BRIClab Public Programs /

Tear a Root from the Earth (work-in-progress)

Music by Johnny Walsh and Qais Essar with Gramophonic, Lyrics by Johnny Walsh, Book by John Bair, Directed by Marina McClure.

A new musical about the legacy of America’s involvement in Afghanistan over the last 35 years, told through the story of a single Afghan family.


THU, SEP 27, 2018 | 7PM
FRI, SEP 28, 2018 | 2PM & 7PM


$8 Adv / $12 Day of Show
General Admission: Seated


BRIC House Artist Studio
647 Fulton Street
(Enter on Rockwell Place)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
United States
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Tear a Root from the Earth (work-in-progress) | Photo Credit: Marina McClure

Music by Johnny Walsh and Qais Essar with Gramophonic, Lyrics by Johnny Walsh, Book by John Bair, Directed by Marina McClure.

Tear a Root from the Earth is a new musical that uses both American and Afghan folk music to portray three generations of an Afghan family as they navigate the American and Soviet invasions of Afghanistan. The piece is epic in scope and specific to Afghanistan, but also universal in its themes about the impossible decisions facing people in war. It features an on-stage band composed of instruments from East and West. From Afghanistan, virtuoso and co-composer Qais Essar plays the traditional rabab alongside Afghan percussion. From the West, co-composer and lyricist Johnny Walsh and Americana band Gramophonic lend folk, bluegrass, and rock rhythms to the captivating score. This combination of sounds and styles offers a unique perspective on Afghanistan and America’s legacy there.

Just Announced: Tear a Root from the Earth (work-in-progress) will also have a 2PM matinee performance on Friday, September 28. Tickets on sale now!

General Admission: Seated

Johnny Walsh (Music & Lyrics) is the cofounder, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist for the Americana folk band Gramophonic. He began writing music for Tear a Root from the Earth while serving with the State Department in Kandahar during the height of the American troop surge in 2010. He is a leader for the Afghan Peace Process at the US Institute of Peace, an initiative he previously worked on at the State Department and United Nations. His mission is to help Americans develop a relationship with the Afghan people and culture, acknowledging that the last 40 years have inextricably linked our countries’ fates. Johnny brings his perspective as one of the most knowledgeable Americans about Afghanistan to this project, along with his deep experience with traditional American folk music.
Qais Essar (Music) is a contemporary Afghan composer, instrumentalist, and producer who channels his melodic designs through the rabab, a 2,500 year old instrument from Afghanistan. He has toured extensively, sharing his new genre of music nationally and internationally. He has released three LPs, four EPs, and one live album. His first LP, The Green Language (2014), quickly became an Amazon #1 bestseller, followed by his second LP, Tavern of Ruin in 2016. He composed original music for the Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated film, The Breadwinner (produced by Angelina Jolie), and earned a Canadian Screen Award nomination for “Best Original Song” for his piece in the film The Crown Sleeps. He is regularly featured in festivals and venues around the world including the Newport Folk Festival, SXSW, The Kennedy Center, Treefort Music Festival, and more. His most recent LP, The Ghost You Love Most, was released in 2018.
John Bair (Book) is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work examines the trends and forces that shape our contemporary world. He has extensive foreign policy experience, including work across the Islamic world. He has also worked in the arts industry in the Middle East, having served as a member of the team tasked with opening Kuwait’s Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre. In addition to Tear a Root from the Earth, John is developing two television series. He also works in narrative development for arts, philanthropic, and political clients.
Marina McClure (Director) creates emotionally charged theater, opera, and spectacles by fusing striking visual design and physical work with performers. She collaborates with multicultural performers to bring diverse stories (including from Iraq, Cambodia, Ukraine, South Africa, China, and Afghanistan) to American and international audiences. Marina helms the multidisciplinary art lab The New Wild, is a resident director at The Flea Theater, and teaches directing at The National Theater Institute at the O’Neill. Recent projects include: Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill and Cosmicomics (The Flea), and Letters from Home (Independent Shakes Co; UCSD), the story of a Cambodian musician who flees the Khmer Rouge for America. MFA: CalArts.

Tear a Root from the Earth was developed, in part, at Ice Factory 2017, a program of New Ohio Theatre, and at VoxFest, a new works festival produced by Vox Theater and Dartmouth College. It has been developed with the support of the Network of Ensemble Theatres, the Oppenheimer Fund, and the Smith-Murray family.

Venue Information:

The intimate, flexible studio space within BRIC House is dedicated to emerging and mid-career artists, with an audience capacity of 50-75 for rehearsals and performances in a workshop setting.

Beginning Nov. 1, 2022, attendees of any BRIC House programming will no longer have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter the building. Masks are encouraged but not required in all BRIC operated spaces. If you have questions regarding this protocol, please email For our full BRIC House COVID-19 policy, visit: