is composed completely of suitcases from which every prop of the show emerges including the characters themselves symbolizing the baggage that we all carry. Third, Silken Veils is a story about an Iranian family but the passion, pain and love that is experienced relates to all people.

If you were meeting your prospective in-laws for the first time, how would you describe the work you do?

The work that I do is striving to tell stories that show that pain and loss can be a beginning and not always an ending. I want to teach the embittered heart to smile once again. I create stories that compel as well as educate. I work to build bridges between cultures to help people see beyond the stereotype of what it means to be Middle Eastern.

This show has been in development and production for almost two years now what has been the most memorable moment?

The moment that stays with me the most happened in Chicago. It was after we had finished the show and I was leaving the theater and I noticed a man standing on the street with tears coming down his face. I asked him if he was okay and he said, “that’s what theater is supposed to be”. I cannot tell you how moved I was that something I had created had reached out and touched another person so deeply. I gave him a hug then stood on that corner with him holding his hand. My other favorite moment is when I see a couple in the audience just sitting there holding each other after a show.

What is theater to you?

Our company member Warren St. George said it the best “art is jumping off a bridge and hoping that you have a miraculous soft landing and sometimes you do and sometimes it’s crashing on the rocks, but the joy, the adventure and the life is in the fall”. Stepping out onto stage is jumping off that bridge and for those moments that we work, we live intensely. We are birthed, loved, hurt and die in the length of the play.

Silken Veils shows at the Assembly George Square from the 4 - 28 August (excl 16) at 15.40.


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