Finding Home: Migration, Exile, and Belonging Essay Salon

Inspired by the 2016 Global Pre-Conference in Washington, DC, the Global Theater Initiative (GTI) is hosting an essay salon on the theme of the Pre-Conference, Finding Home: Migration, Exile, and Belonging.  The following essays are curated by playwright and writing program chair at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ruth Margraff.  In addition to Margraff's essay curation, we will also be posting works from writers who submitted essay ideas in an open call to the theatre field.

SALMA S. ZOHDI: Ahmed El Attar, Egyptian Theatre, the Belonging of Global Artists within a World of Sociopolitical Frenzy Part II (2017)  

"As you can read in Part I of this two part interview with Ahmed El Attar, over a year ago, I interviewed Egyptian theatre maker, Ahmed El Attar, as part of my research for my MFA thesis. I went back to Egypt during my annual visit to my hometown, Cairo, and met with Attar to pick the brain of a theatre maker who thrives naturally as an artist in a world that is now new – in terms of socio- political territory – to many theatre makers in America. A world with which he is very familiar." Read more

SALMA S. ZOHDI: Ahmed El Attar, Egyptian Theatre, the Belonging of Global Artists within a World of Sociopolitical Frenzy Part I (2016)  

"Over a year ago, I interviewed Egyptian theatre maker, Ahmed El Attar, as part of my research for my MFA thesis. In our conversation we delved into many factors that have an effect on theatre making, especially that of Egyptian theatre. Various themes informed our conversation; the role of artists within times of political turmoil, his beginnings as a theatre director and his journey from an artist to also becoming one of the most active cultural operators and producers to two major festivals in the region. We also spoke about his process, and how Egyptian theatre is conceived within a global lens." Read more

"In May of 2016, I watched with horror as Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for President. Back then, we all knew what he’d said about Muslims. Still to come would be the horrendous attack on the Khan family after Khizr Khan, father of American hero Captain Humayan Khan, spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Ever since I graduated from playwriting school at Boston University in 2004, I had been sharpening one tool for communicating to the world; theater. I knew I wanted to say something theatrically about Trump, particularly about his fanning the flames of Islamophobia." Read more

"Home, a paradigm, yet full of contradictions. What does the notion home really signify? Must it be somewhere we come from? Can it be something we’re trying to find? Is it a warm nest jammed with memories of loving parents, innocent memories full of sunshine and favorite sweets out of our grandmother’s oven? Or is it unknown, a place we’ve always dreamed of, have searched the planet and not yet found? A corner of the world where we feel safe, loved, “arrived”, our authentic selves where we feel at home? Maybe “home” is just a feeling of feeling at home?" Read more


Migration is the story of the search for a better life.
"I am a Kazakh playwright living in Russia. I moved with my parents from Kazakhstan to Russia when I was 6 years old. We lived in a united country – the Soviet Union. In 1991 this country was divided into several independent states. I graduated from Moscow high school and the Russian Economic Academy. I have a Russian education and mentality. I have Russian friends. I write my plays in Russian. I love the place where I live now. But where is my real home?"

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"I took my first international flight in the womb. That is the truth. And the first line of my first play. As the daughter of a Lebanese mother from a mixed Muslim and Christian family and an American diplomat father, I grew up living between Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Canada and the U.S. When my father was posted in Baghdad at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, we survived scud missiles regularly until I was evacuated. Barely two years later, from the safety of our new home in Canada, I watched our country bomb the neighborhood in which we had lived." Read more

"I live in Zimbabwe, a country that has mastered the art of normalizing the abnormal. Nothing shocks my countrymen or women any more. We now move around like zombies, more like characters from the American television series The Walking Dead, showing little feelings, hiding our fears, impotent rage, frustrations and abandoned dreams inside our thick black skins – completely aware that the worst thing that can happen to us now is death. For everything else we have witnessed. Name it and we have seen it all. Political crisis. Economic crisis. Hunger. Impotent rage. Droughts. Corruption. Power cuts. The worst hyper-inflation in the world. Cash shortages. Unemployment. Political violence. A stolen election. There is really nothing we haven’t seen in my country..." Read more

"Under a blistering hot sky, I stand in the middle of San Lucas Island in ill-fitting clogs, a borrowed sun-hat and what I soon discover are an inappropriate layer of black clothes. The sun beats mercilessly. There is scant breeze, and a swarm of press hovers over every stop along the way, as celebrated, eighty-five-year-old Costa Rican author Jose Leon Sanchez and I walk through the preserved ruins of what once was one of Central America’s most infamous penitentiaries. Some of the prison walls are marked with graffiti. The words and images depicted in charcoal, prisoners’ blood and other undetectable materials range from the graphically sexual to the religious. The prison hall is dark and not even between these walls is there any respite from the heat."  Read more

"In November 2014, Irina Patkanian and Lisa Schlesinger began The Iphigenia Project, a multi-year trans-media collaboration. Seven Songs for Iphigenia, a site-specific film/theatre adaptation of Euripides Iphigenia at Aulis, was performed at the ruins of Lato on Crete, Greece on June 25, 2015. A short adaptation from this piece was included in the Climate Change Theatre Action, produced by NoPassport, The Arctic Cycle, and Theatre Without Borders for the ARTCOP21. The next iteration, Iphigenia: Fragments from an Excavation will be presented at the Iowa City Book Festival in 2016. The Iphigenia Project will culminate in a live performance directed by Marion Schoevaert in 2017. Read more 





"If you are an immigrant HOME is one of the main themes of your life. It is unavoidable. In my directorial work, there are always signs of the home that I left behind; a Turkish song or a movie clip. I was waiting for the right time to do a theatre project so specifically about this theme. But I didn’t want to write or direct it. I wanted to put a team together and let them explore their own idea of “home”...."

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BACK TO THE FUTURE: Indigenous Migration and the Mexican Imagination
"Mexico is a land of forgetting. Memory and contradiction are foundational of the nation’s foundational myth: that of the “terceras raíces,” in which a harmonious synthesis of Castilian genocide of indigenous communities produces through rape, coercion and displacement the “Mestizo.” As with most settler colonies, such as the United States and Israel, the indigenous peoples of the land are displaced in the national imagination to a subaltern past, with the vague and exotic iconography of Aztec supremacy standing in for one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse regions on the planet. It is a forgetting of cosmic proportions."  Read more








Ruth Margraff is a playwright and writing program chair at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Margraff's plays, poetry and opera works include Anger/Fly; Three Graces; Temptation of the Fresh Voluptuous; Cafe Antarsia Ensemble; Seven; Stadium Devildare; The Cry Pitch Carrolls; The Elektra Fugues; Night Vision; Deadly She-Wolf Assassin At Armageddon, Voice of the Dragon 1,2,3; Judges 19: Black Lung Exhaling; All Those Violent Sweaters; Red Frogs; Night Parachute Battalion; The State of Gristle; Centaur Battle of San Jacinto; Wallpaper Psalm. Her work has been performed at various festivals and venues throughout USA; UK; Canada; Russia; Romania; Serbia; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Greece; Turkey; Slovenia; Czech Republic; Croatia; France; Austria, Sweden; Japan; Egypt; India, Azerbaijan. She is recipient of numerous awards from institutions including Rockefeller Foundation; McKnight Foundation; Jerome Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Theater Communications Group; Fulbright; New York State Council on the Arts; Illinois Arts Council; Arts International; Trust for Mutual Understanding of New York, CultureConnect. 

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