Join us for the next Festival: January 15-26, 2025

Song of the North 

An adaptation on the story of Bijan and Manijeh from Shahnameh

A production of Fictionville Studio

Created, Designed and Directed by Hamid Rahmanian 

Producer: Melissa Hibbard 

Script written by Hamid Rahmanian and Melissa Hibbard 

Based on the book, Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings

Original Score written & orchestrated by Loga Ramin Torkian 

Featuring Vocalist: Azam Ali 


Emily Batsford, Ray Dondero, Sam Jay Gold, Harrison Greene, J Hann, Esme Roszel, Clay Westman, and Christopher Williams 

Voice Actors:

Mark Thompson, Christina Calph, Richard Epcar, and Rose Nisker 

Stage Manager: Mo Talani 

Company Manager: Ray Dondero

Representation: Laura Colby – Elsie Management 

Musicians: Loga Ramin Torkian, Azam Ali, Pejman Hadadi, Molly Rogers, Mahsa Ghassemi, Sinan Cem Eroglu, Sufi Rahmanian, and Iman Torkian


Design: Saba Niknam, Hamid Rahmanian

Construction and Mechanics: Zach Broome, Esme Roszel

Puppet Colorist: Neda Kazemifar

Puppet Assembly: Neda Kazemifar, Ray Dondero, Neda Izadi, Parisa Harandi, Negin Keyhanfar, Weiyi Chen, Shuhei Matsuyama, Sonia Kim, Kevin Marinelli, and Katayoun Amir Aslani

Sound Mixing: Mehrnaz Mohabati

QLab Setup: Mo Talani

Fight Choreography: Rob Aronowitz

Script Consultants: Ahmad Sadri, Lauren Whitehead

Grant Writing: Alexandra Guglielminetti 

Additional Creative Contributions: Syd Fini, Leila Ghaznavi

Technical Services: Tyler Gothier, Kaveh Haghtalab

Laser-cut service provided by: Joseph Szegda Jr., Vahid Pourkay at Print Icon

Photographs: Richard Termine

A project of Two Chairs Inc.



Cast of Major Characters (in order of appearance)

Rostam: Performance by Sam Jay Gold

Manijeh: Performance by Emily Batsford

Bijan: Performance by Clay Westman

Gorgin: Performance by Harrison Greene

Simorgh: Performance by J Hann



Who’s who

Hamid Rahmanian (Creator, Design, Director) is a 2014 John Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of the 2020 United States Artists Fellowship.  His work centers on theater, moving image, and graphic arts. For over a decade, Mr. Rahmanian’s work has been rooted in the Persian epic poem, Shahnameh by Ferdowsi, modernizing and adapting the work for new diverse audiences.  Some of his recent works include the 600-page illustrated art book Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings (2013), which the Wall Street Journal lauded as a “masterpiece,” and the immersive audiobook version with an introduction by Frances Ford Coppola.  In 2018, he released the popup book, Zahhak: The Legend of the Serpent King in English and French which was awarded the Meggendorfer Prize for the Best Popup Book and hailed as “Simply breathtaking” by Le Monde.  In 2019 he created the UNIMA-USA award winning shadow theater piece Feathers Of Fire (2016) which premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music and toured around the US and abroad.  In 2019, he was commissioned by Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble to create a video animation for their multimedia project, Heroes Take Their Stand.   Mr. Rahmanian has recently completed the second installment of his shadow theater trilogy, Song of the North (2022) and published a new popup book, The Seven Trials of Rostam.

Loga Ramin Torkian (Composer) is an Iranian-born multi-instrumentalist and composer. He is recognized internationally for his ground-breaking work with World Music groups Niyaz and Axiom Of Choice, both of which he co-founded. A highly-gifted composer and a visionary, Loga is greatly respected for his ability to adapt the Persian classical repertoire to his own unique and modern compositions. In 2014 Loga was nominated for a Canadian JUNO Award in the Category of “Best World Music Album” for the album he recorded with musical partner Azam Ali titled, “Lamentation of Swans.” He continues to produce albums and tour worldwide with NIYAZ.

Azam Ali (Vocalist) is one of the most prolific, versatile, and gifted singers/ composers on the international music stage today. Azam’s most notable work is with the cutting-edge world music electro-acoustic project Niyaz. Her distinctive voice can be heard on myriad film and television scores including “Thor- The Dark World”, “Matrix- Revolutions”, “Prince of Persia- The Sands of Time”, “The Fight Club”, “True Blood”, “Alias”, “The Agency, and “Prison Break”. Azam has also collaborated with numerous musicians such as Serj Tankian of System of a Down, Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, Dredg, Chris Vrenna formerly of Nine Inch Nails, Kodo, Zakir Hussain, and Mickey Hart. 

Emily Batsford (Ensemble) is a theater maker with a particular fondness for devised work. International Puppetry: Book of Mountains and Seas (Basil Twist), Song of the North (Hamid Rahmanian / Two Chairs Productions), Unfolding (Margarita Blush Productions). New York Puppetry: PACKRAT (Concrete Temple Theatre), The Eye Which We Do Not Have (HERE Arts), Set in Stone (Sara Stern), End of the World (Center at West Park). New York Theater: Stop Motion (Theater for a New City), Touch (w/ Katrina Lenk, 59E59), The Brightness of Heaven (Cherry Lane).  Emily is a Teaching Artist for Child’s Play NY, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Cottonwood NYC, and CO/LAB Theater Group. BFA – Acting, Syracuse University. @efcbatsford

Ray Dondero (Ensemble/Company Manager) is a Brooklyn based multidisciplinary designer, artist, and lover of all things puppetry. They are a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut’s Design and Technical Theatre undergraduate program, focusing on scenic and costume design, as well as printmaking, puppetry, and animation. Assuming the role of company manager, they are proud to have cultivated a loving and supportive environment in which this incredible team makes magic happen! @thebimboclown

Sam Jay Gold (Ensemble) is a puppeteer and writer. As a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Sam trained in traditional forms of puppetry around the world, exploring empathy across the animate/inanimate divide. His work has received support from The Jim Henson Foundation and been featured at venues including St. Ann’s Warehouse, BAM, and Lincoln Center, as well as in festivals across Europe and Asia. Sam is co-founder of The Brothers Čampur, a Balinese-American shadow puppet company performing classic and contemporary Wayang Kulit throughout the US and Indonesia. Alongside his art-making, Sam is a passionate arts educator, partnering with The Kennedy Center to bring puppetry into classrooms around the country.

Harrison Greene (Ensemble) is a puppeteer, actor, and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. A company member of Chinese Theatre Works, he performs Budaixi and shadow puppetry in NYC and abroad. Recent Puppetry Credits: The Tiger of Zhao (Flushing Town Hall) Triple Zhongkui Pageant (International Puppet Fringe NYC), Chinoiserie Redux (Ping Chong & Co), Nora From Queens (Comedy Central), Ratso by Mollie Heckerling (Troma Entertainment) Manufacturing Mischief (The Tank), Tiger Tales (CTW), and Caveman Ballet (Boxcutter Collective). In 2019, Harrison performed in the 2nd International Teatro Lambe Lambe Festival in Puerto Montt, Chile with his original piece, The Waiting Womb. He will be returning to participate in the 3rd festival Fall 2023. He received his BFA from University of Connecticut.

J Hann (Ensemble) is a puppeteer, director, and fiber artist. Their weird and whimsical works have been performed in Italy, Greece, Serbia, Hong Kong, nationally, and in various venues in New York City. J was the Emerging Artist at the 2022 Eugene O’Neill Puppetry Conference. They have been a resident artist twice at The Object Movement Theatre Festival as well as an artist in residence at Governors Island. When not performing on stage or on the screen, they teach puppetry and the fiber arts to students of all ages, and have led workshops with The Jim Henson Foundation, Museum of Moving Image, Arts Corps, and Arts Connection, among others. IG: @jhannham | 

Esme Roszel (Ensemble) is a puppeteer, public historian and illustrator based in Brooklyn, NY. He is a graduate of University of Connecticut where he received his  BFA in Puppet Arts. Esme has performed and fabricated puppets for touring productions around NewEngland. When not performing, Esme can be found teaching puppetry workshops to students of all ages, and working at a history museum in his hometown of Plymouth, MA. 

Clay Westman (Ensemble) is an actor, musician, and comedian; though his parents are still a little disappointed the whole doctor thing didn’t work out. He has studied masked theatre at the Commedia Dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy; and is a graduate of Muhlenberg College, where he could have studied medicine, but chose to pursue the arts instead. He doesn’t quite know how he got here or where he’s going next, but, gradually, he is learning to be ok with that, and he hopes you are too.

Christopher Williams (Ensemble), named a choreography fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 2021, is a New York Dance & Performance “Bessie” award-winning choreographer, dancer, and puppeteer working in the unceded lands of the Lenape people (now designated New York City) and abroad since 1999. His works have been presented in Europe, South America, and Russia, nationally, and in many NYC venues including The Joyce Theater, Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York Live Arts, Lincoln Center, City Center, and Danspace Project. He holds degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, and has performed for Tere O’Connor Dance, Douglas Dunn & Dancers, Rebecca Lazier, Yoshiko Chuma, John Kelly, Peter Sellars, Basil Twist, Dan Hurlin, Lake Simons, Chris Green, and Erin K.Orr, among others.

Mo Talani (Stage Manager) Born in Iran, is a San Francisco-based musician, actor, and videographer. He has collaborated in different fields with several artists including Marcus Shelby, Stephen Daldry, Bahram Beyzaei, Babak Jalali, and others. 



Major Funding provided by the National Theater Project, New York State Council for the Arts , Hamid and Christina Moghadam Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Jim Henson Foundation , Flora Foundation, Neda Nobari Foundation, and Brooklyn Arts Council

Commissioned by the University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts

Special thanks to our generous donors

Vernon Davis Grizzard III, Francis and Dionne Najafi, Tahbazof Family Foundation, Maximum Difference Foundation, Bijan and Soraya Amin Foundation, and Primex International Trading, and Yaghmaie Family Charitable Fund

Additional support provided by

Rostam Zafari, Farhad Mohammadi, Parto Moshayedi, Amir Farman Farma, Michael Sabourian and Mrs. Massoudeh Sudeh Sabiurian, Haleh Emrani, Razi Family Foundation, Andrew Tavakoli, Sunset Franchise Capital, Gholamali Yaganeh, Niloofar and Bahmani Fakhimi, Nader Sanai, Alex Ramzoo, Khosrow Hakakian, Kazem and Karen Yahyapour and the Iranian Association of North Carolina

We would like to express our deep gratitude to the following individuals who have helped us throughout this journey: Mark Amin, Rostam Zafari, Mahsa Hakimi, Ram Devineni, Bessy and Navid Khonsari, Amir Farman Farma, Ali Amin, Mohammad Amin, and Farhad Mohammadi