THIS Bridge

Arab, Middle Eastern & Muslim Artists Series


SPECIAL ONLINE EVENT: Friday, August 21, 7:30 PM EDT

Reading: 9 Parts of Desire by Heather Raffo





     Art2Action, in partnership with the University of South Florida (USF), was one of 6 grantees in the nation awarded a “Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement” grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) in its inaugural round (2014-16).  Our Building Bridges program introduced students, partners and audiences to the great diversity of Muslim and Arab identities, cultures and aesthetics, by presenting a series of (mostly) women performers and artists in multiple disciplines, over a two-year period. Our title, THIS Bridge: Arab, Middle Eastern & Muslim Artists, references seminal writings in women of color feminism (This Bridge Called My Back and later This Bridge We Call Home, as well as Colonize THIS! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism), and locates the self-representation of contemporary Arab and Muslim women artists within that historical discourse. Guest artists in the presenting series each spend a full week in Tampa, on campus and in the community. Artist residencies include performances, film screenings, exhibits, class visits and workshops, Festival appearances, facilitated dialogues, academic lectures and panels to engage students across an array of departments, institutes, and student associations.


     Lebanese American theatre artist, Andrea Assaf, serves as Artist-in-Residence and guest faculty with the USF School of Theatre & Dance, and lead curator for the program.  For the presenting series, Art2Action co-curates a series of residencies with artists who demonstrate artistic excellence across a variety of aesthetics and disciplines. The goals of this series are to educate, provoke, surprise, move, and inspire. The inclusion of artists with both traditional and complex identities works to dispel stereotypes, counter mainstream media images and Arab-Muslim conflation, and stimulate transformation of attitudes, views and relationships across communities. In alignment with Art2Action’s mission, artistic presentations are always followed by opportunities for academic discourse and intra-community dialogue about gender, including contemporary Arab and Muslim feminisms, identity, and U.S. policy.


     Partnering departments and units have included:  The School of Theatre and Dance, Anthropology, Communications, English, Government & International Affairs, The Humanities Institute, The Institute on Black Life, Women’s & Gender Studies, World Languages Arabic classes, The School of Art & Art History, The School of Music, The Institute for Research in Art/Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), and USF World’s Center for Strategic & Diplomatic Studies.  Collaborating student associations include the Arab Cultural Association (ACA), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), and many more.  Community partners include the Arab American Community Center (AACC), which produces annual Arab Festivals in Tampa and Orlando.

Featured Artists & Projects

Archival pages of residencies & projects included in this series COMING SOON!

Please see photos and videos below.





Inside Arts: Building Bridges Together (APAP Preconference 2014 digital edition), with cover featuring Art2Action artist Aida Shahghesemi in Eleven Reflections on September at USF:


Creative Loafing: “The Laugh Track – Who’s Bringing the Funny” (including Negin Farsad, by Michael Murillo, August 27, 2014)


Creative Loafing: “World-renowned muralist Aya Tarek tags USF” (by Caitlin Albritton, September 30, 2015)


Creative Loafing Theatre Preview: 9 Parts of Desire at USF (by Julie Garisto, 11/10/15)


The Oracle: “9 Parts of Desire tackles reality of war” (by Breanne Williams, 11/11/15)


The Tampa Tribune: “Play Promotes Cultural Diplomacy in a Time of Conflict” (by Brad Stager, November 4, 2015)

Past Events


February — Egyptian muralist Aya Tarek returns to USF! Join us for an informal soiree at Graphic Studio, February 22nd, with DJ Cotton! March 29 — A special evening with Bina Sharif, celebrating 30 Plays in 30 Years! Originally from Pakistan, Bina Sharif has been an artist-in-residence at Theater for the New City for decades. She’s a diva of the downtown NYC theatre scene, an extremely prolific playwright, a visual artist, and a fabulous actress! Bina will perform excerpts of her plays, and read new work in progress, followed by a Q&A with the audience, moderated by Andrea Assaf. Co-sponsored by the Pakistani Students Association (PSA), join us for free refreshments at 7:30pm, opening with a live performance of songs from Pakistan.


February 15-22 — Progress Theatre, under the direction of Dr. Cristal Chanelle Truscott, who recently received the Doris Duke Impact Award for Theatre. Look for them at the “Images, Movements, and Engagements in Africa and the Diaspora,” a conference sponsored by the USF Institute on Black Life, on Feb 19-20. On Saturday, February 21, at 3 PM, they will present their newest work, The Burnin’ at the USF School of Theatre & Dance, in Theatre 1, followed by a dialogue & reception. March 15-22 — Heather Raffo, Iraqi American playwright, will be in residence and will present work-in-progress of her new libretto. Guest artists include composer Tobin Stokes, Syrian opera treasure Lubana Al Quntar, and much more! March 20, 7:30pm, Fallujah: A Concert Performance, at the USF School of Music, Concert Hall. April 1-10 — National Poetry Month Celebration! Don’t miss our extraordinary line-up on April 9th, featuring award-winning poets Tahani Salah and Amir Rabiyah, hosted by Tampa Bay’s own Andresia “Real” Poet, with DJ Cotton! The week begins with a special panel in partnership with the USF Humanities Institute and English Department, featuring poet Naomi Shihab Nye! Events include: Wednesday, April 1, 6pm — Arab American Poets Panel with Naomi Shihab Nye, Amir Rabiyah and Tahani Salah. Moderated by Andrea Assaf. Sunday, April 5, 6:30-9pm — Veterans Community Open Mic @ Sacred Grounds Monday, April 6, 4pm — Visual Art Reception, USF Women’s & Gender Studies Thursday, April 9, 8pm — NATIONAL POETRY CELEBRATION @ The Oval Theatre, USF Marshall Center, co-sponsored by the Arab Cultural Association. With host Andresia “Real” Poet and DJ Cotton! September 25 — Art Talk by Egyptian graffiti artist & muralist, Aya Tarek. FREE event! 3:30pm @ FAH 290 (University of South Florida, College of the Arts). Drop by the Contemporary Art Museum, Sept 25-30, to see Aya painting a new work on campus! September 28 — Film Screening: The Microphone, featuring Egyptian graffiti artist Aya Tarek. FREE event, with popcorn! 7:30pm @ The Oval Theatre, USF Marshall Center (2nd floor) OCTOBER 1 — World Premiere of a new painting by Aya Tarek! With FREE Middle Eastern food and fantastic DJs! 7-9pm @ the Contemporary Art Museum, USF. October 19-23 — Heather Raffo visits USF! OCT 20, 3:30pm — special lecture with Heather Raffo, on cultural diplomacy and her work as an artist, hosted by the USF Department of Government & International Affairs at USF World, Patel Center for Global Solutions. NOVEMBER 12-15 & 19-22 — 9 Parts of Desire by Heather Raffo, performed by a 16-member cast, in collaboration with the USF School of Theatre & Dance. Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 3pm, @ Theatre 2, USF. For TICKETS and details, visit: Special Events: Live Music with the Five Stars Band! Nov 19 & 20, 7 PM @ Theatre 2 Post-show Dialogues with the cast & director Andrea Assaf – Nov 19, 20 & 21


March 17-22 — Potri Ranka Manis, Artistic Director of Kinding Sindaw, Melayu Heritage Dance & Music Troupe, and musician Malaika Queano, spent a week with Tampa community & campus partners. Activities included workshops for local veterans, refugees and survivors of torture, USF Dance class visits, a family workshop for Muslim mothers & daughters, and more. April 7-12 — Leila Buck, Lebanese American actress & playwright, visited USF Theatre classes and presented In the Crossing: Open Studio & Dialogue, April 10th @ the USF School of Theatre & Dance. Media artist Adam Abel also joined campus & community workshops, discussing his new documentary QALQILYA. August 28 — Negin Farsad Comedy Show — Thurs, 8:30 PM @ USF Marshall Student Center, Oval Theatre. With guest appearances by local artists, and Middle Eastern food provided by the Arab Cultural Association (ACA). August 29 — The Muslims Are Coming! Film screening — Friday, 7:30 PM @ University Lecture Hall (ULH 101), followed by a discussion with co-producer, Negin Farsad September 8 & 10 — Eleven Reflections on September, featuring Aida Shahghasemi & Andrea Assaf — Multimedia Spoken Word meets Middle Eastern music in this unique concert performance — Monday & Wednesday, 8 PM @ USF School of Music, Barness Recital Hall. October 5 & 7 — Donna Mejia, transnational fusion dance artist specializing in North African & Arab dance forms, mixed with Hip Hop and Electronica … Special guest appearance at the VETERANS OPEN MIC on Oct 5, 6:30-9 PM @ Sacred Grounds Coffee House; followed by an exclusive lecture-demonstration on Oct 7, 12:30-1:30 PM @ USF School of Music, Barness Recital Hall. November 6-15 — USF Fall Dance Concert, featuring choreography by Donna Mejia @ Theatre 2, Tampa Campus December 3 & 5 — “Building Bridges” Devised Theatre Workshop performance, exploring themes of culture, religion, gender, and U.S. policy. USF students perform their own original work, developed in this special course, open to all majors (2014 only!): Selected Topics in THEATRE: “Building Bridges” Devised Theatre Workshop (THE 4930). — Wed & Fri, 8 PM @ USF Theatre, TAR 120

This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Grants Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.