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Avaaz invites you to meet Roya, our fabulous hostess, as she welcomes you into her home to celebrate Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. She’s preparing dinner, but the true feast is the story of her life: beginning in Iran as part of that country’s small but ancient Jewish community, her epic journey out of Tehran after the revolution, and the challenges she faces as an immigrant and the single mother of a queer son in "Tehran-geles" (formerly known as Westwood). As a Jew in Iran and an Iranian in America, Roya relies on a heavy dose of humor, both in her storytelling and her survival. Most significantly, Roya is portrayed by her adult son and the author of Avaaz, Michael Shayan, in a solo performance that combines masterful storytelling with a loving tribute.


Michael Shayan, clad in a black and gold lamé robe and weaving his way through the audience, fully in character as his mother, Roya, sparkles.

-The Washington Post

Written and Performed by
Michael Shayan

Directed by
Moritz von Stuelpnagel

Set Designed by
Beowulf Borritt

Costume Designed by
Joshua "Domino" Schwartz

Lighting Designed by
Amith Chandrashaker

Sound Designed by
UptownWorks - Noel Nichols, Daniela Hart, and Bailey Trierweiler

2023-24 Season
Part of the 2023-24 Season

Watch the Trailer

Reviews and Press

  • Profile | Michael Shayan pays tribute to his larger-than-life Iranian-Jewish mother, "Roya, Queen of Gays" - MetroWeekly
  • Review | He’s starring in the role he was born to play: His mom - The Washington Post
  • Review | A richly theatrical mother-and-son memoir in ‘Avaaz’ at Olney - DC Theater Arts
  • Review | Laughter and Lessons in Etiquette Lift Up Avaaz - Washington City Paper
  • Review | Every element of the production -- from the script, to performance, to the design -- is delightfully extravagant and crafted with impeccable detail. - Unprofessional Opinion
  • Review | Shayan is glorious embodying his mother’s joy... with impeccable comic timing. - Washington Jewish Week
  • Review | From Tehran to "Tehran-geles," a bombastic song of freedom - Broadway World
  • Review | A ride as sweet as a Persian sib. - Morris Theatre DC
  • Review | Absolutely fascinating. It's a story with a lot of heart - WYPR
  • Review | A loving, solo-performance tribute to [Roya's] resilience, vivacity, and humor. - MD Theatre Guide
  • Review | Avaaz, now at the Olney Theatre Center in suburban Maryland, is a gem - Talkin' Broadway
  • ‘Avaaz’ traces journey from Iran to California - Washington Blade
  • The Out 100: Michael Shayan - Out Magazine
  • Michael Shayan had to transform into his mother to tell the story of ‘Avaaz’ | Los Angeles Times

Introducing Avaaz

Meet the Actor/Playwright

  • Michael

    Michael Shayan is an Emmy Award-nominated Iranian-American writer, performer and illusionist from “Tehran-geles,” CA. He was recently recognized by Out Magazine on the OUT100 list of the “most impactful and influential LGBTQ+ people." Shayan makes his East Coast debut with Avaaz at Olney Theatre Center, ahead of a national tour. The play world premiered at South Coast Repertory and marked the first major production of an Iranian play in Southern California. 

    Shayan’s plays have been produced and developed by Audible (forthcoming), The Geffen Playhouse, South Coast Repertory, La MaMa, New York Stage & Film, Ojai Playwrights Conference, SPACE on Ryder Farm and The Lark, among others. He has received fellowships and grants from the Sundance Institute, Sun Valley Writers Conference, Theatre Aspen and Lambda Literary. He was a nominated writer on the Emmy-winning MAX show The Book of Queer, where he also served as a Consulting Producer. At thirteen, he was the youngest performer in the history of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. He studied playwriting at Harvard University and received a Masters in Playwriting from Brooklyn College. 

  • Moritz von Stuelpnagel

  • Beowulf Boritt

    Scenic Designer
  • Joshua "Domino" Schwartz

    Costume Designer
  • Amith Chandrashaker

    Lighting Designer
  • UptownSound

    Sound Design
  • Aria Velz

    Associate Director
  • Allison Ann Bailey

    Production Stage Manager

Avaaz Program

Past Events

  • Avaaz graphic

    Behind the Scenes

    Opening Night Conversation

    Saturday, March 9, 2024,  5:00 - 6:00 p.m.  
    Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
    $10 / Free for members  

    Join Holly Dagres, Marjan Keypour Greenblatt, and Ali Mesghali in conversation about their personal stories of immigration from Iran, assimilation, and carving their own paths here in the US, not unlike the playwright and actor Michael Shayan’s mother Roya’s journey. The conversation will be facilitated by Shruthi Mukund, Director of Community Engagement.

    Click here for panel livestream:"Goodbye Tehran, Hello USA"

  • Olney Public Library

    In the Community

    "Persian Traditions" Story Time at the Olney Public Library

    Sunday, March 3, 2024, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
    Olney Public Library (3500 Olney Laytonsville Rd, Olney, MD 20832)
    No RSVP. Just show up!

    As part of our celebration of Avaaz, we’re sponsoring a morning of stories at the Olney Public Library. This free family event is appropriate for all ages, especially toddlers, preschoolers, and young children. Books to be read are chosen with the help of the Olney librarian and feature storyteller Arsia Rozegar

  • Nomad Dancers

    Beyond the Stage

    Persian Dance with Nomad Dancers

    Saturday, March 23, 2024, 4:30 to 5:30 pm
    William H. Graham Sr. Actors' Hall

    The Nomad Dancers are a non-profit educational and cultural organization, dedicated to performing traditional dances from Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Central Asia. In celebration of the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, we will present a short program of dances from Iran and Afghanistan, followed by an opportunity to learn the Qashqai Wedding Dance. The Qashqai are a nomadic pastoralist group from Central and Southern Iran, mostly centered around historic Shiraz. They are known for weaving beautiful carpets from the soft, fluffy wool of their sheep. The dance is performed by the entire community whenever a marriage takes place. The class will be led by Artistic Director Adriane Whalen, who has spent many years studying Persian dance. 

    Workshop led by Adriane Whalen, co-Director of Nomad Dancers.

  • Kamyar Arsani

    Beyond the Stage

    Fal-e-hafez with Kamyar Arsani

    Saturday, April 6 at 3:30 PM
    Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
    Free, No RSVP required

    Fal e Hafez (Divination with the Odes of Hafez)

    In the Persian tradition, whenever one faces a difficulty or a fork in the road, or even if one has a general question in mind, one would hold that question in mind and then ask the Oracle of Shiraz Hafiz for guidance.

    More often than not, Hafiz, in his own enigmatic way, would sing to the questioner and, through the song, would get the questioner to look in the mirror of his/her soul. Upon reflection in the mirror of Hafiz's Ghazal one would be inspired with an answer, a guidance, or a direction.

    Traditionally, the first line upon which the eyes of the reader fall, would give the answer to the direct question, and the rest of the Ghazal would give further clarification.

    In this program, we will pray together and make one united intention set, then we open the book of Hafez Qazals and follow the specific instructions that have been in place for centuries to guide readers to their destination.

    There will be coloring sheets for children, and the poetry reading will also be performed on frame drum called Daf.

    Hosted by Kamyar Arsani: an Iranian multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter based in Washington DC. Through his solo work and numerous collaborations, Arsani creates music across an array of styles, ranging from classical Persian music to genre-defying electronic experimentation. A teacher, performer and scholar of the daf (the Iranian frame drum.) Arsani has been a featured artist at the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, Voice of America, Georgetown University and numerous other stages throughout the region.


April 7 - April 7 2024

Box Office: 301.924.3400

Open Wednesday - Sunday: 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM

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