Following in the footsteps of Asian American, Black, and Latinx Theatre networks, a group of Middle Eastern/SouthWest and Central Asian/North African American theatre artists gathered at the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) National Conference in 2018, resolved to create a national network to represent and advocate for our community.
This was the culmination of nearly twenty years of organizing by Golden Thread Productions (since 1996) and Silk Road Rising (since 2003), the Arab American Comedy Festival and Nibras Theatre Collective since the early 2000s; the “Middle East America National New Plays Initiative” by Golden Thread, Silk Road, and The Lark (launched in 2008); Noor Theatre and Art2Action (founded in 2010); and New Arab American Theatre Works (since 2015).
A few significant MENA/SWANA artist convenings preceded the galvanizing 2018 meeting, leading to MENATMA’s creation: the Lark held two convenings in 2014 and 2016; the Consortium of Asian American Theatres & Artists (CAATA) hosted a pre-conference for Southwest and Central Asian American Artists, alongside TCG’s “Beyond Orientalism” preconference, at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) as part of the 2016 National Asian American Theatre Festival; plus several TCG Affinity Group and Theatres of Color gatherings at consecutive national conferences (2014-2019).
These convening opportunities led to the creation of the seminal documents, the “Middle Eastern Theatre Artists Bill of Rights,” and the “Dear Producers” open letter by Jamil Khoury and Torange Yeghiazarian in 2017. In Spring 2019, an online survey of MENA/SWANA theatre-makers was conducted, with the leadership of Kate Moore Heaney, and a national Steering Committee was formed. In June 2019, selected representatives of our emerging network joined Cohort 4 of TCG’s EDI Institute (2019-21).
The name, mission, and priorities of the MENA Theatre Makers Alliance were defined at Golden Thread’s ReOrient Festival in Fall 2019, and MENATMA was formally launched.
The founding Steering Committee members were, in alphabetical order: Andrea Assaf, Leila Buck, Catherine Coray, Tracy Cameron Francis, Yussef El Guindi, Jamil Khoury, Pia Haddad, Kate Moore Heaney, Michael Malek Najjar, Evren Odcikin, and Torange Yeghiazarian.