KHŪRĀKĪ - A Celebration of Afghanistan in Pittsburgh

RealTime Arts serves up immersive show about Afghan culture

March 25, 2024

RealTime Arts, in collaboration with Shady Side Academy, is pleased to announce a 3-day limited run of their highly popular culinary/ theatrical experience  Khūrākī: A Celebration of Afghanistan in Pittsburgh, April 12-13 at 7:30 PM and April 14 at 2 PM at the Hillman Center for Performing Arts’ Kountz Black Box Theater on the Shady Side Senior School Campus, 423 Fox Chapel Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15238. 

Experience the flavors, music, and culture of Afghanistan as you follow a group of Afghan women from their lives during Taliban rule to a new beginning in Pittsburgh. This remount of Khūrākī– written by RealTime’s Molly Rice– features a post-show discussion on how conditions have changed since the 2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a “Where are they now?” of the women whose stories the show tells. You’ll discover how the creation of this unique theater work (a 2019 nominee for the Mayor’s Award for Public Art) led to the forming of the women’s cooperatively-owned catering business, Zafaron– and you’ll enjoy a delicious, fresh-cooked Afghan tasting meal prepared by the women themselves. This immersive cultural experience includes live Afghan and classical music and stories illuminating Afghan traditions of Ramadan, birth, and death.

RealTime projects often include professional theater artists and community members working together; the Shady Side show is RealTime’s first opportunity to create a Khūrākī “company” comprised of professionals, high school students, and the Afghan women. The cast features two professional actors, Alison Weisgall* and Ashley Reign, both of whom were originally cast by the Afghan women themselves, performing alongside Shady Side’s Jay Zhu, recently awarded Best Actor in Prime Stage’s High School Drama Awards. Stage management and other roles will also be filled by Shady Side students.  

Tickets are $35* and include the show, an Afghan tasting meal and a post-show talkback with immigration experts, arts professionals and members of the Afghan community. Topics include: 

     April 12: Theater as Civic Practice: Can art really make change?

     April 13: Afghanistan: What’s changed since Khūrākī was written?

     April 14: Pittsburgh’s Afghan Women: Finding Home

     *$25 tickets are available for students and educators (with a student/faculty ID). To purchase tickets, visit

      **For free tickets for Afghan community members, please contact 

Director Rusty Thelin describes the show in this way: “Khūrākī (meaning “eat” or “meal” in the Afghan language Dari) disrupts American notions of Afghanistan as a place that represents only violence and war, emphasizing the beauty of Afghan culture, music, landscapes and food through theatrical portraits of five strong women who will forever be Afghan, but have recently become Pittsburghers as well.”

The April show is a celebration of the relationship RealTime Arts and the Afghan women have forged over the past seven years. Khūrākī started in 2017 as a commission from the Office of Public Art (now Shiftworks Community + Public Arts), when RealTime Co-Artistic Director Molly Rice was paired with a refugee resettlement agency to create a new work with Pittsburgh refugees. With help from RealTime and partners like ForGood PGH, Ineffable CaPhe, Azorean Cafe, Cobbler World, La Dorita, Sprezzatura, the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship and the Pittsburgh Chamber of Cooperatives, the women of Khūrākī gained professional kitchen training in tandem with the show’s creation, and went on to establish their worker-owned LLC, Zafaron. 

The show was originally performed in four locations across Pittsburgh; it has since been presented at a number of venues including CMU, PNC Bank, and University of Pittsburgh. Along the way, the women’s business has gained clients and visibility through Khūrākī performances. In 2022 Khūrākī toured to the International Borderlight Festival in Cleveland; one of the original Afghan collaborators traveled with the show to mentor five newly-arrived Cleveland refugees who gained vital professional catering experience cooking for audiences. 

Says Rice, “Working with these women has been one of the creative highlights of my life.  It’s shown me that art really can move the needle for individuals. I have learned so much from these women–about family love, culture, what “home” means. I have been honored to watch their children grow up and to watch their business grow. And their food is delicious.” 

For more information and to buy tickets, please visit

* member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers, appearing under a special agreement with Actors’ Equity Association.