REVIEW: Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

7:30pm • Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 • Arthur Miller Theater

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, a multimedia, experimental theater performance which I experienced last Wednesday, told the true story of iconic Iranian pop star Fereydoun Farrokhzad’s unsolved murder. At the same time, many stories collided to provide context for and complicate the idea of “solving” a murder mystery. The performance challenged the idea of “knowing” itself, contending with the maxim: “The more you know, the more you understand.” 

This performance was the third in a trilogy written by the Javaad Alipoor Company, named for the show’s co-writer and artistic director (as well as performer), Javaad Alipoor, a British-Iranian artist. At the beginning of the performance, Alipoor spoke to the audience and described himself as a bridge between the audience and the reality of the Iranian diaspora, one which would help us better “understand” a reality potentially foreign to ourselves. Alipoor wove his story and his heritage into the fabric of the performance, winding it around that of Farrokhzad. He also brought in another thread through his collaboration with Raam Emami, better known as King Raam, an Iranian/Canadian musician whose podcast, Masty o Rasty, has a cult following among Persian-speakers and has been streamed more than 20 million times. The show used a combination of media, including spoken word, video, and true-crime podcast to bring the three men’s stories together. 

As I referenced earlier, Alipoor prefaced the show by speaking on our constant desire to know things, in order to understand the world better, and how modern technologies like Wikipedia can serve that desire. For a moment of audience participation, Alipoor asked us all to get out our phones and use Wikipedia to look up a word shouted out by the audience: “cuscus,” a kind of Australian possum. He had us skim the page and click on the first link that looked interesting, and continue doing so, for a minute. He then used this activity to challenge the idea that reading anything on the Internet, or gaining any kind of knowledge, will necessarily allow us to understand another reality. By framing the performance in this way, Alipoor challenged the proposition that by watching a multimedia performance about the murder of Fereydoun Farrokhzad, we would somehow “understand” his murder, or the broader set of stories which form the Iranian diaspora. 

I found this performance completely fascinating, and it made me think more deeply about how I consume and use information in my daily life. For me, it highlighted the importance of cultural humility: a balance between awareness and appreciation of other ways of being, and the knowledge that we can never truly understand another’s experiences. In the absence of understanding, empathy is essential. Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World pointed out that even in our highly digital, information-saturated lives, there are some who have been made invisible to us, and it is our obligation to be aware of (and assist in) their struggles.

REVIEW: Radio Campfire at Literati Bookstore

Image Courtesy of


What is it that brings us back to the beloved campfire time and time again? You might say the cozy warmth of the licking flames, the smell of smoky childhood that nestles deep into the folds of your clothes, the S’MORES, that strange phase of limbo where everyone stares longingly at the fire searching for answers to the meaning of life. For me, I’m attracted to the way that fire brings campers closer together. It’s the gathering center. It sparks conversation and ignites storytelling – because really, what else can you do in the woods after dark?

The creators of Radio Campfire feel the same way. This new series of listening events remembers a time where you didn’t have to travel into the woods to hear stories with your closest friends. They are determined to bring back the classic picture of “the family huddled around the human-size radio to hear FDR announce the attack of Pearl Harbor.” With podcasts such as Serial, This American Life, and Welcome to Night Vale becoming ever more popular, the creators realized that this commonly solitary activity of ‘listening’ should go back to its roots as a communal event!

The inaugural event took place in the second floor event space in Literati Bookstore. A bit more formal than sitting on logs surrounding the radio, we packed ourselves into rows of fold-out chairs all facing the same direction. No s’mores, but the feel of bumping elbows with your neighbor actually brought a bit of comfort and intimacy to the night. The creators are very enthusiastic about the concept of “campfire” and even go so far as to call themselves “camp counselors.” They are all either radio producers and audio artists in Southeast Michigan. In order to recreate unique experiences of “the campfire,” they wanted their theme to reflect campfire activities and feelings.

This first event was entitled “The Name Game,” to imitate the first thing we always do when we create a group. “Go around the circle, say your name, and what color you’d be if you were a kind of ink pen.” Ah…the classic name and icebreaker. Thankfully, there were too many people at the actual event to go around, so the counselors stuck to the radio programs to speak for themselves.

By now, you’re probably wondering what it is that we actually listened to! They kept it short with only 10 programs, all which were submitted to them. The programs varied from first-person documentaries to experimental soundscapes to dramatic readings of lists. As long as it produced sound and followed the NAME theme, anything goes!

Highlights of this particular series:

-A list of anagrams of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name

-A dramatic reading of good cat names

-A thought-provoking story about a girl traveling in Mexico who falls in love with a marijuana-smoking, free spirited, and emotionally confusing girl named Cynthia

-A child’s perspective on the “Neighborhood Newsletter” she puts out each week

-A mystical explanation on how the Salish Sea in Canada got its name (complete with the relaxing whoosh of waves in the background!)

Drawing a full house, I’d say that the Radio Campfire was a success! I’m excited to say that they will be holding future events, alternating venues in Detroit and Ann Arbor. The events will always be free and open to the public. There’s something so creatively inspiring about closing your eyes and really listening to what people are saying, something that I think modern day people have real trouble with in the hum of school life and cityscapes. Radio Campfire indeed is a gathering ground for podcast makers, vocal artists, students, listeners, lovers of s’mores, sound junkies, and everyone who has ever been a storyteller.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on the Campfire’s upcoming events, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.