Come this fall, the nine-year old Silk Road Theatre Project will have a new name: Silk Road Rising. Co-founders Jamil Khoury (artistic director) and Malik Gillani (executive director) say the name change reflects not only the company’s success in less than a decade, but also its increasing involvement in online media and national advocacy as a means of promoting its goals with regard to theater and activism.
In a statement explaining the company rebranding the two said, “In developing a new name for our organization, we wish to honor the triumphs of Silk Road Theatre Project while conjuring the movement that has led us to a more expansive vision. Mining the intersections of art and activism remains central to our aesthetic, as does showcasing perspectives seldom, if ever, heard in mainstream media.”
That movement began following 9/11 when Khoury, of Syrian Christian heritage, and Gillani, American-born of Indo-Pakistani Islamic heritage, conceived of a theater company that would fight the misinformation, suspicion and outright fear of many American’s towards anything that smacked of Islam or even the Middle East. However, they embraced from the start a wider swath, aiming to explore the diaspora of all cultures that once were found and connected along the ancient Silk Road from the Western Mediterranean to Japan.
In 2005, the company moved into permanent quarters in Pierce Hall of the Historic Chicago Temple Building at 77 W. Washington Street, making them the smallest Off-Loop theater in The Loop. In 2008, the Silk Road Theatre Project was honored with the Emerging Theatre Award presented annually by the League of Chicago Theatres and Broadway In Chicago, selected by vote among the League’s 200-plus member theater companies. It was just one of a string of local and national honors earned by the company.
The new name will launch in the fall along with a new logo, although details of the 2011-2012 season have yet to be announced. Subscribers and supporters were invited to vote on a new logo, which will be revealed in the fall.
Meanwhile, the current production at what still is the Silk Road Theatre Project is the June 15-July 17 regional premiere of Yellow Face by David Henry Hwang. The production is being co-produced with Silk Road’s much larger near-neighbor, the Goodman Theatre, which concurrently is staging the world premiere of Hwang’s new comedy, Chinglish (June 18-July 24).