2015 Mesopotamian Night Review
This past October Creative Mesos attended Chicago’s second annual Mesopotamian Night. For those of you who don’t know, Mesopotamian Night is a concert held annually in order to raise relief funds for displaced Assyrians. The production, which has been held for nearly a decade in California, makes up a large amount of the Assyrian Aid Society’s funding.
LAST YEAR | ★★★★☆
Creative Mesos attended Chicago’s first Mesopotamian Night last year with high hopes and pride. We left the performance thrilled with the feeling that we, as a community, had reached a new benchmark in live performance standards. The performances were a hit, the production was done with more professionalism than the community was accustomed to and the audience was swayed by the performances; it was arguably the highlight of the year. Although any type of production has some room for improvement, the pros of this production far outweighed the cons, so much so that the cons didn’t even bear mentioning.
THIS YEAR | ★★☆☆☆
When this year’s performance came around we were extremely excited to see what new changes would manifest. While the performances were inspiring and the art was exceptional, the production value was surely missed at the standard that it had been set to last year.
This year’s show felt like it had been MacGyver’d at the last minute. There were irritating lighting techniques, sub–par performances, complete absence of an emcee, no artist introductions as well as an unremarkable and discouraging ending.
Unfortunately the production was not at par with the resounding work of the featured artists and performers. For example, performer Sargon Avadis and Tatiana Haughton projected an awe–inspiring operatic piece that received a swelling applauds. However, were it not for the program book, one would not know who they were or what it was they were performing as they were never introduced.
★☆☆☆☆ = One star is awarded for making the event happen. Even if an event is poorly done, if a team can put on a show for an audience, good or bad, it is an accomplishment.
★★☆☆☆ = A second star is awarded for having a majority of exceptional performances.
★★★☆☆ = A third star is awarded for having production value that is at par with the performances.
★★★★☆ = A fourth star is awarded for introducing a unique component in either the content or the presentation.
★★★★★ = A perfect score is only awarded for a flawless event that challenges the norm of Mesopotamian art. It breaks the mold and redefines the culture through a progressive, intellectual and inspiring narrative.
In an attempt to prevent these blemishes from growing into scars that carry over to future productions, we will outline both the pros and cons of the evening as follows.
- It was a wonderful treat when an unassuming man (which the audience later realized was none other than Assyrian comedian Sami Yako Shamouel) inexplicably interrupted the legendary singer Ogin Bet Samo’s “Khooba m’Toomaya” [Eternal Love] with an hysterical skit where he poked fun at the members of the band, the audience, the legendary singer, and himself. The audience was roaring with laughter and we couldn’t stop slapping our knees. At first, we all sat stunned and mortified at the supposed interruption of the show, but once we realized that this was a creative little side skit that the programmers included to spice up the night, we let go and truly enjoyed it. This was a highlight.
- The featured works for the auction were unique and stunning pieces of art. They should be commended for their extensive outreach and for including art spanning over a variety of media. Notable mentions were modern graphic designs of Aramic lettering by Sharokin Bet Gewargis, and a hand carved Chess Board and Pieces by Reni Stephan.
- An original song by Rachel Sarah Thomas AKA KSRA, “The Limit,” a sneak peak at a new documentary by the acclaimed director Sargon Saadi, “Silence After The Storm” and progressive violin concerto performed by David Younan, “Folk and Nineveh;” were exceptional performances that captivated the audience and were our favorite parts of the whole show. At the intermission, members of our crew were approached by teary eyed young women that were overwhelmed with emotion,
I’m still in act one. It was too much. My mascara is ruined.
one audience member said to us.
- The program book featured some really interesting and engaging supplementary content that shed some light on some rising artists and activists. It was a nice treat when flipping through the book.
- Microphone levels were often imbalanced which made it difficult to hear performers at times.
- The intermission was prematurely scheduled right as we were getting settled into the first act.
- The second half of the show began with no announcement to get back to our seats, next act was not introduced and a couple performances — namely “Akhchi At” by Vian and others like it — seemed like they were un-strategically placed in the act.
- The auction sadly yielded very little bids, which was surprising since the whole purpose of the event is to raise relief funds. Last year’s auction was so successful the auctioneer had to catch his breath. The lack of bids could have been due to the lack of targeted marketing since we also noticed many empty seats.
- Bright and poorly programmed stage lights painfully shined directly at the audience members who often had to shield their eyes from watching the performer.
- There were awkward silences between acts, with no emcee introduction or musical interlude, which we felt was really inconsiderate to the performers who had to walk onto the stage, often without spotlight during the silences.
- Both acts began with an open curtain, a big no-no in stage performances of this caliber. Being able to open the curtains to the audience allows the evening to be unveiled to them, giving the spectacle more anticipation and excitement.
- At the beginning of the auction, pieces were being set up at the same time that the auctioneers had been speaking. The whole ordeal was highly distracting.
- The finale number, by Isabelle Ishtar, didn’t provide the big bang we had hoped for. Isabelle was accompanied by a group of young children who sadly, seemed to be a last minute addition to the performance. They stood on stage doing nothing for the majority of the song, and once they did begin singing, were not miked and were inaudible under the main singer’s voice. The music itself lacked any character or originality/uniqueness and didn’t resonate with us as much as some of the other performances did. An example of music that embodies the progressive and forward thinking qualities that we Mesos hold dear, is last year’s Assyrian re-arrangement of Erik Satie’s “Gnossienne” which transformed the piece’s classical tone to sound more Assyrian.
- We were looking forward to celebrating the show by posing in front of the Meso Night backdrops, similar to Hollywood red carpet walks, but that feature was missing from this year’s event.
- As every detail adds to the sense of professionalism in a show, we felt the program book was not considered to be an important part of the evening’s spectacle. Cluttered with ads and fraught with design flaws, we noticed many of the images and words were rasterized and slightly pixelated.
At the end of the day, the show went on and despite all the negative points we brought up, we are still eager to attend next year’s show. Let this not be seen as discouragement but as guidelines to improve upon for next year. We can’t wait to see what creativity will be on display in 2016.
Check out our review of last year’s  Mesopotamian Night with the Overture Generations leading artists: Violinist Brooke Mirza, Performance Musician KSRA, Film Maker Sargon Saadi and Graphic Designer Rabel BetShmuel.
Mesopotamian Night 2015