///March-August 2017///

The theme of this year for me in puppetry has been giant puppets.  A year of papier mâché, of styrofoam, cardboard, harnesses, and strings. As inconvenient and cumbersome as this puppetry form can be, I do love how bold and playful it is.

Building the volumes in the studio with styrofoam and papier mâché

This spring, Hany and I got to work on a new giant puppetry project, where we had a residency at Jardin d'Alice art space in Montreuil. The project went through may changes and transformations, and received financial support for materials and tools (which has been super-useful), and had its first show in June at the Festival des Murs à Pêches. We've performed a couple times since then, and we're excited to come developing it in the fall for new shows! 

Photo by Florence Tran

Simultaneously, I was also working on finishing up my first year of the Masters at Université Paris 8 and writing my first-year thesis, which I wrote about the relationship between puppetry and political activism.   

In July, we headed off to Morocco do a residency at the French Institute of Tangier.  We taught a giant-puppet making workshop to participants from an association called Dragon Tanger, who are into manga. So, they decided to make a giant dragon puppet! 

///November 2016-February 2017///

It's been almost one year since we've moved to Paris, and the time has finally come to gear up for a new project, for which I'm searching for funding currently (I'll post details and images once things become more concrete).  

I've been hard at work on my Masters degree from Université Paris 8, which has already taught me a lot about contemporary performance, cultural policy, and has given me the opportunity to dive into my own puppetry research.

I was also pleased to see that Anneke Schulenberg wrote an article on the selection of videos that I had curated for Over View traveling filmproject.   In it, she questions how the context can influence understanding of the pieces.

The project in Newcastle for Hidden Civil War at the Newbridge Project went great, I loved working with so many different types of participants!   While I was there, I also had the opportunity to get involved and see some of the other programmation.  I had a great time drinking beer and talking about art and activism as part of Lloyd-Wilson's Constructing a Blind Pig radio recording (photo below).  

With the election results in the US, I'm more motivated than ever to keep working in the field of puppetry and activism!

Me with the puppet we made in Newcastle, Elvira Snowden

///June-October 2016///

I'm writing from Newcastle as I embark on the new adventure of building a political puppetry figure with the Hidden Civil War program organized by the Newbridge Project. It's really exciting to be here, amongst so many projects between art and activism, it's given me a lot to think about (see amazing publication they put out for the event below!) 

///February-May 2016///

A belated update as we finished our project Rubayat El Nil, packed up all our belongings and moved to rainy Paris!

It's been exciting to be able to see more theater and puppetry work here than in Cairo. There is a small, but charming and wonderful puppetry scene here with warm venues such as the Théâtre Aux Mains Nues, and the Théâtre de la Marionnette.  

I've also been meaning to post some photos from our tour of eight shows in February of Rubayat El Nil.  

It's strange to start to see these images from a distance and already start to be nostalgic about our incredible team of the Benha Puppetry Troupe.

Touring in Fayoum with Mohanad, Houssam, Amira, and Ramy, our dear friends of the Benha Troupe that we desperately miss and hope to work with again!

A timelapse of our installation of the shadow puppetry theater at Falaki theater.

Performing in Gudran, Alexandria

Our opening performance at Room Art Space, photo by Vinciane Jacquet

///January 2016///

Our project now has a title (Rubayat El Nil), a pimped-up shadow theater with dimmers and different colored lights, and an opening date (January 28th).  I won't go into what is still missing. ;)

We are getting into crunch time where every second wasted feels stressful. So, better get back to working on the background I was making...  

The wonderful Mo'taz Nawwar has taken some great photos of our team working at the studio.  

///December 2015///

We're now deep in the making of our newest Nile-related shadow puppetry project.  Working hard to make the puppets, do the backstage design, rehearse the performance, and plan the touring... all at the same time. It's a whirlwind and it's only going to get crazier in the next few months!  Somehow, we're pretty relaxed that it will all come together in the end (it always does, right?).  In the meantime, it's a lot of fun, despite the occasionally moments of stress and panic.  

Over the month of November we made a lot of progress on the puppet design and general direction of the show.  Here's some of the tests of what we've been exploring so far.  

///November 2015///

All of October we were busy researching about climate change, sea level rise, erosion, and many other important subjects that are related to the ecology of the Nile for the shadow puppetry project we will be performing in January.  It's been really interesting, I love when projects stimulate my curiosity and bring me new areas of knowledge and involvement.

We finally got to no.11/12 of the monthly poem video series!  Every month I wish I had more time to devote to these pieces, but it also can be quite challenging to try to do separate projects at the same time. I'm excited to get to no. 12 and then take a short break to focus on the Nile shadow puppetry project we are working on.  

No. 11, finally!

///October 2015///

We're back in Cairo now, super-inspired and motivated from all the terrific puppetry we saw at the festival in Charleville-Mezieres.  We were completely blown away by all the forms of performance that we saw, and attended some incredible shows, such as a performance from Dunkerque-based Theâtre la Licorne, and the Italian masters of shadow theater, Teatro Gioco Vita.

We're now thrown intensely back into projects, and are intensely researching Nile ecology for our upcoming project.  We've been lucky to be featured on the Huffington Post and the Pollination Project's page with our super-cool puppetry team photo! 

Another great shot of our team

///August-September 2015//

After a hellish sweltering August in Cairo...  I'm now in France for a month.  Hany and I will be attending the International Puppet Festival of Charleville-Mèzieres (we've even printed up business cards for the occasion!). The event happens bi-annually, bringing together puppet troupes from all over Europe and the entire world.  I think we've been craving that sense of community and inspiration since the Egypt puppetry scene is so tiny.  Also, we're looking for inspiration for our upcoming project that we'll be doing this fall about the ecology of the Nile.  We've been really thrilled that we received a second grant for that project from a wonderful organisation called The Pollination Project.  

Meanwhile, I'm editing number 10/12 of the monthly poetry video series.  They have gone in a more experimental direction in the past few months.  

///July 2015///

Working on number 8 in the poem series was a really special experience, since the poem we chose was written by my grandmother, Elizabeth Holden.  She is a very inspiring woman and a great poet (she's also been really supportive of our poem series!).  

What I love about this series is how nice it is to spend a month sinking into a poem, they really start to feel like good friends as I repeat the lines in my head throughout the whole month that we're working on the new video.

I've also been really enjoying experimenting with different materials (although most of the tests end up getting discarded!). here's a couple of the tests we played with early on in the month.   

///June 2015///

I feel like I've been on a high ever since I found out that we have received a grant for our upcoming collaboration with But A Shadow of Myself, in which we'll be building a performance inspired by themes related to the Nile.  Sometimes being an artist can feel like an endless cycle of grant applications, rewriting bios, resizing image, exporting videos, and all the administrative work it takes to manage your work. So it's really encouraging and motivating to see some of that paying off!

On the inspiration front, I've been seeing some really incredible work online, by some excellent puppetry groups, such as Manual Cinema and Phantom Limb Company.  I'm a little sad that there isn't much amazing live puppetry that makes its way to Cairo, but it's nice to be able to catch a little glimpse through the internet, and to see that there are incredibly amazing puppetry troupes out there, and really makes me want to raise the bar of my own professionalism in my work.  

Other exciting news: we finally made it past the half-way point of the 12-month series of monthly poetry responses. Number 7 was a lot of fun... 

///May 2015///

I just came back from a wonderful trip to Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan, to attend Diwan: A Panel for the Arts at the Arab American National Museum.  It was really refreshing and motivating to meet so many kinds of artists all connected, in some way or another, to the Arab world.  It was also helpful for me to get some  of perspective and feedback on my work. I was in great company, presenting with Amira Hanafi, Nada Shalaby, and Amanda KM.

///April 2015///

Our performance last month at the French Institute went great! It felt really terrific to perform in front of such a large and supportive audience.  This show has left us feeling really motivated and driven, with lots of ideas for upcoming projects.

I'm also continuing ongoing work on the monthly poetry-video series.  Five completed, only seven more to go! It's incredible how much work it takes even to complete one of those tiny videos.

This month we finally upgraded out of the cardboard box that all the previous videos were filmed in, into using the full puppet theater.  

///March 2015///

As well as working on a new poem-inspired video (#4 February), this  month has been focused on rebuilding our puppet theater, and repairing puppets, and rehearsing for the upcoming Patarikner performance at the French Institute!

Now that we have our shadow-puppet theater built at the studio, we are really motivated to keep working on new shadow projects, and a few possibilities have already come up... 

///February 2015///

Exciting things are happening! I feel I'm finally starting to get into the art-making rhythm that got a bit thrown off by wedding planning all of last year...

It was a lot of fun to work with my puppetry team on the Black Maps poem for the Poem Series. They're such a supportive and talented team, and I'm so lucky to work with them.

On February 5th, the exhibition at Pratt that Elgarida Elhaya is featured in is opening.

And Hany and I just got accepted to participate in the Festival des Jeunes Createurs at the French Institute in Cairo, so we have a month to rebuild and re-rehearse the Patarikner performance!  

Amira, Houssam, and Mohanad hard at work

///January 2015///

It's a new year!  I'm so happy to be having a fresh start.  Besides being bedridden with a flu, this year is already bringing many exciting things.  Next week will be the Cairo screening of the Over View Travelling FilmProject, in which I participated, curated the Cairo selection, and organized the screening at Zawya, Art House Cinema in Downtown Cairo. It shows a really broad range of audiovisual work, short films and video art from eight locations around the world.

Also, very excitingly, my Bakaboza project was nominated for the Public Art Award from the Institute for Public Art in Shanghai. 

Lastly, a theater project that I did in 2013, Elgarida Elhaya (The Living Newspaper) is being included in an exhibition at Pratt Institute (where I did my BFA),  entitled "The Artist as Provocateur: Pioneering Performance at Pratt Institute."  

Kate, Melissa and I took a month off from our Poetry Series for the holidays, but now we are working again on a very beautiful poem by Mark Strand: Black Maps.  

Still from the video 'Crash Landing' by John A Douglas, part of the Australian Selection of the Over VIew Travelling Film Project.

///December 2014///

November was a busy month, with my friends Jason and Leslie finishing up their residency projects, and wrapping up their time in Cairo. 

Having spent such a beautiful and intense three months together in Cairo, I'm really happy to have chosen one of Jason's poems as the subject for the second poem in the Poetry series that I am doing with Melissa and Kate.  Luckily, I also have some wonderfully talented friends in Cairo (Amira Elmalleh, Houssam Saeed, and Mohanad Elsangary) that were excited to collaborate on the project with me.    

////November 2014///

It's been a busy couple of months here in Cairo! My good friends Jason Stoneking and Leslie McAllister are here doing a residency, and doing amazing projects like the Cairo Dish Painting Initiative and Leslie's Lost Art project. It's been really fun to see their projects develop here as they see their way through the rollercoaster experience of living in this city.

I'm really happy to have begun a new project with my amazingly talented best friends Melissa and Kate.  We all studied at Pratt in New York together, and always collaborated with each other and supported each other's artistic development. We had also started a poetry club, which went on to become The Poetry Club Art Space (a small gallery space in Bed-Stuy that existed for a couple years).  We're all living in different places now and we've been missing the artistic camaraderie that our friendships created. So we've started a new project, a nod to the poetry club, in which we are each doing a poetry response to a poem each month.  The projects and poems are visible on our blog.  Here's this month's piece, based on "The Meaning of Zero: A Love Poem" by Amy Uyematsu.  

///September 2014///

After a hot, long, Cairo summer, the weather is starting to cool down, and I am beginning to feel focused again.  I'm moving into my new studio space in Midan Abdeen and hoping to create an environment that will inspire creativity.  

Over the summer, the shadow puppetry project that Hany and I worked on in Armenia was exhibited in the Nijmegen, the Netherlands as part of the Op de Kaaj festival! Hany and I were really thrilled to be a part of it.  

Also, I feel really lucky to have been involved in an amazing project called the Over View Filmproject, which is a traveling film project showing curated from different locations around the world.  I'll be organizing the Cairo Screening sometime in November. They have a great facebook page with more info on the project.  

///June 2014///

It's June, mango and apricot season in Cairo.  Sweltering hot, and Ramadan starts soon. The wedding came and went, and now I find myself happily settled into a new apartment, and getting back into the rhythm of being an artist (I had no idea how much wedding planning would take over my life!).

I finally finished doing a video piece of the Al Arosa project that I have been working on for some months now...  I enjoyed taking my work in that direction and the line between puppetry and performance art is one that I would like to continue pursuing.

All through May I was also very busy working on a selection of videos by Egyptian/Egypt-based artists, to be shown at the Op de Kaaij festival in the Netherlands.  I feel really good about the selection that I made, they ended up being all films directed by women, and many of them dealing with identity and women's roles. Hard to escape these themes when you are living in Cairo!  

These films are included as part of a traveling video project, which comprises selections of films from many locations from the world.  I'll be organizing a screening location and event for the films as they travel to Cairo.

///January-February 2014///

These past few months have been a whirlwind, as I've been trying to get more settled in the crazy city that I live in...  as well as organizing the wedding between me and Hany (!)---which means a lot of paperwork, appointments, and logistics, as it all comes together (pleeeaase Egypt spare the bombings for the month of April!).

Now that I'm fully employed, I've been able to get back into the studio rhythm, trying to come to work on my projects 2-3 times a week.  Sometimes its hard to stay disciplined, but I feel really good to be getting back into the workflow again. 

Last week, Olivier Gschwend, a Swiss photographer who came to Cairo for a project, took some photos of me in my studio for a project called Surrogate Language in which he photographed different kinds of artists in their studio space.    It was interesting to collaborate with him, and to see lot of my projects together in one space.  The result is a bit eery and dreamy.

In the next few months, I'm aiming to continue working on my new project of body architecture (as seen worn on my body in the picture). Originally, I was intending to have the project be on the subject of "brides" (arosa in arabic), but now I want to open it up to be not only about brides, but women more generally.  Fitting, as I just learned that the english word "wife" comes from the proto-germanic word for "woman."

 © 2014 OG Photography

///October-November 2013///

Back in Cairo, re-settling and adapting to this amazing and always surprising city...

Recently, my project Bakaboza was included in a publication called "Cairo: Images of Transition", a book that collects many interesting works of art and writing relating to the period of the (first) elections in Egypt.  

///September 2013///

I'm starting the month of September off in Guadalajara. I'll be here for two weeks, organizing a workshop, giving a couple lectures, and working on some collaborations.  I feel so lucky to have been invited here by Daniela Rivera Placencia, who has organized a whole program during my stay!

///August 2013///

Our two performances of Patarikner in Yerevan went really great!  We returned to Egypt happy and inspired, with ideas for new shadow-puppetry ideas.

Now I'm embarking in some more adventures (am updating my website from the Laguardia airport as I wait for my connecting flight)...

August 23rd-25th will be the second Greenpoint Pre-Apocalyptic Theatre Festival!  I'm super-excited to return to New York for it, (I'll be helping manage as well as be involved in presenting some short pieces). Danielle Pomorski and Nathan Truman have done an amazing job organizing this year's festival!

I'm also preparing to teach a workshop in collaboration with Ismael Rodriguez at The Workshop Studio in Guadalajara, Mexico in September.

Presentation of the workshop that I'll be teaching with Ismael Rodriguez at The Workshop Studio.

The Workshop Studio put together a great video of the workshop that I held in Mexico with Ismael Rodriguez!
///July 2013///

After a month of non-stop work, most of our puppets are made and we are ready to go into rehearsal and music-composition.
Our premiere will be on Wednesday, July 17th at Naregatsi Art Institute in Yerevan.

///June 2013///

Armenia is a beautiful place to spend the springtime...mullberry trees are in blossom in the street, green apricots and plums are in season (finally! an entire country that appreciates unripe fruit! I thought I was alone in this).

Unfortunately, I was sick my first week of June but have now recuperated and am feeling optimistic and healthy breathing in the fresh air of Yerevan. 

Our project is going well, we are one-third of the way in, time-wise, and have nearly completed our shadow theater construction.  We have started collecting materials for the puppetry, and begun to do tests of different possible characters and backgrounds.
We are aiming to finish the bulk of the performance during this month, and I am curious to see how it develops.
Our shadow theater in progress.
///May 2013///

Hany and I finally arrived in Yerevan, Armenia on May 6th, after a hard week of having to reorganize our travel route in order to make it (who knew that Egyptians needed a transit Visa to fly through Austria?).  

We have been completely charmed and infatuated with Armenia since we arrived.... fascinating history, incredible art and landscapes.

There is no shortage of inspiration here, and we are so excited to see how our (shadow puppetry and mabye more?)  project develops during our residency here at ACOSS.  
Yerevan, Armenia
///April 2013///

April has been an intense and busy month, working nonstop with the ongoing performances of Elgarida Elhaya.  The project has gained momentum along the way, with the cast and crew growing each week with more and more talented and passionate people!

This friday (April 19th) will be our grand finale.  Friends from the People's Puppets of Occupy Wallstreet will be livecasting a scene of the performance from Brooklyn!  

The entire performance finale will be livecast via ustream on Friday, April 19th at 6:00pm Egypt time on this channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/elgarida-elhaya

Also in New York, my great friend and collaborator, Danielle Pomorski will be directing a short play that I wrote called "The Language Exchange." It will be performed at the Greenpoint Pre-apocalyptic Theatre Festival Preview Party on April 28th.

In just a couple weeks, Hany and I are off to Armenia!  At last, it feels like most things are ready, the tickets bought, visas prepared, and fund-raising completed.  We were very lucky to recieve a Stepbeyond grant from the European Cultural Fund.  

///March 2013///

We just had our first performance of Elgarida Elhaya! The next performance will be March 22nd.

Rowan el Shimi did a great video of our project for Ahram online.  

I'll be posting more videos and photos of the project shortly!

///February 2013///

Here goes, I'm starting a new collaborative theatre project--- using collaborative processes in order to create socially and politically engaged theatre.  So, now beginning: Living Newspaper (Elgarida Elhaya) project to begin at artellewa!

Over the fall, I couldn't help but thinking that now in Egypt would be an amazing time to use the Living Newspaper theatre form, and I'm really excited to see where this process will take us.  

Here's the project description at the artellewa page, we also have a facebook page which will be updated with performance times and dates.

Hany and I have made a crowdfunding video  on Kickstarter  to support our project in Armenia this spring---so far it has been going great and we are so thankful for all the support!

Also!  The Bakaboza project, which I directed last year, was exhibited at the Supermarket Art Fair in Stockholm, Sweden.  

Installation at the Kulturhuset!

With some friends in the snow!

///January 2013/// (and November and December 2012)

Moving back to Cairo mid-October threw off my website-updating rhythm and for that I apologize (to all the faithful subscribers of which there are millions!). 

I'm back in Paris now for the holidays---and am very excited to be going off to do a research residency at the International Puppetry Institute next week, to study Armenian puppetry.  I should be going to do a residency this May in Yerevan, Armenia at ACCOS art center, so am currently trying to prepare all my research.  

Back in Cairo, it's been an interesting couple of months, I'm continuing to learn Egyptian dialect, and have been mostly focusing on working on the children's book The Adventures of Hunny Sillyman, a project that I have been working on on and off for the past few years with my sister, Raphaelle Ayach.  

Here's a couple images that I have been working on (unedited and unphotoshoped yet!)

///October 2012///

I'm so grateful that my last few weeks in the US are filled with so much excitement and art.  I just got back from North Carolina, where I had a great experience of performing at the Buckminster Fuller conference.

Coming up next friday, Circus Amok will be performing at BAM along with Steve Paxton! 

Other excitement!: My dear friends The Tablets are releasing their first full-length album and will be having a record release event at Matchless October 11th.

///September 2012///

Circus Amok  opened last Saturday in Fort Greene park.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and a warm and energetic crowd to make an altogether idyllic day of outdoor performance.  Come see the performances throughout the month--different parks every weekend!

Friday, September 14th, I'll be helping out puppeteering for Andrew Benincasa's shadow puppetry performance as part of the Prospect Park Concert Series: Opening Night Extravaganza .  He's a great puppeteer and I'm really looking forward to the event.

The Re:Viewing Buckminster Fuller  event is coming up soon, (September 28-30th), so I'm working hard on constructing the "Dymaxion" Toy:theater as well as organizing the process of collaborating utopian brainstorming that I plan to lead as part of the project.

Also, my friends Melissa Godoy Nieto  and Carolina Zamora had a great open studio last weekend as part of Go:Brooklyn.  I'm hoping they'll get a lot of votes and be exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum. :)

///August 2012///

The Greenpoint Pre-Apocalyptic Theatre Festival was amazing! We had such a beautiful range of different kinds of performances involved, it was a lot of fun. Also, I got to perform a couple of the pieces I have been working on---I'll be posting videos and photos shortly!

Circus Amok rehearsals are also going really well--- I'm now working hard on set/prop building, as we get closer to our opening date.

My great friend Danielle Pomorski will be performing Friday, August 24th at Joe's Pub with Lilac Co., Drusi is Coming!  It's going to be amazing!

///July 2012///

(Back in New York after some time in Cairo.)

Along with my collaborator, Danielle Pomorski, I am co-organizing the Greenpoint 

Pre-Apocalyptic Theatre Festival, which will take place August 10-12th, 2012 in Brooklyn, NY.  

I'm also working on two performances that will be shown at the festival, The Elephant and The Room, a one-act play by Danielle Pomorski, in which I am hula-hooping while saying monologues, and re-building a giant elephant.  It will be a great show, by a very talented director, and some great performers!  The second performance I'm working on is a shadow puppetry performance inspired by the myths of Isis and Osiris, a collaboration with Hany Hommos.

And I'm super-thrilled to be working with Circus Amok this summer as assistant-director and roustabout! We just began rehearsing last week and it is going amazingly!

This September, I'll be presenting my "Dymaxion Theatre", a toy theatre performance inspired by Buckminster Fuller's World Games, at the ReViewing Black Mountain College 4, a conference about Buckminster Fuller's legacy, organized by Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center.  

Circus Amok at Socrates Sculpture Garden in Queens

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