Co-Founder, Artistic Director
Mohammad Aghebati is a graduate of Theater Directing at Tehran Art University and was a Special Research Fellow at Yale School of Drama. He has decades of experience in directing plays for adults and young audiences in his native Iran.
Aghebati has received various awards for his plays including the Young Artist Medal of Honor from Iran’s former President Mohammad Khatami. Aghebati was a member of the Leev Theater Group, which is known as one of Iran’s most successful and critically acclaimed theater groups. In 2007, Aghebati was selected and commissioned by Japan Foundation to direct a new interpretation of Oedipus Rex, which played in Tokyo. Several of his works have toured various international festivals.
In the US, “Hamlet, Prince of Grief” was presented as a part of the Under the Radar Festival at NYC’s Public Theater, receiving a great review from the New York Times. Since then, it has been presented at Asia Society in New York, Brigham Young University, University of Southern California, and Sarasota’s Ringling Festival.
Since “Hamlet”, Aghebati has directed two other free adaptations of Shakespeare’s works “King Lear” and “Richard II”. His three productions for children have been on stage in various cities in Iran. “The Little Black Fish” won him the Best Directing and Best Design Award as well as Assitej Grand Price at Hamedan International Theater Festival for Children and Youth. Aghebati currently works between Tehran and New York, serves as a jury in various festivals, and teaches at various institutions including Tehran University.
Co-founder, Executive Director
Mehrnoush Alia is a filmmaker working between New York and Tehran. She received her MFA in film with honors from Columbia University, and her BA from UC Berkeley in Film Studies and Comparative Literature. During her undergraduate studies, Mehrnoush worked in film distribution and exhibition at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive for three years. In New York, she trained with one of the leading indie film distribution companies, Magnolia Pictures and worked closely with the Director of Acquisitions. She also trained with Michael Hausman—the renowned producer of such films as Amadeus and Gangs of New York—during the production of Downtown Express.
Mehrnoush has also produced over a dozen short films, one feature film, and two of Aghebati’s plays. Her directorial debut Scheherazade has won several awards and screened at over twenty-five film festivals. She has made several promotional videos and co-founded the distribution branch of Maaa Film to help promote Iranian films in North America. She is also the writer and producer of three documentary films. Sheherazade Now was a selection of 2018 IDFA Pitch Forum and has received a production grant from the Netherlands Transmedia Fund. Her other two productions, Chains and Jinns and Rojalat to Rojava, were selected to pitch at MediMed Forum. Mehrnoush is currently in developing her first feature that is slated to shoot in Tehran in 2019.
Afshin Hashemi is an actor, playwright, musician, and director. He holds a Masters in Directing and Acting from the Tehran Arts University. He has been nominated for many awards in Iran, including Best Actor in a Theatrical Role, Best Actor in a TV Drama, and Best Supporting Actor.
In theater, he has worked with such renowned directors such as Bahram Beyzaie, Ali Rafie, Mohammad Rahmanian, Mohammad Rezaierad, and Hamid Amjad. In cinema, he has worked with directors such as Reza MirKarimi, Ebrahim Hatamikia, Mohsen Abdolvahab,Bahram Tavakoli, and Vahid Mousaeian.
Hashemi has written and directed more than a dozen plays and four movies: Don’t Be Tired, Soft Voice, Temporary License, and Aunti Frog.
Keyvan Sarreshteh received his BA in Puppet Theater and his MFA in playwriting from Tehran University. He has been involved in the theater scene in Tehran for the past eight years as puppeteer, actor, stage manager, playwright, director, and translator.
Keyvan’s play “Apartment” received Special Jury Award at MonoLeev Festival and performed at the 34th Tehran Fadjr Theater Festival where his other play “I Was King Richard” was also performing. He is considered as one of the most prominent young playwrights in Iran and was invited to Zurich Theater Spektakel in 2015.
His recent production Nambordeh was produced by one of Iran’s leading directors and featured Negar Javaherian and Atila Pesiani.
Reza Behjat is a New York based lighting designer working in theater, dance and film. He began his career in Iran – where he was born and raised – working with some of the prominent directors on various productions for several years.
In the process of being an international artist and expanding his knowledge and experiences, he decided to leave Iran. In 2014, he moved to New York City to pursue his MFA degree in Lighting Design at New York University – Tisch School of the Arts where he was offered a full ride for three years..
He is the recipient of several awards and fellowships including Henry Hewes Design award (Nomination), Design Fellowship at Chautauqua Theater Company, DesignWing Fellow at Great Plains Theater Conference (GPTC), Best Lighting Design and Best Costume Design (Iran International Festival of University Theater), and Best Set Design for “The Little Black Fish”, from Hamedan International Theater Festival for Children and Youth.
Reza is a member of United Scenic Artists Local USA 829 and Wingspace Theatrical Design.
Rodrik Biersteker is a multidisciplinary artist making video for theater and installations. Rodrik started to develop a career in video design in Utrecht School of the Arts. After that he started to work as a video design associate with Ivo van Hove at the internationally acclaimed Toneelgroep Amsterdam, working on productions like The Russians, Husbands, The Fountainhead, and Kings of War. In 2014 he started working with director Susanne Kennedy and did the video design for De Pelikaan at Toneelgroep Amsterdam, followed by Orfeo (2015) and Medea (2016) for the Ruhrtriennale.
His first collaboration with Maaa was for “I Was King Richard” in 2016.
Ilia Shams started his career in 2010 as a journalist and soon became the editor-in-chief of a leading online theater magazine in Iran. In 2012, he was awarded the Best Online Journalist Award from the Ordibehesht Theater Festival. Since 2011, he has worked as the public relation for various theater, film, and music companies. He also founded the prominent theater website, theaterbazha.com that attacks thousands of visitors daily. He soon began his international PR work in Canada for Diyar Company under the management of Sahra Fathi, and later as the digital marketing manager of A Requiem for Fereidoun, a celebrated production of Peiman Ghadimi in collaboration with the acclaimed composer Hossein Alizade. Until today, he has collaborated with over a hundred productions as the PR and digital marketing manager in projects such as Decolore, Vistak, and the Italian production Lev. He joined Maaa Art from its inception and succeeded in several sold out shows in Iran and New York.