By MELISSA REESE
CAMPUS—Salisbury University hosted the cinematic shadow play “Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic” Wednesday night.
Director Hamid Rahmanian presented his take on the 10th century Persian epic “Shahnameh (The Book of Kings).” In this tale, the star-crossed lovers Zaul and Rudabeh fall in love against the wishes of their families.
This book is a combination of mythology, epic and history. Rahmanian’s show has traveled all over the U.S. and the world, but SU is the first college campus where this play has been shown.
Rahmanian based his rendering of the play on the visual tradition of Iran. He used puppets, costumes, scenography and digital animation to tell the story.
He said this style of storytelling has been lost in the Iranian world, and he decided to revive this type of storytelling and the art of puppetry after 1,000 years.
At the end of the performance, the players surprised the audience with a live video showing how the show is made possible backstage with the puppeteers, who all have to make highly choreographed movements.
Ya Wen Chien, Gabriela Garcia, Ariel Lauryn, Rose Nisker, Leah Ogawa, Fred C. Riley III and Dina Zarif performed in Rahmanian’s Persian tale. The cast went through two and half months of rehearsal to master the choreography and puppetry.
The play features more than 160 puppets, 137 backgrounds and 15 masks and costumes for the characters. It also features an original score by Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali.
Rahmanian said the production took two years to make possible, and each puppet took an average of 16 hours to make.
The show began in January 2016. This is the company’s 78th performance.
Actors pre-recorded their voices in the studio, while the live performers are puppeteers. Shannon McNerney, an elementary education major, said she enjoyed the performance.
McNerney said all aspects of the production were fabulous, calling the costumes elaborate and awesome.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” McNerney said. “I’ve never seen anything Iranian before. I’ve never been exposed to that until tonight.”
McNerney said she was amazed by the performance, but she was unable to figure out how the performers did it until it was explained later in the show.
Director Rahmanian said he is proud of how the performance came together after all of the cast and crew’s hard work.
“It was wonderful,” Rahmanian said. “They have done a fabulous job. I’m very happy, and the turnout was great.”
About 700 people attended the performance.
Rahmanian said the play was completely inspired by his own culture and his heritage.
“The idea was to create something very Middle Eastern,” Rahmanian said. “Every design has a culture reference.”
Rahmanian said it was very satisfying to see the performance come together after two years of preparation for the actors, the producers and the costume and mask designers.
“You put your blood and your heart and your soul into it,” Rahmanian said.
Featured image captured by Melissa Reese.