Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic

by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday October 25, 2017

Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic

"Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic" has returned to Southern California for a second visit. Presented in Shadow Puppetry, the tale is based on a long epic poem, "Shahnama, The Book of Kings." Written in the late 10th and early 11th Centuries, it is called "the national epic of Greater Iran," consisting of between 50,000 & 60,000 "distichs" or couplets; it's the world's longest epic poem written by one man.

Creator/director/designer Hamid Rahmanian, of Iranian birth, have taken the ancient myths (based, presumably, on ancient facts) of a son of a Persian nobleman, left out to die as an infant when his mother dies of complications of childbirth, and is raised by a bird-goddess in her nest, with her natural-born offspring. When he is of age, he is returned to his still-grieving father and becomes a favorite of the King.

The lad, Zaul, falls in love with the daughter of the enemies of his father's land, Rudebeh; with the help of the Goddess-mother, he overcomes all adversity to eventually wed this princess of a neighboring kingdom. So far, so reminiscent of the founding of Rome (brothers raised by wolves) and the tale of Romeo and Juliet (without the tragedy). And add Rapunzel to the history. Their offspring, the infant Rostam, advances this long poem.

But Rahmanian's genius lies in taking this art of shadow puppetry to tell his tale. Seven shadow actors, using the form of rearview light projection and cleverly designed flat images on sticks, and the recorded voices of actors, make it as real as needs be at the moment.

Designed as a family show, there's lighthearted humor, sorrow, as well as joy in the storytelling. Following the 70-minute show is a 20-minute explanation of how it works, definitely meaningful to we who are decidedly ignorant of how this specific style of theater works.

It's unique and worthy of attention because, trust it, you have never seen this before.

"Feathers of Fire" plays through October 29 at the Wallis Center for Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills 90210. For tickets or information, call 310-746-4000 or visit TheWallis.org/Feathers.