Just before Fall Break, The Center for World Performance Studies hosted an incredible guest artist by the name of  Taous Claire Khazem. The actress/activist performed a one-woman, self-starring theatrical performance called “Tizi Ouzou.” Named for the real life town in Algeria from which her father’s lineage descends, the play recounted the tales of ten imaginary emigrants or citizens of the mountainous village, exploring their struggles, values, dreams, disappointments, and distinctions. Taous created each character using simple props: a pair of shoes, a scarf, a coffee cup, a cane, or a pair of glasses, a cigarette. The set was bare, so the only way to enter the story  was through the performer’s movements, utterances, and expressive behaviors. It was astounding how developed each character became as Taous donned the accessories that defined the separate story lines. The cast included an old man who believed the cultural revolution of thirty years previous was current news; a young woman who wanted to move to America and find a basketball player for a husband; a sweet French girl who had fallen in love with an Algerian man; a grandmother who bakes bread and doles out unsolicited life advice; a religious teenager; a travel agent with strong opinions about Algerian men, and many more. In a question and answer session following the performance, Taous declared that each character had been adapted from real-life counter parts. Her personal history of immigration, multi-cultural values, language barriers, and even discrimination came alive in this animated narrative. Though the plot is specific to French-Algerian culture, it somehow felt relatable to the entire audience. The characters she developed are archetypal and familiar. Their challenges and triumphs are pertinent to nearly any group of people in the world, particularly those who have crossed country lines in their lifetime. The characters felt close to heart, though they are from a far off land called Tiz Ouzou.

For more about events hosted by The Center for World Performances, click here. For info on Taous, click here. See you next time!