This was a series of events initiated at Mess Hall in 2011 and developed cooperatively among many people — as was always the case at Mess Hall. We defined this as a program track for a year-long experiment, and defined the intention of the series in this way:

Crossings registers movement across borders, through territories, and identities. Who moves, who does not? What is put into motion, who is forcefully immobilized? What about refusal of mobility, interruption of movement? Where and when is life clamped down? How are mobility and containment organized as social forms? Who can pass, and whose crossing constitutes a trespass? Questions about movement in relation to borders are complicated by the ways in which the border itself has been on the move: border lines widen, extend and project into the social spaces of everyday life, so that the border is everywhere. To speak of crossing in a borderworld is to encounter the problem and possibility that every place, and every moment, can be a site of trespass.

Events/Programs in this series:

Wed, August 31, 7pm – 9pm Community Critique: “Transnational Rural: Beardstown IL” – with Sarah Ross and Ryan Griffis

“Transnational Rural: Beardstown, IL” is a video series that explores a rural Midwestern town of 6000 people—a place of global exchange and international mobility, inscribed by post-NAFTA realities. Organized into chapters, the series tells a story of Beardstown through three distinct lenses. One portrays a landscape massively engineered to redirect water for the production of commodity crops. Another provides a meditation on the movement and scale of the international grain trade—from one seed to millions of bushels, moved from field, to elevator, to barge, to ocean going vessel. A third chapter chronicles how and why so many people from around the world have come to Beardstown, a formerly all-white, Sundown town of 6000 people. This presentation of “Transnational Rural” includes a screening of two video chapters and a discussion of a third in-progress chapter.

Ryan Griffis makes work in the form of visual art, text, curated exhibits, and performance that usually focuses on relationships between activism, visual culture, and technology. Sarah Ross is an artist who works in sculpture, video and photo. Her projects use narrative and the body to address spatial concerns as they relate to access, class, anxiety and activism.

Friday, June 24, 7-9:30 PM    Theater With an Accent Reading: Three Short Plays

1. Things are not always the same , by Mohsen Azimi

A free adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s “A Temporary Matter”, the play opens with the Woman, a twenty-six year-old wife, a nurse at maternity hospital, arriving home at the end of a workday finding her husband sitting behind his desk writing plays about their own life. Things are Not Always the Same is a journey through life and relationships between women and men in contemporary Iran.

Mohsen Azimi, an Iranian award winning playwright, actor and journalist has performed and published several plays in Persian language including Things are Not Always the Same,  That’s it, Nothing else  and  The Third Line. Things are not always the same is his first play being performed outside Iran. He contributes with Asar, a German-Persian online magazine as Theatre and Film editor since 2008.


2.  On the Lantern Festival, by Hattie He

On the Lantern Festival is a romantic comedy about two characters trapped in an elevator in 100th floor of a high building. The play revolves around the robotic life of our modern time and humans’ need for connection and fulfillment.

Hattie He (何珊珊He Shanshan) was born in 1986 in a small town in southern China. She studied English at Peking University and graduated in 2008. She has worked in Beijing, China as an editor and English teacher wherein she lives now. She hopes she will have more free time to write new plays.



3.  Medea was born in Fallujah    by Ezzat Goushegir

A modern adaptation of Medea by Euripides, this short play illustrates how Medea, an Iraqi woman living in exile in the U.S. faces Fallujah her birth place being invaded and her family brutally massacred in a violent attack. Medea, torn apart with guilt and disturbances, broken and distressed, takes a brutal revenge.

Ezzat Goushegir, has published four books in Farsi. Her plays are anthologized in English, have won awards and are performed by variety of theatre companies. A Fellow Writer in the Iowa City IWP, Writer-in-Residence at the University of Maryland, and co-director and dramaturge of a reading series at New Federal Theatre in New York, Ezzat is currently teaches at SNL at DePaul University.

Theatre with Accent is an independent theater group in Chicago, mainly for playwrights who have many things to say but very little sources to be heard. This is a cultural “Home” for immigrant playwrights, minorities and those living in diasporas and exile. We will conduct a quarterly public reading series based on selected works, collaborating with professional directors and actors, followed by in-depth discussion with the audience about serious issues raised in the plays.


Fri, May 13, 6pm – 9pm      Immigrant Toolkit

Whether crossing nation-state borders or social boundaries, upwardly or downwardly negotiating class structures, navigating the invisible territories of the city or the clearly delineated sectors of bureaucracy, we draw on a variety of tools and strategies to aid in our journeys. These tools may be physical objects, technological assistive devises, informational resources, social networks, modes of dress or speech that aid in ‘passing,’ among others. In anticipation of our forthcoming issue around the theme of im/migration, AREA Chicago is hosting an Im/migrant Tool Kit Gathering Session, as part of the “Crossings” program series at Mess Hall in Rogers Park. AREA invites you to bring a tool to contribute to the Im/migrant Tool Kit. These contributions will be a starting point for conversation around the many dimensions of human mobility and immobility, the politics of belonging and of dislocation, as well as strategies for action around urgent issue facing im/migrants. Blending the categories of panel discussion and workshop, invited guests will help facilitate participatory dialogue and creative activity. The event and the objects assembled will be documented for inclusion in AREA magazine as well as on AREA’s website.

Mon, March 28, 7pm – 9pm     Garment worker film screening with Anne Elizabeth Moore

Four short docs on factory life in the Cambodian garment industry, and two episodes of the ILO’s garment worker soap opera “At The Factory Gates”. This evenin presented by Anne Elizabeth Moore, who will provide a short overview of her journalistic and artistic work around factory work as background. FOUR SHORTS FROM THE FACTORIES Cambodia’s garment industry is a major pillar of the country’s post-war economy. In 2007, garment factories employed more than 350,000 workers and generated exports worth around US$3.7 billion. Most factories produce for well known US and European brands including Gap, Adidas, Levis and H&M. In 2009 the global economic crisis has led to more than 70.000 workers being laid off. Most of them are young women from rural areas with limited access to education, who support an average of three to five family members. Through their remittances these women often crucially contribute to their family’s survival and to the education of their siblings. FOUR SHORTS FROM THE FACTORIES (2010, 4 x 8 mins, in Khmer with English subtitles) look at the economic downturn viewed through the prism of workers, a female Cambodian manager, union representatives, entrepreneurs and small businesses surrounding the factories.



Report-back on March 10 actions and protests at Boeing Plaza, lead by mixed status migrant justice organizers. Critiques of the DREAM Act and discussion on the various fault lines within the immigrant rights movement. More on these actions here


Brian Holmes’ lecture-workshop at Mess Hall in January, “Four Pathways through Chaos,” gave a broad overview of the current economic crisis and its effects—on our city, region, and country as well as on our ways of living and sense of self. In the midst of this crisis, WE WANT TO CREATE THE KINDS OF KNOWLEDGE AND FORMS OF COLLECTIVE PRACTICE THAT WE NEED. The point is not to form a new discussion group or reading-list or ultra-revolutionary cell or ten-point program. The invitation is to become, with us, the eyes and ears and tongues and active bodies of the crisis. Together we can open up new pathways. Join us!

Fri, January 28, 2011, 6:30pm – 8:30pm  Theater with an Accent Reading

My Name is Innana by Ezzat Goushegir

The main character Inanna, retrieved from the historical texts, the Sumerian goddess of love, justice and civilization, is a modern Middle Eastern woman who is in search of identity, justice and freedom, leaves her mother country, where she had been imprisoned there under the tyrannical regime for several years until she flees the country in search of freedom. After receiving a political asylum in the U.S., dreaming of democracy, she practices the expression of freedom of speech. But she faces new forms of sexism, racism and false-democratic slogans. It is a crucial historical moment after the invasion of Iraq, and she is being arrested for her opposition to war in the Middle Eastern region. Handcuffed alone in a holding area, she speaks for 55 minutes, reliving her experiences of politics and incarceration in her native country, as well as those of her newly adopted country.

Theatre With Accent is a non-profit theater group in Chicago, mainly for playwrights who have many things to say but very little sources to be heard. This is a cultural “Home” for immigrant playwrights, minorities and those living in diaspora and exile. We will conduct a quarterly public reading series based on selected works, collaborating with professional directors and actors, followed by in-depth discussion with the audience about serious issues raised in the plays.

Sat, January 22, 2011, 7pm – 11pm. Natural Histories of The Boundary Line

featuring work by and in-person discussions with Jo Guldi, Sarah Kanouse and Thomas Comerford. This multi-media event featured films, videos and presentations on the ideas of “boundary” in the conceptualization and design of landscapes. Jo Guldi will speak on “a brief history of the state, the body, and the persona, interpreted as landscape.” Sarah Kanouse will present excerpts from a video-in-progress entitled “Fishing for Nature,” which explores the intersections between nature and militarism at a wildlife refuge in southern Illinois. Thomas Comerford will present his 2010 film, “The Indian Boundary Line,” which follows a former treaty boundary through northern Chicago, contemplating the Chicago landscape alongside histories of the Midwest and North America. Discussion with presenters to follow.

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