Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Silk Road forks

Posted By on 12.28.11 at 11:00 AM

jamil-1.jpg
It’s a little crazy to change a brand name you’ve only recently managed to establish. So when Jamil Khoury told me (during his interview for the Reader’s People Issue), that Silk Road Theatre Project, founded in 2002 by himself and his partner, Malik Gillani, underwent a name change three months ago, I was surprised.

Silk Road Theatre Project now has the much less specific moniker, Silk Road Rising.

That’s not a drastic change, but it’s so hard to get brand recognition, I wondered why business-savvy managers like Khoury and Gillani would tinker with a name that seemed to be working.

Turns out they're convinced the change was necessary because they’re expanding into online content in a major way, looking to share their international subject matter with an international audience.

They won't be giving up live theater—Khoury was clear about that. But in the not-so-distant future, he anticipates that about half of their effort will be going into things like online video plays and video essays.

“We’re intrigued by the opportunities the Internet creates for disseminating artistic work, and the fact that YouTube is the fastest growing arts engagement medium on the planet,” Khoury said. “Ever since founding this company we have been contacted by people who don’t live in Chicago, many who don’t live the in the United States, who are very interested in the type of work we do, and have wanted to somehow access [our] content.

“We started thinking, we don’t want to put full-length plays online, because I can’t watch that let alone ask someone else to. But if we were to create short form pieces—10 minutes, 12 minutes—that were narrative arc stories, staged theatrically, but shot and edited cinematically, that would be effective new territory.

“We wanted to figure out ways to marry this ancient art form, live theater, with modern technology.”

Khoury is currently working on a somewhat longer project, a docudrama, “Not Quite White.” He’s also writing a new play, “Mosque Alert,” and work-shopping it online, with public participation. "Mosque Alert" is set in Naperville, and is about two families—one Christian and one Muslim—and a proposed new mosque that’s meeting resistance. “Which interestingly is also happening in Naperville,” Khoury says. You can get in on the play-making here.

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