The Politics of Paper

Appropriation is a tricky issue from a legal point of view. You can’t use someone’s name or image for commercial purposes, without his or her permission, or risk a lawsuit. You can’t use someone’s words without attribution or risk charges of plagiarism. You can’t sample another person’s music without running afoul of copyright law. But what if you appropriate a lifestyle or some...
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A Peek at Paper

A teacher and a student argue over a remark in class. Or was it a remark about class? Or was it really about race? Or gender? My new play Paper brings the explosive confrontations on campus around race, class, and gender onto the stage. Take Rashomon, add Mamet, mix in Black Lives Matter, and stand back. Sophia, meanwhile, is taken aback by what she considers Emmanuel’s arrogance. She is...
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My Novel (Accidentally) Predicted Trump

It’s terrifying when your dystopian nightmares begin to come true. Donald Trump is consolidating a circle of extremist advisers. Hardline restrictions on immigration are going up, regulations on Wall Street are tumbling down, and ordinary Americans can no longer agree on simple truths, let alone politics. Abroad, Europe may be splintering, too, Asia looks volatile, and wars continue to rage in...
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The Art of Detente

On a wall in Boston, artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo is taking a quiet but historic step forward in U.S.-Iranian relations. His fanciful mural on an air intake structure in Boston’s Dewey Square represents a first. Ghadyanloo, who has completed more than a hundred surrealistic murals in downtown Tehran, is the first Iranian artist to do work commissioned by municipal authorities in both Iran...
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Iran: The Calligraphic Challenge

Mehdi Saeedi turns words into art. The Iranian graphic artist has transformed Farsi script into posters, paintings, and other works. He has taken a traditional form, calligraphy, and made something even more startling and beautiful from it. In Saeedi’s posters, a line of script turns into a bird, with an olive branch in its beak. Don Quixote rides a horse of words, a reminder that the...
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The Music of Hopelessness

If foreign policy had a soundtrack, it would be the opposite of easy listening. Really, could anyone listen to a symphony of war and peace all the way through? In the first movement — devoted to death and destruction and played presto and fortissimo — the electric guitarists step to the front of the orchestra to strum power chords, scream hate-filled lyrics, and deliver cacophony instead of...
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