Inspired by the Persian tale of the cunning bride whose storytelling skills save her from a murderous husband, Layla is a sumptuous and melodramatic re-imagining of the Scheherazade story that frames One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Layla unfolds in multiple live performance forms over many rooms; part funhouse, part séance, part wedding banquet; the piece invites guests to enter an experiential labyrinth of illusions and amusements that engage all five senses.

photo by Jose Diaz

Layla features an original live score by Houman Pourmehdi and Pirayeh Pourafar, acclaimed masters of Persian music, as well as contemporary Iranian poetry in both Farsi and English. Daring, disturbing, and not afraid of entertaining, Layla plays with new forms of public engagement as the piece is directly experiential and participatory. Layla’s purposeful design meaningfully integrates traditional artists, as well as local merchants and community-members, into RGWW’s inclusive praxis. 

Layla’s surface is playful and wild: think pop-up restaurant meets high-art three-ring circus. But there is a serious undertone, engaging each "guest" in action that confronts questions of self and other; trust, betrayal, and assumption, as the viewer is made complicit with the story's most objectionable characters, and pulled deeply into prickly conversations about violence and our insatiable desire to be entertained.

"Delightful and surreal moments abound... To witness this dance at such close quarters is a visceral thrill.... The moments in which dance took over the story-telling verged on the magnificent, in a style that gave off whiffs of Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Pilobolus, and Sonya Tayeh without enslaving itself to any tradition. " – Carla Escoda, Bachtrack Global

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Each guest is given ritual hand-washing by maidens, provided with food and drink, fed sweets, invited to comment and share his or her own stories, and led to partake of many many more surprising and sensual elements. Layla premiered this past fall in San Francisco presented by ODC Theater, where we sold out all nine performances! We are currently seeking a venue and partners for a Los Angeles premiere.  Please contact us to get involved.

Rita Feliciano, SF Bay Bay Guardian

“Delightful and surreal moments abound… To witness this dance  at such close quarters is a visceral thrill.”

Carla Escoda, BachTrack

Niloufar Talebi is a writer/librettist, award-winning translator, and theater artist. She is the editor/translator of BELONGING: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World (2008); creator/performer of theater and video works, Four Springs (2004), Midnight Approaches (2006), ICARUS/RISE (2007), The Persian Rite of Spring (2010). She is the author of Atash Sorushan (Fire Angels) (2011), a libretto for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 commissioned by Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances, and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Her requiem libretto, Epiphany (2015) will premiere by the Young People's Chorus of NYC. She is currently writing and will narrate Elegies of the Earth (2014), an opera for VIA's FERUS Festival at the Stone Residency in NYC.

Houman Pourmehdi has performed live, on radio and on television throughout Europe, North America, Asia, and North Africa. His knowledge of traditional repertoire and intimacy with Sufi world serve a very personal style of interpretation and composition. He is the recipient of the C.O.L.A. 2008, L.A. Treasures Award 2004 and 2008, and ACTA the Folk and Traditional Arts Mentorship Initiative 2004 and 2006.

Pirayeh Pourafar studied at the Royal National Music Conservatory of Teheran and performed with Iran's most prestigious artists at the Center of Preservation and Propagation of Traditional Persian Music. Headlining on major festivals throughout the world, Pourafar is the recipient of the Durfee Master Musician Fellowship. One of the first women to play traditional Persian music outside Iran, she paved the way others to follow. Pourmehdi and Pourafar have scored documentary and narrative films, and with Lian Ensemble, the live score for UCLA LIVE's Medea,with Anette Bening.

Tony Shayne (Designer) received his graduate degree at UC Davis in Lighting & Scenic Design, and will be attending USC this fall in pursuit of a Master's in Architecture. His work theatrical lighting include: dance, Rosanna Gamson/World Wide: Tov, Sheethal Gandhi: Bahu Biti Biwi(World Tour), John Jasperse: Beyond Belief, Nina Haft/Sue Li Jue: This.Placed, Kim Epifano: Heelomali; plays, Dan Froot/Dan Hurlin: Who's Hungry?-Santa Monica and Phillip Kan Gotanda: #5 The Angry Red Drum. He is also the Associate Technical Director/Lighting Director for REDCAT.

The ongoing creation and performances of Layla Means Night are made possible, in part, by support from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, ARC Matching Gifts Program from the Center for Cultural Innovation and our beautiful donors.