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is an Iranian-American writer, theatre artist, and multimedia designer whose work focuses on opening the borders between different cultures.
She was raised in the Philippines, educated in the UK, where she received a B.A. Honours degree in English Literature from London University, and worked in Iran until the revolution.
Her career in multimedia began with producing multi-screen slide presentations for museums and trade fairs in Tehran during the 1970's. She has worked for over a decade as an instructional designer for interactive media producing educational and training programs for the healthcare and software industries. As Executive Producer at Worlds Inc., she helped to pioneer the development of 3D virtual reality on the Internet for clients such as HarperCollins, Disney, MGM, and the United States Information Agency. Her multimedia programs include the award-winning Brothers, an interactive video for the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention. Most recently she has written and produced Ottavia's Suitcase at www.ottavia.com.
As a theater artist, her training took place on the job in Los Angeles in the early 80's, where she was involved as producer, designer, or stage manager on twelve productions in three years. During this time she studied with the celebrated Iranian director and playwright, Bijan Mofid. Her translations of Mofid's plays were awarded the first commissioning grant from the National Theatre Translation Fund, and productions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Berkeley. She honed her dramaturgical skills as literary manager at Theatre of NOTE and later as a reader for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Her first original play, The Future Ain't What It Used To Be, was directed by Deborah LaVine at the Burbage Theatre Company in Los Angeles in 1986.
She returned to the Burbage to direct Stephen Lowe's Tibetan Inroads in 1989, which began her involvement with Tibetan theatre. She helped to establish Chaksam-Pa Tibetan Dance and Opera Company and served as Executive Director of the company for three years. She wrote the English voice-over for the Tibetan opera Sukyi Nima, which was commissioned by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and toured nationally in 1991. Her interest in traditional forms of Asian theatre includes the study of Balinese shadow puppetry and she has contributed to the development of new forms of shadow puppetry, as co-author with Larry Reed of In Xanadu, presented at the International Festival of Puppetry at the Public Theatre in New York, at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco, and at the Spoleto Festival. She directed a bilingual Farsi/English production of Bijan Mofid's The Butterfly for Darvag Theatre, which played in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Davis, and also recently translated and designed a production of Bahram Beyzaii's Eighth Voyage of Sindbad for Darvag Theatre.
She has been an active leader in the Iranian-American artistic community in the US. Her poetry has been published in the anthology A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans (George Braziller, New York 1999), and in the Iranian.com magazine at http://www.iranian.com/ZaraHoushmand.
She has edited several books on Tibetan Buddhism and its growing relationship with modern science, and is the Publications Director for the Mind & Life Conferences, a continuing dialogue between the Dalai Lama and western scientists.