SILK ROAD RISING
Rating: 4.97 stars 29 reviews
Issues: Arts & Culture, International
Location: 6 E Monroe St # 801 Chicago IL 60603 USA
Mission: Silk Road Rising (formerly known as Silk Road Theatre Project) creates live theatre and online videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses. In representing communities that intersect and overlap, we advance a polycultural worldview.
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I got involved with Silk Road Rising first, because of their high-quality stage productions. I kept coming back because, in learning about people I initially thought were different from me, I learned instead how similar we all are. I joined the board because of this organization's innovative approach to inclusive storytelling--with "Theater on Demand" and its online video and ease of accessibility; with community engagement through approaches such as "Mosque Alert," in which audiences help build characters and, ultimately, a play. Silk Road productions--whether online video plays, staged readings or full-blown productions--inspire my to think beyond myself and to approach others with empathy and respect.
I am an actor and Silk Road Rising has been instrumental in helping my career to blossom. As a matter of fact, we were both "born" around the same time. I had come to Chicago in the Autumn of 2002 to pursue acting, and I somehow found out about this company then called Silk Road Theatre Project and the show they were mounting, Jamil Khoury's "Precious Stones". I attended a performance (it was actually one of the very first shows I had seen in the city) and immediately knew I had to reach out to them. I just knew we were right for each other; I am an Arab-American, and I was very interested in helping them with their mission of putting stories on stage that were written by playwrights of Asian/Middle Eastern ancestry featuring actors of similar ancestry. It was a perfect beginning for me, and over the course of the next decade, we worked together many, many times. I not only got to perform a few times in various remounts of "Precious Stones", but I participated in one of their biggest shows to date, "Merchant on Venice", as well as smaller- but every bit as interesting- staged readings. I've loved and appreciated it all. Working with Jamil and Malik is just a lovely experience every time; they are incredibly supportive and admiring of our work, and sit in the audience quite often during the run of a show, as they are such fans of the theatre. Working with them, in short, feels like coming home. I am incredibly grateful for getting to work with them so much over the years, and grateful to them for giving so many diverse artists a much-needed chance to shine.
I was the minister of the Chicago Temple when Malik and Jamil came to me with their idea of starting a theater as a response to 9/11. How best can we get to know each other across cultural and ethnic boundaries? By telling our stories to each other. For over a decade I have sat in the audience and learned what I never otherwise would have known about people half way around the world and just around the corner.
What Silk Road Rising provides on stage, on line, and on campus is stunning and impactful.
1 person found this review helpful
I happened across Silk Road Rising as a volunteer usher, but their ability to tell the stories of Middle Eastern and Asian people with compassion, dignity, and vigor quickly turned me into a donor. We don't have much to give, but their work is so critical to a fully inclusive society that I can't imagine not doing everything I can to support their continuance.
Silk Road Rising has been one of the most inspiring companies that I have had the honor of working with. They open a forum in which the Chicago community is allowed insight to the often overlooked experience of immigrants in this country. It has been an honor to work with The wonderful co-founders of Silk Road Rising, Malik Gillani and Jamil Khoury, and I look forward to working with them in the future. Support of this company is integral to bring the marginalized experience of minority cultures and races to light within Chicago's vast theatre community.
I have worked with over thirty theaters and arts organizations over the past three decades. Silk Road Rising Theatre in Chicago is the most efficiently operated of all of them, but what makes it stand out is that its founders care very deeply about the organization's mission. Theater, when it succeeds, is perhaps the single best tool for raising public awareness about complex social and political issues. No one in the U.S. non-profit sector is doing that more effectively than Jamil Khoury and Malik Gilani. Silk Road Rising is a ray of light, helping its audience re-think the simplistic notions parroted in the mainstream media about culture, race and politics. The organization in its structure and in its dealings with artists and audience mirrors its mission of treating every individual as a complex and humane individual. It’s actually difficult to imagine a non-profit that does a better job of serving the community.
I attend the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple and learned of Silk Road Theatre through that group, which houses the theatre company. I'm also a frequent theatre-goer, with season tickets to four Chicago theatres. When I discovered Silk Road Theare (now Silk Road Rising), I was excited because they are meeting a great need in telling stories of specific groups of people along the Silk Road--using playwrights and actors who have stories to tell which often don't get portrayed in other theatres. As a former teacher who worked many years in diversity education, I know how important it is that people have an opportunity to see their own lives reflected in the stories told in literature or on stage. Equally important is the opportunity for others to learn about people from these cultures--and theatre transports us, helping us walk in others' shoes, to experience in some way what they are living out. Silk Road Theatre not only provides excellent theatre experiences, it also builds bridges of understanding.
This theater group is providing entertainment which forefronts the peoples "of the silk road", which actually is a LOT of groups: from Italy via the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, to the Phillippines and Hawaii, not to mention peoples of all those locations, who live or whose parents and grandparents immigrated to the US. And a fabulous job they do!
1) sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate, their sets are always appropriate, sometimes spectacular.
2) I have never seen a play that was not fabulous done by this group.
3) My first play was "Precious Stones". In this play, two actresses played a total of 8 characters; at one point, 6 or the 8 were in the same scene! With voice and accent changes, posture, character, and costume changes, right before our eyes, they did this most convincingly!
4) They give voice to playwrights and actors, especially, of these heritages.
5) They bring a rarely presented population into the stage / theater stories - for those familiar, who have been neglected, and for those unfamiliar, who can become more familiar, with these peoples and stories.
AND - I, for one, adore the reality that they do this while presenting NO ONE as "terrible" or "perfect", ever, (as far as I can recall.)
Besides all this, the price at present is kept pretty low. I love the small theater, and the opportunity to meet the writers, actors, directors, and producers. I try not to miss any productions.
I found Silk Road Rising through a college class assignment: I was asked to find a non-profit that dedicates itself to social justice through the arts.After completing the class project, I felt the need to be part of such an important mission and became an intern at the theatre doing Arts Administration. I don't think I'll ever find another group as dedicated, passionate, and hard working as the folks at Silk Road Rising. Their commitment to a multicultural world view is inspiring. Silk Road Rising is a professional, growing organization that thrives on the morals of compassion, empathy, and justice. Their mission to diversify Chicago's theatre scene with voices from the Silk Road region is so necessary and needed. They do this through engaging their audiences both in real-time and online, to get audiences involved in the story before they witness it, and long after. This inclusive, warm environment houses a community that grows stronger with every new work produced. I cannot express my gratitude enough to be part of an amazing organization such as this. I look forward to Silk Road Rising's bright future; I know that their growth will be essential to the Silk Road community and the city itself.
Both warm and professional, with a mission that addresses the issues of an evolving culture, Silk Road Rising is one of the best theaters in Chicago, and the nation. They provide a platform for the unconventional, a space for profound discovery, and aren't afraid to speak truth to power. Working with Silk Road Rising was one of the best opportunities/experiences of my life, and every show I see there moves me so deeply that I am forever changed.