Persian Sunrise American Sunset (Live on Zoom)

From the sands of Persia to the shores of the United States, Iranians have made a life-altering journey and are redefining home.  But how does a community living outside its homeland define its heart?  These poignant, hilarious and heartbreaking stories will share their challenges and triumphs.
June 19-28, 2021

PRESS

DOWNLOAD PRESS RELEASE HERE

THE PROGRAM

Material Adapted, Curated & Produced by Ronda Spinak & Ora Yashar • Directed by Susan Morgenstern
Assistant Artistic Director Andrew Fromer • Creative Associate Daphna Shull
Stage Manager Amanda Horowitz Marketing & Communications David Chiu Consultant Tabby Refael
Associate Producers Rose Ziff & Susie Yuré  Managing Director Sharon Landau

WELCOME

Transported
Written by Elnaz Moghangard. Performed by Pontea.

Gole Sangam (Flower of Stone)
Music and Lyrics by Anoushiravan Rohani and Bijan Samandar. Performed by Pontea.

Co-existing With Myself
Written by Farnaz Solomon. Performed by Ava Lalezardadeh and Niloo Khodadadeh.

Glen Ivy Hot Springs
Written by Haideh Herbert-Aynehchi. Performed by Niloo Khodadadeh and Nima Jafari.

My Iranian Father Adapted from Concealed: Memoir of a Jewish-Iranian Daughter, Caught Between the Chador and America, (Greenpoint Press, 2020)
Written by Esther Amini. Performed by Ava Lalezardadeh and Nima Jafari.

Eyebrows
Written by Jasmine Curry. Performed by Pontea.

The Dragonfly
Written by Matthew Nouriel & Dorit Nowparvar. Performed by Nima Jafari and Niloo Khodadadeh.

Zendegi Ba To (Life with You)
Music and Lyrics by Moein. Vocal arrangement by Niloo Kodadadeh and Pontea with English translation by Ora Yashar. Performed by Pontea and Niloo Khodadadeh.

One Persian at a Time
Written by Rabbi Tarlan Rabizadeh. Adapted from an interview by Ronda Spinak. Performed by Niloo Khodadadeh, Nima Jafari, and Ava Lalezardadeh.

The Day That Never Happened
Written by Farnoush Amiri. Adapted from an original essay, first presented on NPR. Performed by Ava Lalezardadeh, Niloo Khodadadeh, and Nima Jafari.

Next Year
Story by Asal Akhondzadeh. Adapted from an interview by David Chiu, Andrew Fromer, and Aysha Wax. Performed by Nima Jafari.

Eastern Curves & Western Rectangles
Written by Elnaz Moghangard. Performed by Niloo Khodadadeh.

Power
Music and Lyrics by Pontea. Performed by Pontea.

Q&A POST SHOW

ARTIST BIOS

ASAL AKHONDZADEH (Writer) was born in Iran and at the age of five moved to Los Angeles, where she grew up. She attended UC Berkeley and USC Law School and now lives in Culver City with her husband, son, and two cats.° “Next Year” is the first story Asal has had dramatized for the stage.

ESTHER AMINI (Writer) is an author and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist whose writings have appeared in Elle Magazine, Tablet, The Jewish Week, Barnard Magazine, Inscape Literary Magazine, Proximity Magazine, and Lilith. Six of her stories have been performed in Los Angeles by The Braid, and two were staged at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in the show Saffron and Rosewater. She was awarded the Aspen Words – 2016 Emerging Writer Fellowship. In 2019, The Braid anointed Esther Amini an Abby Freeman Artist-in-Residence. Ms. Amini lives in Manhattan and is on the faculty of the New York School for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Her memoir Concealed—Memoir of a Jewish-Iranian Daughter Caught Between the Chador and America, about growing up first-generation American in an Iranian-Jewish home in Queens, can be ordered through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Follow her on Facebook and on EstherAmini.com.

FARNOUSH AMIRI (Writer) is currently a reporter with The Associated Press, based in Columbus, Ohio, through the Report for America program. She covers Ohio politics as well as national police reform. Before coming to the AP, Farnoush worked as a digital reporter at NBC News. She received a master’s degree from New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute in December 2018, currently serves as the vice president of the South Asian Journalists Association, and is a co-director for the Asian American Journalists Association’s student program, Voices. Farnoush was born in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Los Angeles with her family at the age of five. She grew up in Orange County before heading up north to attend university in San Francisco.

DAVID CHIU (Marketing & Communications Manager) is a West LA–based screenwriter whose alliance with The Braid began when one of his pieces was performed for a salon show. He went on to become a two-time NEXT at the Braid Emerging Artists fellow and finally joined this incredible story company as an employee. Television: LORE (Amazon Prime). The Braid: True Colors, Inside Our Time, For Goodness Sake (also Director), Who’s Hiding Now? and The Rest is History (also Director & Literary). Represented by the Gersh Agency and Authentic Talent & Literary. Member of the board of trustees at Temple Isaiah of Los Angeles; recipient of its 2019 Emerging Leader award. Environmental activist and volunteer on various electoral campaigns. Jew of Color, of Litvak and Cantonese heritage.

JASMINE CURRY (Writer) is an Abby Freeman Artist-in-Residence at The Braid. She previously appeared in the salons Family Matters, For Goodness Sake, Sex, Love and Addiction in the 21st Century, Living After, and The Way Home. This is the first time her writing has been featured in a salon at The Braid.

ANDREW FROMER (Assistant Artistic Director) a Los Angeles native, grew up as an active member in the Jewish community through Stephen Wise Temple. He attended Windward School in Mar Vista, where his career as an actor began in the school plays and musicals. After completing his BFA in theater at UC Santa Barbara and an exciting year of living in Israel, Andrew returned to LA for acting and producing. His TV credits include Never Have I Ever (Netflix) and Anger Management (FX); feature film credits include Highway to Havasu (Billy/Producer) and The Sweet Life (Mike/Assistant to Production). Andrew also edits and directs and is excited to be coordinating this year’s iteration of NEXT @ The Braid, The Braid’s Emerging Artists Fellowship. Find out more info at the-braid.org/next.

HAIDEH HERBERT-AYNEHCHI (Writer) was born and raised in Tehran. She and her family immigrated to Los Angeles on February 17, 1987. This version of “Glen Ivy Hot Springs” is adapted from her forthcoming memoir, Neither the Head nor the Tail of the Onion.

AMANDA HOROWITZ (Stage Manager) wants to spend her life organizing and creating new theater. She recently graduated with bachelor’s degrees in theater and math from the University of Alabama, where she stage-managed and assistant stage-managed eight shows in the theater department. She most recently directed a thirty-minute play as part of a new-works play festival in North Hollywood. She hopes someday to be able to run her own theater company dedicated to producing emerging theater and providing other young adults with their first paid opportunities in the arts. She is thankful to The Braid for providing her first step toward her professional career.

NIMA JAFARI (Performer) was born and raised in Iran. He trained at AMDA Los Angeles, graduating with a BFA in acting, and has been doing what anyone does in LA: creating. He’d like to formally thank all of his teachers and mentors; he’s truly honored. Nima believes comedy to be the most American aspect of his own personality, and he is an advocate for free speech. He’d like to share that the song “Daughters” by John Mayer is funny because it’s true. Lastly, he’d like to thank everyone for their most valued support.

NILOO KHODADADEH (Performer) is an actor, vocalist, and stand-up comic who lives in Los Angeles. Her Persian roots make her a valuable vocalist in her musical projects, including the international party band 26 Orchestra, as well as her collective, A Tribe Called Love, which combines an eclectic variety of music with conscious lyrics. Niloo produces an underground comedy show, That’s Funny Niloo, and has performed at such famed comedy stages as the Comedy Club in Hollywood and Flappers in Burbank. She was recently the subject of the documentary Niloofar, Pooneh, Betty and Them, by award-winning Iranian filmmaker Esmail Mihandoust. Niloo is a vegan, animal-rights activist, rescuer, and inspirational speaker and motivator. Her debut memoir, Love Came & Went, can be found on Amazon. Niloo’s favorite mantras: “Gratitude is the doorway to abundance” and “Be the friend you wish to see in the world.”

AVA LALEZARZADEH (Performer) is an American actress of Iranian-Jewish heritage who is a graduate of UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. In addition to her schooling, she was trained at British American Drama Academy, Midsummer in Oxford program. She’s known for her lead role as Anne Frank in the US premiere of Anne: A New Play at the Museum of Tolerance. She also played the supporting role of Mimi in the short film Yasmin, which was an official selection at the 2018 AFI Film Festival. Ava hopes to continue to use art as a catalyst to challenge the status quo, serve as a mirror to reflect on our own actions, and connect our individual experiences into a universality aimed to leave audiences feeling seen, heard, challenged, or at the least, thought-provoked.

SHARON LANDAU (Braid Managing Director) brings to The Braid 20 years of non-profit leadership experience helping programs and organizations scale and thrive. As a non-profit director and consultant, she engaged multidisciplinary stakeholders to design, pilot, scale and evaluate innovative programs improving contraceptive access at local, state and national levels that became replicable models.° She launched Pharmacy Forward, the nation’s first leadership program for pharmacists in reproductive health. She previously worked in management consulting for Kaiser Permanente and as clinic manager for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. She holds a masters in Public Health from UCLA and is an alumna of CA Women’s Policy Institute and Center for Collaborative Planning’s Leadership Institute.

ELNAZ MOGHANGARD (Writer) made her debut with Roya, a coming-of-age novel about a young Iranian-American woman; it’s a story about love, loss, healing, family, identity, and the pursuit of dreams, as well as about strangers who become friends, a foreign world that feels like home, the shadows we fear, and the light we carry. Elnaz believes storytelling is more than just an art form; it is a way to bridge worlds. She has a background in international relations, journalism, and business law from the University of Miami, as well as a juris doctor from George Washington University Law School. Elnaz is currently working on her second book and launching her latest endeavor, Souly, with the intention of creating a soulful space that inspires others to pursue what makes them feel alive. You can find her sharing what makes her feel alive via Instagram: @souly.global.

SUSAN MORGENSTERN (Producing Director) began directing in college by staging musical theatre concert readings while co-teaching American Musical Comedy with Tom Lehrer at UC Santa Cruz.  She went on to teach and direct at the renowned Stage Door Manor performing arts camp in upstate New York.  In Los Angeles, Susan has directed several shows at Theatre West, including Saturday Night at Grossinger’s, book by Stephen Cole, music by Claibe Richardson; and Barbara Nell Beery’s play, The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro.  At the Falcon/Garry Marshall Theatre, she directed Leap, by Arnold Margolin, Surviving Sex, by David Landsberg, and the hit comedy, The Psychic, by Sam Bobrick.  Susan directed Happy Days, a New Musical, book by Garry Marshall, music/lyrics by Paul Williams, at Cabrillo Music Theatre.  She directed an extended-run production of Meryl Cohn’s comedy Reasons to Live at the Skylight Theatre.  She co-authored and directed I’m Not Famous: A Musical Journey with Barbara Minkus, which had an extended 2017 run at the Santa Monica Playhouse.  Susan also works as a consultant show director at Disneyland Parks and Resorts.  She has directed numerous JWT salon shows, and most recently,  Annie Korzen: Famous Actress, at The Braid’s performance and art space.

MATTHEW NOURIEL (Writer) The Empress Mizrahi, aka Matthew Nouriel, is a drag artist, entertainer, and content creator of Iranian-Jewish descent living in Los Angeles. The Empress uses drag as a platform for visibility and acceptance for LGBTQ+ people within Iranian and Jewish communities via social media content and speaker panels. Their unique story as a queer Iranian-Jewish gender nonconformist has been featured in such publications as Tehran Magazine, Jewish Journal, My Jewish Learning, and Voyage L.A. and was also the subject of the 2017 documentary short Thirst for Love. In recent years, The Empress Mizrahi has been passionately advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and equality within the Iranian/ Iranian-Jewish communities and beyond, including taking on leadership roles with both queer and non-queer organizations such as JDC Entwine and JQ International. Most recently, they came on board with JQ as the new JQ Persian Pride Associate, supporting the efforts of this growing division at the organization.

DORIT NOWPARVAR (Writer) is currently working on her first book, Empower Me Today, a collection of 365 stories on daily lessons in resilience, accumulated from interviews with everyday heroes and highlighting their journeys toward overcoming challenges. Each person in the book shares their sources of support, as well as lessons and tools to empower readers to move through their own obstacles. If you would like your story to be a part of this enlightening mission, contact Dorit at Dnowparvar@gmail.com.

PONTEA (Performer and Songwriter) Born and raised in Los Angeles, indie artist Pontea writes songs of self-love and experiences of the human condition. Since stepping away from the limiting expectations of women in her Persian culture, Pontea has grown into an empowering figure for women in her own right. She has performed coast to coast and exudes independence, as evidenced by her songs “Power” and “Bitches Having Babies,” which have been heralded as anthems and showcase her songwriting and vocal abilities. Pontea’s live shows, dynamic and eclectic, feature a set that includes keys, beatboxing, and a rare steel hand drum, summoning us into her soulful, animated, meditative, and rhythmic universe.

RABBI TARLAN RABIZADEH (Writer) was born and raised in Los Angeles’ Jewish Persian community. She earned a BA from Boston University, where she studied public policy, education, and Hebrew, and she received her MA in Jewish education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-JIR in L.A. During her time pursuing rabbinic ordination at HUC’s New York campus, she worked at Congregation Emanu-El in New York City and served as student rabbi of small-town congregations in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. She received her second MA in Hebrew literature and was ordained at HUC upon completing her thesis, the trilingual Progressive Persian Haggadah. Rabbi Rabizadeh joins us after serving as the Jewish Emergent Network Fellow at The Kitchen in San Francisco, where she taught courses on topics such as Torah, Talmud, and prayer. She currently teaches at Milken Community High School in Los Angeles, as a Talmud and Torah teacher.

DAPHNA SHULL (Creative Associate/NEXT Literary Manager) is a four-time NEXT Arts Council Fellow, literary manager, writer, artist and photographer born and raised in Tampa, Florida. Daphna has been featured as a writer, songwriter and visual artist in multiple JWT productions and her book, The Quiet Things, is for sale on Amazon. Along with working at The Braid, Daphna is a teaching artist at Cayton Children’s Museum and runs her own photography business, Happy Life Kids Photography. www.happylifekidsphotography.com.

FARNAZ SOLOMON (Writer), an American-Iranian Jewish author, was born in Tehran in 1971. At the age of seven she emigrated with her parents to America during the onset of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. She received her BA in foreign languages from UCLA and her JD degree from Southwestern Law School, married her handsome husband and soulmate, Dr. Sid Solomon, and together they have raised four beautiful children. Farnaz began writing under the tutelage of her high school teacher and life mentor to this day, Dr. Sheilah Wilson Serfaty. As a busy working mother of four, Farnaz never took enough pictures but always cherished the moments and memories of her life. She finally decided to write the pictures she never took and thus began a series of autobiographical vignettes written with hindsight and insight that celebrate the arc of her life. Farnaz Solomon currently lives in and loves Los Angeles.

RONDA SPINAK (Producer/Artistic Director) created The Braid’s Salon Theatre Series and has since curated and produced more than 62 original Jewish-themed salon shows, as well as adapted many of the pieces performed. Spinak developed and produced Ovation-recommended Not That Jewish, which ran for 16 months, garnered an LA Drama Critics Circle nomination, and then moved to off-Broadway. She also produced Rain Pryor’s hit show Fried Chicken & Latkes and Vicki Juditz’s Ovation-recommended Sacred Resistance. Spinak co-wrote Stories from the Fringe, putting the stories of women rabbis on stage for the first time. Since then, she and her team have interviewed on videotape 180 national and international women rabbis, and in partnership with Jewish Women’s Archive have made many of the interviews available online at www.jwa.org. She has written for Rugrats, and her plays include Oscar Wilde’s Wife, a favorite at the Ashland New Play Festival. She is on the board of the Alliance for Jewish Theatres and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She feels blessed to be working with so many creative people who give their hearts and souls to The Braid.

ORA YASHAR (Producer) is an Iranian-American writer/director. Her short film, Melting the Snowman, has screened in more than 30 film festivals, and her scripts have placed in prominent writing competitions. Experiences writing an Emmy-nominated PSA for the Santa Monica Museum of Art and directing a 2x Telly award-winning PSA for the ALS Association have been deeply gratifying. In 2020, Ora was selected as a Film Independent Episodic Lab Fellow with her script Leila & Soraya, and in 2018 she was welcomed as a NEXT fellow at The Braid. Previously, Ora served as the showrunner’s assistant on Netflix’s Atypical and as a script coordinator for Marvel TV. Currently, she is an assistant on CBS’s The Equalizer. Ora earned her MFA in directing at Chapman University.

SUSIE YURÉ (Director of Community Engagement/Associate Producer) has proudly worked with The Braid for 10 years. She has volunteered in non-profit organizations, in which she has held leadership roles in fundraising, event planning, facilities coordinating, programming, membership, marketing, and administration. Susie has produced musical theatre productions, classical concerts, and cabaret performances. She holds a BA and MA in elementary education from USC, along with her California lifetime teaching credential. While at USC, she met her husband. Her favorite role is as mom to her two children and grammy to two grandsons.

ROSE ZIFF (Special Projects Manager/Associate Producer) came out of retirement to work for The Braid after working at UCLA Medical Center for 33 years, where she functioned as “den mother” to more than 1000 interns, residents, and clinical fellows at UCLA, the VA, and Olive View-UCLA Medical Centers, providing resources and support. Rose is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Lev Eisha, a Jewish women’s non-profit religious organization and spiritual community. Her hobbies include gardening, dog training and hosting a monthly book club.

GALLERY

Pontea

Niloo