A Video Introduction to Silk Road Rising


Silk Road Rising (formerly known as Silk Road Theatre Project) creates live theatre and online videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses. In representing communities that intersect and overlap, we advance a polycultural worldview.

Core Values

  • Discovery
  • Pluralism
  • Empathy


Silk Road Rising understands that cultures are inherently linked. We seek the intersections of cultures without denying the specificities of cultures. And we strive to create a world that values art over ideology and inquiry over dogma.  

Artistic Goals

1. To advance the creation of, and expand access to, the works of Asian American and Middle Eastern American artists

2. To deepen understanding of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures within the broader community

3. To provide resources and learning opportunities that allow individuals to explore, express and embrace a more global perspective

The "Spark"

Silk Road Rising is a creative response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The consequences of that catastrophic day are sure to reverberate for years to come, posing unique and urgent challenges for artists of all backgrounds, and inspiring us to educate, promote dialogue, and heal rifts through the transformative power of theatre.

Company co-founders and life partners, Malik Gillani and Jamil Khoury, felt galvanized to respond to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments that swept the US in the aftermath of the attacks, and to challenge arguments surmising a “clash of civilizations.” Their hope was to counter negative representation of Middle Eastern and Muslim peoples with representation that was authentic, multi-faceted, and grounded in human experience. That theatre would be the medium in which they’d “create change” was a given; a decision dictated by their mutual love of theatre, and Khoury’s vocation as a playwright.

Their idea quickly expanded beyond the Middle East to encompass that vast geographical area known historically as the Silk Road; a territory stretching from Japan to Italy. Silk Road Theatre Project thus officially came into existence in summer of 2002, becoming the nation’s first ever theatre company dedicated to representing such a diverse grouping of peoples and cultures.

An American Institution

We believe our broad-based ethnic “constituencies” are what distinguish us among American theatre companies. As citizens of the world, we share a keen appreciation for the role art plays in fostering understanding between peoples. Recognizing that America’s relationships with countries of the Silk Road have become increasingly characterized by conflict and complexity, we feel it is imperative to communicate the histories, perspectives and beliefs of Silk Road peoples to American audiences.

Silk Road communities number over 1.5 million people in the Chicago metropolitan area, and yet we seldom see ourselves represented on Chicago’s stages. The absence of such visibility reinforces our marginalization within American culture, and inhibits us from building bridges of understanding and empathy with the broader American public. This lack of Silk Road representation also discourages young people in our communities from pursuing careers in the performing arts. It erodes appreciation for theatre within our communities, and stifles the development of a potentially large theatre-going audience.

Therefore, we engage our mission with an overtly activist bent. We provide mentoring and professional opportunities to artists of Silk Road backgrounds. We partner with grass roots, community based organizations. We aim to expand the theatre community’s discourse on race and ethnicity. And we demonstrate that theatre with Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean content can generate mainstream interest and success.