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  • Writer's pictureEdward Medina

Feathers of Fire: A Review

Very rarely is one given the opportunity to experience a truly game changing moment in the art of theatre. Feathers of Fire is the personification of that singular occasion. It is a cinematic tour de force that never exposed a single frame of celluloid in order to bring it to life. It is a magnificent theatrical creation because all of the magic it exudes occurs live right before your very eyes. To put it simply Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic is a masterpiece.

Feathers of Fire is an entrancing cinematic shadow play, created, designed, and directed by Hamid Rahmanian, a Guggenheim fellowship-winning filmmaker and visual artist. What the Walt Disney Company does for hundreds of millions of dollars in a single animated film that takes five years or more to create, the Feathers of Fire ensemble and creative team does in eighty minutes using a centuries old art form, elaborately designed shadow puppets, modern multimedia techniques, and a diverse company of extremely skilled and gifted actors.

These eight performers, some in specially designed costumes and masks making them projected puppets themselves, manipulate one hundred and sixty hand crafted puppets through one hundred and thirty-seven projected animated backgrounds. It all comes together to create a live animation experience with one thousand one hundred and sixty-three cues which makes Feathers of Fire the most elaborate shadow theater experience ever created on a cinema-size screen. The production requires perfect timing and technical precision. The producers proudly point out that the experience is so much like watching a movie that audiences become unaware that they are watching a stage show. Their pride is well placed because some of the effects are mindboggling.

Feathers of Fire is also family friendly entertainment at its finest. Its story is classic in form, inspired by the tenth century Persian epic Shahnameh: The Book of Kings, it is also reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, Rapunzel, and Jungle Book. There are kings and queens, princes and princesses, love tested, lost, and found again, wonderous anthropomorphic creatures and grand voyages and journeys. The tale is simple enough to entrance the young ones and action-packed enough to captivate the adults. All throughout this magical tale there are singular moments that simply take your breath away because of their resounding artistic beauty.

Hamid Rahmanian, along with his collaborators, have all elevated their art form to a wholly different level. Internationally acclaimed artist Larry Reed is the company’s shadow master and one of the very few American practitioners of his craft. He could easily add magician to his accolades. The technical magic belongs to Mohammed Talani who programmed the digital animations, backgrounds, and choreography for the two projectors that heighten the illusion of movement and depth. There is also soaring and touching original score by Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali. The entire ensemble cast is to be lauded as well. The performers are Ya Wen Chien, Gabriela Garcia, Ariel Lauryn, Rose Nisker, Fred C. Riley III, Leah Ogawa, Mohammad Talani and Dina Zarif. They all serve as both puppeteers and actors and each one of them excels in what are extremely demanding multi-faceted performances.

The entire company of Feathers of Fire has created an astounding theatrical experience that must not be missed. The production has been performed over eighty times in the United States and around the globe. Over seventy-nine thousand people have witnessed this compelling work. This extraordinary group of artists have returned to touring with Paris, Shanghai, and Beijing the next stops on their itinerary. One can only hope that Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic will return to New York, find a home, and stay awhile so that more of us can revel in its charms and be transported by its wizardry.

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Edward Medina is an active member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) and welcomes comments at


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