Ruth Priscilla Kirstein - Middle East Film Initiative

Ruth Priscilla Kirstein, MD, PhD

Founder & Executive Director

From prestigious venues to impromptu performances, Ruth Priscilla Kirstein has moved and connected audiences in America, Europe and the Middle East as an actor-fencer-dancer, director, host, and visual artist. She holds a Medical Doctor (MD) and a PhD in Medical Ethics from the University of Freiburg. Her performance work has been supported by, among others, The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), The Peter J. Sharp Foundation, The Peter Norton Family Foundation, United Technologies, and Baskin Robbins. She conceived and directed the opera-ballet A MORE PERFECT UNION about the American Constitutional Convention and its impact on today’s situation. A MORE PERFECT UNION premiered at New York City Opera’s VOX and Friends and at the Diaghilev Festival in Perm, Russia. She is the Founder and Director of the New York City-based Middle East Film Initiative (MEFI), an equal employment opportunity project. MEFI advocates for U.S. media and entertainment professionals who are of Middle Eastern descent or are working on topics of importance to local Middle Eastern communities. She served on the screenwriting jury of the Socially Relevant Film Festival. For Boston Ballet, she designed and launched the TAKING STEPS outreach program, now a major staple of Boston Ballet’s educational programs, reaching nearly 200 inner-city middle school girls each year. As a fencing coach, she created, among others, training techniques to help children with developmental challenges. At the German Mission to the United Nations, she moderated the medical symposium RETHINKING TRAUMA AS A GLOBAL CHALLENGE. Her medical designs and fine art were featured in solo exhibitions at the Franco-German TV network arte and the European Parliament in Brussels. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and SACD. When Ruth is not breaking new ground by merging science, entertainment and athletics, you can find her working in organic fields or milking goats. Read more about Ruth’s activities on her website. Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube.

Laura Shamas, PhD

Little Syria Pilot Writer

Laura Annawyn Shamas has written for various projects in theatre and the entertainment industry. Some of her produced plays include a stage adaptation of Lady Joan Lindsay’s bestseller PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, LADY-LIKE (a biography of “The Ladies of Llangollen”), and PORTRAIT OF A NUDE (which covers 200 years of responses to Goya’s classic painting “The Naked Maja”). Shamas’ plays have been produced in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Europe, and Australia. She was part of Playwrights Week at the Lark Theatre (New York) for her 2007 play PISTACHIO STORIES, an exploration of Arab-American life and identity in a post 9-11 California. In 2017, Shamas won the Von Marie Atchley Award for Excellence in Playwriting, from Native Voices at the Autry, for her short play “Seeds.” Shamas has a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies and has worked in film as a screenwriter or a consultant on fifteen projects. As a film observer, book reviewer, and cultural opinion writer, her non-fiction work has been published in The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Denver Post, The Tulsa World, Huffington Post, Ecopsychology Journal, Hollywood Journal, Spring Journal, Jung Journal; The Autry Museum blog; Women Arts blog; Psychological Perspectives; Thrive Global; and the Women and Hollywood blog, among others. Born in Oklahoma, Shamas’ multicultural background includes Chickasaw, English, French, Irish, Lebanese, and Scottish heritage. She is a member of WGA West, Women in Film, League of Professional Theatre Women, International Centre for Women Playwrights, and the Dramatists Guild.













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