Past Educational, Social, and Activist Projects

May 2020

Lost & Guided: A Dramatic Reading of Refugee Stories! (Online Reading)

Saturday, May 16th, 4-6pm EST via Syrian Community Network Facebook Live

Syrian Community Network partnered with The Angle Project to raise funds for SCN’s community programs and to continue raising awareness of the on-going refugee crisis. A group of Chicago and New York City artists, led by writer and director Irene Kapustina, presented a reading of selected scenes from two plays, “Unpitied” and “Lost and Guided,” both written and developed by Irene. The reading was hosted by Jerome McDonnell from WBEZ and featured music by Ronnie Malley.

CAST AND CREW:

Irene Kapustina (Writer & Director) is a stage director, writer, and educator. Born and raised in Minsk, Belarus, Irene came to the US to study theater (Loyola University, Chicago) and attend Second City. With a deep interest in using art to develop community and build international relations, Irene obtained an M.A. in Applied Theatre from CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. Irene has directed at The Goodman, The Barrow Group, The Drama League, The Kraine, UNDER St. Marks, Trinity Institute, Manhattan Rep, Hunter College, and other venues. Critics called Irene’s “Lost and Guided,” the most recently produced play that she wrote and directed based on interviews with refugees living in the US, “an incredible new play” (ABC News), “a stunning new play” (Huffington Post), “Theatre at its best…” (The Reviews Hub). Founder of The Angle Project, a New York City-based theatrical production company and performance art initiative, Irene helps displaced and multicultural communities. TheAngleProject.com

Elizabeth Bove (Stage Directions) professional credits include Florida Rep, The Guthrie Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, “Irrefutable Proof” (Beverly Hills Festival, Best Film), “The Bench” (Best Actress – LA Short Film Festival), Law & Order and the BBC. www.elizabethbove.com and imdb.com

Noor Hamdi (KARIM in Unpitied; SAMI in Lost andGuided) is a New York based actor and teaching artist of Syrian descent. He’s appeared in various theatre productions across New York City and the country. Most recently, he performed Off-Broadway at New Victory Theatre in “Cartography” by Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myers, a show that is also touring internationally. In addition to acting, Noor is also a language teacher and circus artist. EMC.

Susaan Jamshidi (BONNIE in Unpitied; RIMA in Lost andGuided) was last on seen as Mrs. Cratchit in Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. Previous Goodman productions are The Winter’s Tale and Yasmina in Yasmina’s Necklace. Other Chicago credits include Drury Lane, Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, Northlight, 16th Street, Remy Bumppo, Theatre Wit, The Gift, Halcyon, and Sideshow Theatre Company (Idomeneus, Jeff Award -Ensemble) among others. Regional credits include Arena Stage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Michigan Shakespeare Festival, and Pittsburgh Public. She traveled to Vancouver, Toronto and London to perform the solo show Oh My Sweet Land with Silk Road Rising. Film credits include Cicero in Winter, The Wallet and A Cadaver Christmas. Television credits include Chicago Med, Chicago P.D., and Sirens. Jamshidi received her MFA in acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University, has studied with The Second City and is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency. She is also a Regional Coordinator for Statera Mentorship. 

Sadieh Rifai
(AMINA in Lost andGuided) is an ensemble member at A Red Orchid Theatre where she performed in Do You Feel Empathy, An Evening at The Talk House and Grey House. Her credits include, Short Shakes Macbeth, the world premiere of The Humans (Jeff Award nomination for Best Ensemble) at American Theatre Company along with The Amish Project, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (co-production with About Face Theatre) Columbinus and Speech and Debate (After Dark Award for Outstanding Performance). Other Chicago credits include Support Group for Men and Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre), Ski Dubai (Steppenwolf First Look) Film credits include The Wise Kids, Nate and Margaret and Olympia. Television credits include Chicago Med, Netflix’s Easy, CBS The Red Line and  Amazon’s Patriot in which she plays the recurring role of Mahtma El-Mashad. Sadieh is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and received the Princess Grace Award in 2011. AEA and SAG.

Martin Zebari (TORTURER in Unpitied; IMAD in Lost andGuided) is an Assyrian, Iraqi-American, Chicago-based actor, writer, organizer and textile artist. As an actor, his credits include a staged reading of Lost and Guided, and The Winter’s Tale and Yasmina’s Necklace (Goodman Theatre); Staged readings of The Fixer and Bald Sisters, and Guards at the Taj (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Mary Stuart (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); The Hard Problem (Court Theatre); Human Terrain (Broken Nose Theatre Company); A Christmas Carol (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre); Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, Failure: A Love Story, and The Magical Mind of Billy Shakespeare (Illinois Shakespeare Festival). Martin is a leading organizer of MENASAMidWest; a MidWest-based collective for Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian performance artists. He holds a BFA in Acting from the Arts University of Bournemouth, England and is represented by Stewart Talent Chicago.

Ronnie Malley (Music) is a multi-instrumentalist musician, actor, producer, and educator. Recent theatre credits include: The Band’s Visit actor/musician/Arabic dialect coach (Broadway, Tony Awards, Grammy Award), American Griot co-author/composer (Moraine Valley/Silk Road), Macbeth Hecate/musician (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; Jeff Award for Best Sound Design), Great Expectations composer/sound designer (Silk Road Rising/Remy Bumppo; Jeff nominated for Best Original Music), A Disappearing Number musician (Timeline Theatre), Ziryab, The Songbird Of Andalusia author/solo performer (Silk Road Rising), The Secret Garden musician (Court Theatre), The Jungle Book musician/consultant (Goodman, Huntington), The White Snake co-composer/musician (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Goodman, Guthrie, Wuzhen Theatre Fest), The Who And The What composer/co-sound designer (Victory Gardens), The Sultan’s Dilemma associate producer/actor (International Voices Project), and The Arabian Nights musician/actor (Lookingglass, Berkeley Rep, Arena Stage). Ronnie has a degree in Global Music Studies from DePaul University and is a teaching artist with Chicago Public Schools, a faculty member at Old Town School of Folk Music, and a guest lecturer at universities.


July – August 2018

Inter-generational Immigrant Project
Community: Senior Immigrants and Youth in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Organization: Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst (JCHB), The Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community Program and Youth and Family Services , Brooklyn, NY
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In our inter-generational project older adults and young people worked side by side to create an original piece of theatre that explored their individual and shared history. The topic of our exploration was “family relics.” Using object and physical theatre, and improvisation, the project participants shared their memories, experiences, beliefs, and dreams with each other and the wider Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst community.


JULY 2018

“Lost and Guided” Post Show Refugee Crisis Forum: Portland Museum of Art and Camden Opera House

Together with Zoe Sahloul at New England Arab American Organization,  Dr. Jihad Alharash, Dr. Imad Durra, Catherine Lee, and Portland and Camden activists, Irene Kapustina talked with the local community about the refugee crisis. Using the content of the play as the starting point for the conversation, the community shared questions and concerns about the displacement process and, with the help of the panelists, identified ways to participate in advocacy and resettlement efforts to alleviate difficulties for the newcomers to the US.

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Refugee Community Platform Building through Drama and Reflection Through the Image Professional Development Workshops
Community: New England Arab American Organization Staff in Portland, Maine
Organization: New England Arab American Organization (NEAAO)

Irene will facilitated professional development workshops with the NEAAO staff and  introduced physical and image theatre, role play, and interactive activity techniques as methods to learn, reflect and express oneself safely and effectively. NEAAO staff learned and practiced how to apply the methods in their work with their community of immigrant and refugee women and youth.


“Lost and Guided” Post Show Refugee Crisis Forum: Goodman Theatre

Moderated by Jerome McDonnell at NPR’s Worldview, together with Suzanne Akhras at Syrian Community Network, Hadia Zarzour, and Dr. Conrad Fischer Irene Kapustina talked with the Chicago community about the refugee crisis. Using the content of the play as the starting point for the conversation, the community shared questions and concerns about the displacement process and, with the help of the panelists, identified ways to participate in advocacy and resettlement efforts to alleviate difficulties for the newcomers to the US.

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Trinity Institute 2018: Values in Action
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Irene Kapustina created a storytelling series that showcased concrete examples of attempts to identify and put to work shared values across cultures, faiths, and political affiliations.

Through a detailed description of an instance in their career, the storytellers humanized the theoretical discourse and exemplified the role values play in forging alliances and achieving tangible results.

WATCH:
Values in Action: Playing Politics vs Incubating Justice
Trinity Institute – Values in Action. Michelle Alexander & Storytellers
February 2-3, 2018

We all want to create a better world—and that requires action and connection. Discerning shared values is crucial to forming powerful partnerships and moving forward with courageous intention. Explore how you and your community can set a collaborative course at Values in Action, a Trinity Institute conference designed to help you get grounded and connected so you can get going.

This year’s conference featured leading activists, theologians, authors, and experts on how to integrate core values into strategic and effective action, including the Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church; Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness; Pádraig Ó Tuama, poet, theologian, and mediator; Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and undocumented immigrant; and more.


2018 Justice For Women Lecture Series Kick-Off Event: The Syrian Struggle
The Angle Project participated in a conversation about the deep and complex Syrian struggle and the ways to use performance art as an advocacy tool to aid refugees.
Panel
WHEN: Tuesday, January 16th, 2018, 5PM – 7PM

WHERE: The Cumberland Club, 116 High Street, Portland, ME (map)
Syrian violinist, Aban Zirikly, will provide music before the panel discussion.


2017

Undocumented: What Do Faith Communities Need to Know?

TAP created a storytelling segment for UNDOCUMENTED to highlight the human side of issues that were addressed in lectures and during the panel discussions.

Saturday, October 28, 10am-1pm | Trinity Church (Broadway at Wall Street)

Trinity
A half-day teach-in for people of faith to learn about current issues related to immigration, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), temporary protected status, and sanctuary. The lectures and panel discussion was webcast live and is now available on demand HERE

Presented by Trinity Institute and Church Meets City.


2017

Humanizing Problems through Theatre. Water Justice at Trinity Institute 2017
Community: International Community of Academics and Community Activists
Organization: Trinity Institute at Trinity Church Wall Street

Irene worked with the staff of Trinity Institute to plan and stage the plenary sessions for Trinity Institute’s 46th National Theological Conference, Water Justice. She worked with a group of international storytellers, shaped and coached stories, implemented staging and helped direct the overall flow of the event. She also worked with eight actors to devise and create original scenes exploring the issues of water justice as theatrical responses to keynotes. The storytelling and scene work can be viewed here:


2016-2017 School Year

Creating Global Citizens through Human Rights Investigation Project
Community: NYC Public Schools, Middle through High School
Organization: The Town Hall

Irene and Emma create a curriculum of arts workshops for public school students in response to the text The Children of Willesden Lane to interrogate and reflect on our responsibility as global citizens during times of international crisis and genocide.


2016

Inter-Generational Immigrant Project
Community: High School Students at Repertory Company High School, New York, NY
Organization: Repertory Company High School, The Town Hall, and Woodstock Senior Center, New York, NY

Irene and Emma collaborated with Repertory Company High School teachers and students to create an original play that told real immigrant stories of NYC residents. The play was staged and presented for the community in partnership with The Town Hall and Woodstock Senior Center.


Senior Theatre and Community Building Workshop: Verbatim Theatre about Suffrage
Community: NYC Seniors
Organization: Woodstock Senior Center, Manhattan, NY

TAP worked with seniors from Hell’s Kitchen to hear their stories of suffrage and voting experiences. Using a series of drama techniques- tableaux, reminiscence theatre and devised sessions , participants created an original theatre piece called “Picking and Choosing”. The project resulted in a final presentation of their original play during Election Week 2016.


The English Language Acquisition through Drama
Community: Adult and Senior Immigrants from Kazakhstan, Syria, Colombia, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Burkina Faso; New York City
Organization: Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center, the English-Speaking Union
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The Angle Project’s English language acquisition through drama workshop “You’re The Top!” focused on using a song by Cole Porter (“You’re The Top”) to explore the custom of greeting and compliment in the American culture within the social and political context of America in 1930’s. The participants embodied English words and interpreted American cultural references through the lens of their own heritage and shared their cultural background to help each other connect to the process of language learning and American English.


Senior Immigrant Theatre and Community Building Workshop
Community: Senior Immigrants in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Organization: Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst (JCHB), Brooklyn, NY
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The Angle Project’s senior immigrant theatre workshop “Memory Train” at JCHB focused on exploring a classical piece of literature (a short story by Anton Chekhov).

The participants learned and re-enacted the historical context of the story, dramatized it, and then re-wrote the story into the context of the memory that had to do with their professional life, before retirement. The participants then presented their work to the Marks JCH community, friends, and family.


Culture and Language Acquisition through Drama
Community: Russian Immigrant and American Russian Language Undergraduate Students
Organization: Hunter College, New York, NY
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Irene created and facilitated a series of bilingual interactive drama sessions with undergraduate students at Hunter’s Department of Russian and Slavic Studies, analyzing Anton Chekhov in the context of contemporary America as part of foreign language and culture acquisition through drama.

The goal of the workshop was to open up a dialogue about cultural commonalities and differences that we might have individually and collectively, and use it towards a deeper understanding of the Russian culture and language. The workshop offered an opportunity to its participants to look at a fundamental piece of Russian classical literature and closely investigate the context in which it was written and its contents through a series of drama activities.

Each session focused on a specific portion of the text, which served as a starting point for a discussion, critical reflection, and theatre improvisation, and resulted in creation of an original scene. The workshop culminated in sharing the newly acquired knowledge of the Russian heritage through an original theatre performance (series of scenes) to the wider and non-Russian college community and celebration of our collective experience with Russian food and music.


Culture Acquisition through Drama
Community: Diverse Immigrant and American Elementary School Students
Organization: Town Hall Theatre, New York, NY
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In the Global Citizens Class Irene and first grade students investigated what it means to be a global citizen. Together they read “It’s Back to School We Go” by Ellen Jackson and learned about how children all over the world lived and leaned.

Each class focused on depicting theatrically the life of boys and girls around the globe based on the stories taken from “It’s Back to School We Go.” The students also discussed their daily school routine and created still images about it. In the end, they compared their lives to those of others.

The students were able to work together to create an image theatre performance with tableaux depicting international student life and articulate what being a global citizen means: “to know, understand, and respect other cultures.”


2015

Community Building and Personal Development through Collaborative Theatre Making
Community: Covenant House Youth Residents
Organization: Covenant House International, New York, NY
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London, UK
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Crossing Bridges, a co-project with Covenant House International and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama aimed to give Covenant House youth an opportunity to collaborate with peers and professional artists to create a devised theatre piece based on the prompt of fairytales or Aesop’s Fables.  As a researcher and facilitator, Emma supported youth, Covenant House staff, and volunteer artists, during the weeks of evening master classes that prepared youth to create their original theatre piece in one intensive weekend. The finished theatre pieces were performed at the Helen Hayes Theatre, an off-Broadway space.


Interrogating Immigrant Identity through Theatre. The Coming Full Circle Project
Community: NYC Immigrant Youth
Organization: Multicultural Community Center, Brooklyn, NY
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The 12 -week workshop series at a multicultural community center in Brooklyn, conducted as part of the master thesis for M.A. in Applied Theatre program at CUNY SPS, focused on creating an original piece of theatre rooted in the question: “What does it mean to be an immigrant?”

Through theatre games, exercises, and activities the participants interrogated their own immigrant identity and experience of immigration and constructed a collective narrative from the process. The workshop posed the following questions:

-Why do people move from Homeland to Foreign Land?
-What might immigrants face and feel in a new place?
-What might people like or not like about immigrants moving to their country?
-How do we all get along?

Through the workshop activities that helped to answer the questions above the participants made personal connections to their own experience of immigration and contributed their stories to our narrative, which grew into the original play Finding Roots in an Immigrant’s Life.  The project culminated in sharing the play with the community of family and friends and started an inter-generational dialogue within the center’s immigrant community.


2014

Reminiscence Theatre for Seniors
Community: New York City Seniors
Organization: The City University of New York; JASA Penn South Center, SAGE, and Young Israel Senior Centers
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Conducted life history interviews with New York City seniors in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Stories came from WWII veterans, first and second generation Caribbean immigrants, members of the nation’s first LGBTQ senior center, and many more. A one week long period resulted in an original, 40 minute piece of theatre, The Ones That Really Matter, in response to the seniors’ stories, was toured in the centers and was given a public performance at the M.A. in Applied Theatre studios.

At the root of reminiscence theatre stands the practice of creating a special kind of meaning in a theatre performance by means of bringing its physical representation to a designated community, the community which informs the factual part of the performance content (memories); therefore, once memories take on the shape of a theatrical performance, the community is able to derive its meaning in a unique and personal way; thus, the meaning emerges from the direct exchange between audiences and actors.


2013

Culture and Language Acquisition through Drama
Community: Immigrant Elementary School Students and Their parents
Organization: Zshuk Art Initiative at Hannah Senesh, Brooklyn, NY
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Irene created and facilitated multi-generational, bi-lingual interactive drama sessions integrating the traditions of Jewish culture and the Russian Language. Parents together with their children enacted stories and episodes from history in English and Russian and discussed their significance in understanding one’s heritage and identity.


2012

Community Problem Solving through Theatre
Community: Seniors
Organization: Stanley M. Issacs Neighborhood Center, New York, NY

In collaboration with an NYU colleague, Emma recruited a group of seniors to form a drama group and help develop a devised forum theatre piece about bullying among the senior population. Over 10 sessions, the seniors shared their experiences with being bullying to be used as inspiration for an original forum theatre piece. Seniors were assigned roles within the theatre piece while Emma and colleague acted as the moderator to the audience, the other members of the senior center, to give input about how to problem solved the enacted bullying scenarios.


2011-2016

Community Building and Conflict Resolution
Community: Urban NYC Youth
Organization: ENACT, New York, NY

In partnership with NYC Dept of Education Alternate Learning Centers, we used role play, drama therapy, and Theatre of the Oppressed forum theatre techniques to work with students serving long term suspensions from a traditional public school environment. Workshops focused on rebuilding a sense of community in the classroom, developing social and emotional intelligence in students, and identifying nonviolent communication strategies for them to employ in school and life. We used scene work and fictional scenarios to practice various behaviors to recognize, communicate and  manage feelings, and to embody positive interaction with peers, school staff, and family members and build effective problem solving skills.


 2009

Culture and Language Acquisition through Drama
Community: Thai Hotel Staff
Organization: Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Pattaya, Thailand; Hotel Grand Mercure Fortune, Bangkok, Thailand
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Commissioned by two Thai hotels, Emma and three classmates developed workshops to develop employees’ English language skill through drama activities. Employees were split into three levels of seniority and given customized role play prompts, forum theatre experiences and communication techniques to develop their customer services skill with English speaking patrons.