Theatre company’s video plays expand to new media

Silk Road principals Jamil Khoury and Malik Gillani

Silk Road Theatre Project is rolling out a new series of short-form video plays designed to be accessible to mobile device and tablet users, shot cinematically, on theater sets, sometimes followed by live or online discussion.

“We are actually leading the way in imagining how to create work that is easy to access,” Silk Road executive director Malik Gillani says. 

They’re first targeting the 4,000 patrons per year who attend their live performances at the Chicago Temple, offering DVDs of the video plays as subscriber premiums and directing them to video content on their web site. 

“Our patrons indicated that they’d like to have access to our work so that they can share it with their family and friends,” notes Gillani.

After patrons, Silk Road will promote the video plays to colleges and universities, and then to a wider online audience.

“In seeking to expand our audience beyond the confines of our bricks and mortar venue, we needed to develop a model that would allow us to create quality art on a cost-effective basis and distribute that art to wider segments of society,” adds artistic director Jamil Khoury.

 A scene from Khoury’s play, “Wasp” They envision video plays as eventually becoming equally central to their programming as live productions, with the two components serving to promote each other. 

Silk Road’s first two video plays, “both/and” and “Not Quite White,” will premiere this spring.  Khoury adapted them from his own autobiographical play, “WASP (White Arab Slovak Pole)”, part of their 2010 omnibus “The DNA Trail.”

Originally shot as a single piece, directed by J. Paul Pressault with Clayton Stamper and Khurram Mozaffar, the leads from the stage production. Silk Road made the decision in postproduction to split the video into “both/and,” about reconciling Khoury’s Arab and gay identities, and “Not Quite White,” about the historic evolution of both Arab American and Polish American identity.

Company creates online videos for commercial purposes 

Khoury and Gillani founded Silk Road in 2002 as a “creative response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.”  The object was to showcase playwrights whose ancestors hail from the Silk Road trade route that connected Asia, the Middle East, and Europe and foster understanding across ethnic and religious divisions.  

They’ve produced seven world premieres, six Midwest premieres, one Chicago premiere and 27 staged readings.

Silk Road is employing online video in other ways: creating spots for restaurant and hotel sponsors that encourage patrons to make a night of it, and behind the scenes videos used in the marketing of stage plays.  

They’re converting a room in their Printer’s Row office into Studio Vlog, which will be equipped for regular and frequent video blogs.

Silk Road’s office is at 680 S. Federal St., Ste. 301.  Their performance venue is Pierce Hall in the lower level of the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St.  Call 312/857-1234.