An Evening with Storyteller Xanthe Gresham


Acclaimed storyteller Xanthe Gresham recently visited campus to conduct a storytelling workshop at Harvard’s Arts @ 29 Garden creative space and performed selections from the epic poem the Shahnama (Book of Kings) at the Sackler Museum.

Written by the poet Firdawsi, the Shahnama reveals the mythical past of Iran from the creation of the world through the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. Xanthe’s animated performance brought new life to the Shahnama—and to the beautifully illustrated manuscripts of the poem currently on view in our In Harmony exhibition.

Xanthe effortlessly guided audience members through the Shahnama’s complex landscape of romance, tragedy, and war. During her performance of Rustam and Sohrab (a story about a father and son who unknowingly fight each other in war), Xanthe went one step further—she made the audience part of the story by encouraging one side to cheer for Rustam of Iran while the other rallied for Sohrab of Turan.

It was an exhilarating visit to a mythical world populated by demons, warriors, and femme fatales, all orchestrated by one masterful storyteller.

See images from Xanthe’s performance on Flickr.

Watch Xanthe perform selections from the Shahnama at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Read an interview with Xanthe on the Office for the Arts blog.