Waking Up Iranian American

a series of one-to-one performances by Zoya Sardashti

Waking Up Iranian American is an autoethnographic work and performative intervention focused on the ways cultural exchange develops between a performer and a participant. These one-to-one performances create a space where the audience is invited to participate in discussions about being between cultures, nationalism, and Islamophobia, so that we might move beyond antiquated notions of free and oppressed. In this sense, the dialogical framework of the performances is a form of collaboration and, in its broadest sense, a key to changing power relationships between performers and participants. In Waking Up Iranian American, intimacy is used as a strategy to counteract the positioning cultures of fear intend to create.

this story doesn’t begin with me ~ participatory performance & installation

“Hello. Welcome to my bedroom. Please have a seat and make yourself comfortable. It’s a pleasure to have you as my guest. The flashlight is yours. You may light me and other places in the room. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. Don’t be afraid to talk about religion. Don’t be afraid to talk about politics. Don’t be afraid to talk about sex.  Don’t be polite.”

to be seen & unseen ~ public participatory performance & installation

What if you could experience a situation where you can be in the world without directly receiving the gaze of others? Through various modes of theatricality the performance confronts ideas of exposure, empowerment and in/visibility. You will be invited to take a journey with a performer. You will be invited to wear a costume, a traveler’s garment. Attached to this costume is a mask. Similar to masks worn in Venetian culture, this mask will free you from social codes and markers of identity. We will walk hand in hand wherever you wish. At certain points during our journey we might sit in silence, we might talk to other people, or we might just talk to each other. When we decide our journey has reached a midway point we will retrace our steps. We will walk back the place of our departure separately on opposite sides of the street. At the end of the journey you will be invited to write about your experience inside the lining of the costume.


parricida ~ public participatory performance & installation

In Letter to My Father Franz Kafka uses parricida (the killing of the father) as a concept to reflect on how actions by authoritarian governments manifest in the family unit. To confront this concept an attendant will offer a provocation in the women’s restroom while washing your hands. What if you inherited your mother’s family name rather than your father’s family name? How would it change the way you self-identify, interact with others and perceive the world? With the participant’s permission this experience will be documented, so it’s traces will be an audio recording installed in the men’s restrooms and exhibited as an installation.

Learning Farsi on Teheran-ro (테헤란로) 

Traces of a love story will be distributed on napkins in a cafe. This love story requires multiple endings. Participants will be invited to write, in any language, the final chapter of Learning Farsi on Teheran-ro (테헤란로). Napkins will be provided; please bring your own pen.


dancing through the diaspora

In honour of the Iranian New Year, Norouz, the first Persian Day parade in Los Angeles took place during March 2015. Videos and photographs of the parade will be projected onto a screen in the lobby of the theatre showing various forms of traditional Persian dance and movements created by the ethnically diverse community of the Iranian diaspora in Southern California. Participants will be invited to dance with a performer as she recalls this experience. Previous dance training is not necessary. Participants will be guided through simple steps.


how do we dress for the weather?

The use of autoethnography in choreography gestures towards a neocolonial narrative, as it outlines the sense agency in a person whose subjectivity is complicated by the politics of identity. In a world, where one’s body has been framed in a particular racial discourse, movement is an exploration of the affects of racist discourse on neocolonial subjectivites.

every four years

every four years considers to what extent is mimesis subversion or (re)iteration. By adopting notions of multi-centeredness, it analyzes parallels and discontinuities between embodying both aggressor and martyr, arguing that this hybridization consolidates fear and fearlessness, therefore, creating another presence or performance quality.



  1. I can relate to your identity crisis in many ways. I was born in Vietnam and adopted by an American family when I was two. I grew up in Pennsylvania and Florida acutely aware I was a) not Caucasian and b) a reminder of a war that Americans preferred to forget. Thank you for sharing your voice.

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