Online screening and Q&A

Feathers of Fire:

A Persian Epic

May 11, 2022

Online screening followed by a Q&A with Hamid Rahmanian, in conversation with Olga M. Davidson (Boston University) and John Bell (Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, University of Connecticut).  Hosted by the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.

Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic (2016)

Conceived, designed, and directed by Hamid Rahmanian
In collaboration with Larry Reed and ShadowLight Productions
Original music by Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali
Written by Hamid Rahmanian
Performed by Ya Wen Chien, Gabriela Garcia, Ariel Lauryn, Rose Nisker, Fred C. Riley III, Leah Ogawa, and Dina Zarif
Produced by Fictionville Studio and Banu Productions


Feathers of Fire is a cinematic shadow play for all ages based on the 10th-century Persian epic Shahnameh (‘The Book of Kings’). It tells the action-packed tale of Zaul and Rudabeh, two star-crossed lovers of old Persia. Zaul is raised by a mythical bird in the wild. Rudabeh is the granddaughter of the dreaded Serpent King. Their deep love for each other enables them to triumph over inconceivable odds.

About the Show

The vibrant graphics, derived from the visual tradition of the Middle East, are rendered as puppets, costumes, masks, scenography and digital animation, all of which come to life in a “live animation” shadow casting technique perfected by shadow master Larry Reed on a cinema-size screen. The play features an original score by the acclaimed musical team, Loga Ramin Torkian & Azam Ali.

Feathers of Fire had its world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2016 and went on to tour around the world in 23 US cities and 6 countries to an audience of over one hundred thousand, in world renowned venues/festivals including: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, Materia Prima Festival, The Wallis Annenberg, Shanghai Theater Academy and the Musée du quai Branly, among others.

Q&A Panel

Olga M. Davidson


Olga M. Davidson earned her PhD in 1983 from Princeton University in Near Eastern Studies. She is on the faculty of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations, Boston University, where she has served as Research Fellow since 2009. From 1992 to 1997, she was Chair of the Concentration in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University. Since 1999, she has been Chair of the Board, Ilex Foundation. She is the author of Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings and Comparative Literature and Classical Persian Poetry, both of which have been translated into Persian and distributed in Iran.

Hamid Rahmanian


Hamid Rahmanian is a New York–based Iranian multi-disciplinary artist working mostly in cinema, graphic art and shadow theater. Since the late 1980s, he has combined his love of traditional Persian art forms with modern technology to create new works of art that visually bridge the gaps of East and West. As a story-teller, his works have focused on people and issues that are rarely covered in the mainstream media, offering audiences new perspectives and intimate glimpses into otherwise little known worlds.

John Bell


Puppeteer and theater historian John Bell is the Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and an Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, both at the University of Connecticut. He learned puppetry as a member of the Bread and Puppet Theater company from 1976 to 1986, and received his doctoral degree in theater history from Columbia University in 1993.  He is the author of many books and articles about puppet theater, including American Puppet Modernism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) and Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History (Detroit Institute of Arts, 2000). He edited Puppets, Masks, and Performing Objects (MIT Press, 2001), and with Dassia Posner and Claudia Orenstein edited The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance (Routledge, 2014). He is an editor of Puppetry International, the publication of the U.S. branch of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette. John is a founding member of the Brooklyn-based theater collective Great Small Works; one of the creators of the Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands; and a member of the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band.

Q&A video

A video of the Q&A session is immediately below.  Following that is a segment from “A Spectacular Shadow Play” with excerpts from Feathers of Fire and an interview with Hamid Rahmanian explaining the production (SoCal Connected, PBS station KCET).


Columbia University

This screening is part of the “World Epics in Puppet Theater: India, Iran, Japan, Italy” project, a Columbia University Humanities War & Peace Initiative, which “fosters the study of war and peace from the perspective of scholars in the Humanities, in conversation with colleagues from around Columbia and the world […] with an ultimate goal of perpetuating a more peaceful world.”



Over the past decade Kingorama has created works based on Shahnameh that have reached audiences around the world, including Feathers of Fire, Zahhak: The Legend of the Serpent King, and Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings. Their new projects are: 1) Song of the North, the second installment of Kingorama’s shadow play trilogy, telling the story of ancient Persia’s Princess Manijeh who rescues her beloved from a perilous predicament of her own making; 2) The Seven Trials of Rostam­, a pop-up book that tells the story of Shahnameh’s Rostam as he is put to the test in a series of challenges; 3) The Prince of Sorrows, an interactive video game that tells the story of Siovosh, a young prince who sends himself into exile to flee the tyranny of his father; 4)  Shahmnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings, expanded 3rd edition.

Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (BIMP) is one of America’s hidden treasures—a superb collection of over 3,500 puppets from all over the world; an archive of books, manuscripts, posters, drawings, audio-visual materials and photographs all covering the history of puppetry. It is also the new home of the Puppeteers of America’s Audio-Visual Collection: the largest collection of videotapes, films, and other media about puppetry in the United States. The Ballard Institute curates and produces exhibitions of puppetry, both at the Ballard Museum and for touring across the United States. The Institute also offers workshops, museum tours, artists’ forums, film showings, performances, and other events and programs that promote the art of puppetry as a twenty-first-century art form with deep historic and global roots.

Academic Committee

Jo Ann Cavallo

(Columbia University)

Olga M. Davidson

(Boston University)

Claudia Orenstein

(Hunter College, CUNY; UNIMA-USA)

Elizabeth Oyler

(University of Pittsburgh)

Paula Richman

(Oberlin College)

Poupak Azimpour Tabrizi

(University of Tehran, Iran)


Columbia University

The Humanities War and Peace Initiative, through the Division of Humanities in the Arts & Sciences .

The Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture.

University of  Connecticut

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.

The Puppet Arts Program, Department of Dramatic Arts.

Museo Internazionale delle Marionette “Antonio Pasqualino” in Palermo, Italy 


University of Pittsburgh