“Unpermitted Whispers:” Reflections On The Originality Of “Hopscotch” Performance

Yuval Sharon was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” for his mobile opera Hopscotch, performed in 2015 in Los Angeles. But before Sharon’s car opera was even conceived, the Iranian environmental performance Unpermitted Whispers (Najvāhāy-e Biejāzeh) awed its passengers/spectators by taking them on a journey through the streets of downtown Tehran. The Iranian female director Azadeh Ganjeh created Unpermitted Whispers in 2010 for the Shakespeare Creative Workshops section of the 13th International Student Theatre Festival and won the top award for her unique and audacious approach in shifting the borders of theatrical space and intimacy. [1] She revived the show in December 2013 for twenty nights. Each evening, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., the group gave four performances of approximately 50 minutes each. The play is performed in a taxi that is carpooling a driver/actor, an actress, and three passengers/spectators who are simultaneously waiting and are waited on by the performance crew in a nearby café. An usher guides the three spectators...

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“Mrs. Pistols” A Requiem For A Dream

Mrs. Pistols is an outstanding example of an Iranian play that meets the intellectual and aesthetic expectations of serious theatre audiences. Mohammad Amir Yār Ahmadi, the playwright, and Shahāb-el din Hosseinpour, the director, created the script and performance in a way that led the audience both to identify with the subject of the play and characters and to enjoy the form. Employing effective and controlled humor, a precise and well-thought-out mise-en-scène, fast-paced performances, a musical style not synchronous with the time and place of the narration, and exaggerated makeup, the play commanded the audience’s attention to the end. The...

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A Report On Iran’s Traditional And Ritual Theatre Festival

The 18th Traditional and Ritual Theatre Festival was held September 1–6 in Tehran. The festival was organized by the Performing Arts Center and run by the festival director, Davood Fathali Beigy, who is renowned in traditional and ritual theatre. Davood Fathali Beigy is a graduate of the Dramatic Literature program at the University of Tehran and a prominent director, actor, writer, and researcher in the field of Iranian performance traditions and rituals. The festival comprised four categories: (1) Stage Performances, (2) Young Roots Performances, (3) Ritual and Theatrical Performances and Shabihkhāni, and (4) Ghahvehkhāneh Performances (traditional performances in Persian...

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Nassim Soleimanpour and the Manila Envelope Theatre

Seven years ago, a new play challenged the role of the actor, the playwright, the audience, and the capacity of one individual to travel. The play was White Rabbit Red Rabbit, written by the mysterious Nassim Soleimanpour, an Iranian writer who encouraged the audience to email him with impressions about his play.

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Iranian Theatre, Its Discontinuity and Discontent: An Interview with Amin Azimi, Part II

To read Part I of this interview, click here. Amin Azimi is an Iranian theatre researcher, dramaturg, translator, and director. He studied dramatic literature and film studies and received his MA with honours from Tehran Art University. He has been teaching and supervising student dissertations in the theatre department at Azad Art and Architecture University and meanwhile has staged adaptations of plays written by Georges Perec, Peter Shaffer, and Arthur Miller. Amin has also been an award-winning theatre critic for more than a decade, and at the 2017 edition of the 35th Fadir International Theatre Festival (FITF) directed the...

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Iranian Theatre, Its Discontinuity and Discontent: An Interview with Amin Azimi, Part I

Amin Azimi is an Iranian theatre researcher, dramaturg, translator, and director. He studied dramatic literature and film studies and received his MA with honours from Tehran Art University. He has been teaching and supervising student dissertations in the theatre department at Azad Art and Architecture University and meanwhile has staged adaptations of plays written by Georges Perec, Peter Shaffer, and Arthur Miller. Amin has also been an award-winning theatre critic for more than a decade, and at the 2017 edition of the 35th Fadir International Theatre Festival (FITF) directed the theatre criticism working group. The group produced by far...

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The Whispers Which Turned to Screams

The Whispers Behind the Battle Line, a tragicomedy by Ali Reza Naderi and directed by Mohammad Reza Sattari, revolves around dialogue. Six soldiers, the Sergeant, and the Commander are resting in a cease-fire during the Iran–Iraq War. The play begins as the soldiers are playing soccer. Soccer could be regarded as a symbol for the verbal game taking place between the people in the course of the performance and for the bloody game of war. The soccer game is innocent and lighthearted and stands in sharp opposition to the grimy and cruel war. Except for a few incidents, nothing...

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Defunded and Defiant, Iranian Theatre’s Path to Become Independent and/or Private

Independent theatres around the world pursue a twofold socio-economic and artistic goal and aim to make financial resources accessible to all individuals and groups as well as developing new theatrical experiences. The broad consequences of making theatre “independently” are the creating and encouraging of original, defiant theatrical works; the provision of conditions for new artists to thrive; and the appropriation of the theatrical culture of the societies that have independent theatres. Pursuing the vision and practice of becoming as well as remaining “independent” for every theatre entails rethinking and contesting the role of certain forms of power including the...

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Two Shakespeare Adaptations in Iran

How do Iranian artists adapt Shakespeare’s drama? The Iranian directors, Mohammad Aghebati and Mehdi Koushki, revised Hamlet and Richard II for the Iranian audience and incorporated some parts of the plot and a few characters from the original plays. The playwrights, Mohammad Charmshir and Koushki wrote Hamlet, Prince of Grief and Richard II, respectively, which veered sharply from the original texts. They were produced in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Hamlet, Prince of Grief found an exceptional opportunity to be part of Under the Radar Festival in New York City in 2013. Aghebati’s Hamlet is a thirty-minute monologue, performed by...

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“To the Steel-Helmet Wearers,” or, an Invocation of “Mother Courage”

To the Steel-Helmet Wearers, written and directed by Pejmān Abdi, is a tragi-comic fantasy about war which succeeds in keeping the audience fascinated throughout the one-hour performance. It was on stage in Bārān Venue, Tehran, in February and March 2017. Three soldiers who are killed in the war are waiting to board a spaceship. The machine, according to the Angel of Death, is supposed to transfer them to the Hereafter. However, their trip will only be possible if all the seats on the vehicle are filled. Therefore, the three are waiting impatiently for the number of casualties to rise...

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Who Is the Mafia?

The Mafia, written and directed by Afrooz Forouzand, invites audiences to a mysteriously complicated game for an hour and twenty-five minutes. The play narrates the incidents happening to people attending a goodbye party held by Mahnaz and Ahmad on the occasion of their immigration to the United States. The seven friends who attend the party participate in Mafia,1 a game in which the majority are to guess the identity of the mafia, who constitute the minority. Suspicion, distrust, betrayal, denial, and lying are the feelings and behaviors that the players should experience during the game. Mafia gradually molds the...

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Iran’s 35th Fadjr International Theatre Festival: Part I

The 35th edition of the Fadjr International Theatre Festival (FITF) ran from 20–31 January 2017, in Tehran, paying tribute to the victims of the fire incident at the Plasco Building. This edition of the FITF had Saeed Asadi as the artistic director and hosted ten international performances and nineteen Iranian shows in the official competition sections. This year’s performances came from Spain, France, Iraq, Turkey, Georgia, Poland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Greece, Switzerland, and Japan. The festival’s multinational jury members were from Iran, Greece, South Korea, and the Netherlands. The festival featured the sections “New Generation of Iranian Theatre Practitioners,”...

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Life Is a Kitchen: A Review of the Iranian Adaptation of Arnold Wesker’s “The Kitchen”

The Kitchen, a one-hour, forty-minute play directed by Mohammad Hassan Ma’jooni, was staged in Tehran in November and December 2016. The original play was written by Arnold Wesker, the British dramatist, in 1959, presenting his socialist views and in the style of the kitchen-sink realism of the late 1950s and early 1960s. To bring the play home to Iranian audiences and free it from the London context and culture, Ma’jooni benefited from Mahdi Chakeri’s assistance as dramaturg. They worked on the play for about six months and brought many changes to different parts of it, such as the use...

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A Bird’s-eye View on Iranian Theatre in 2016

The highlights of Iranian theatre in the last 12 months (1394–1395 Persian calendar) include highly acclaimed stage performances, festivals, and theatrical events and major theatre research and publications. As in previous years, Iranian theatre and its artists have been struggling with economic and logistic challenges such as the budget deficit, mismanagement, lack of sufficient facilities and venues, and state interventions. Despite these challenges, the new state policies and statistics indicate a dramatic increase in the number of performances and audience members. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has named the last two years consecutively the “Year of Theatre”...

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The Fourth International Theatre Festival for People with Disability in Isfahan

Isfahan, known as the cultural capital of Iran, hosted the Fourth International Festival of Theatre for Persons with Disabilities from December 2 to December 7, 2016. The artistic director of the festival was Ms. Fatemeh Fakhri, and the motto of this edition of the festival was “celebrating friendship and respecting the differences.” The festival consisted of three sections: stage performances, street theatre, and theatre for children and young adults. Thirty-seven Iranian performance groups together with eight theatre groups from Germany, Britain, Uganda, Armenia, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Bangladesh brought their shows in two main divisions: competitive and...

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The Flight of a Duchess From Renaissance Italy to 21st Century Tehran

The Play Based on The Duchess of Malfi can be regarded as outstanding among tens of performances in Tehran theaters during the month of October 2016. As the title points out, the play is based on John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, a Jacobean tragedy which is considered by most critics as Webster’s finest work. The play directed by Mohammad Rezaei Rad appears to be a modern adaptation of the British drama: it employs Brechtian techniques of lighting, live music, and chorus in the background. There is a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling which sharpens and dims the light all through the play. In the catastrophic scene of the Duchess’ murder,...

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The First Meeting of Directors of Performing Arts of West-Asian and North-African Countries in Tehran, Iran

From October 30 to November 1, directors of theatre and performing arts from twelve countries of West Asia and North Africa gathered in Tehran, Iran. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and its subdivision Centre for Dramatic Arts were the organizers of this event which is the first of its kind in the region. The purpose of this meeting was to create and foster opportunities for cooperation in producing and hosting theatrical productions. Representatives of ministries, universities and art centers from Iraq, Syria, Russian, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Amman, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Algeria were invited to visit...

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Ta’ziyeh – Ritual Performance During Muharram

Muharram, the first month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar, coinciding this year with the seventh month of Persian calendar and October in Christian calendar is the month of mourning for most Shi’ite believers in Iran. Thousands of men and women participate in a series of commemorative mourning rituals during the first ten days of Muharram. These rituals often include Tasua’ and Ashura processions, and various forms of the rowzeh khāni (sad story-telling and dirge singing). The most important and popular of these commemorative performances are Ta’ziyeh. During these days, religious people, whether living in rural or urban areas, finance...

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Interview With Mohammad Yaghoubi, Acclaimed Iranian Playwright and Director

Acclaimed Iranian playwright Mohammad Yaghoubi was in Toronto directing the Canadian premiere of his play A Moment of Silence as part of this year’s Summerworks Festival. Yaghoubi is a well-known face in Tehran, where his plays have won numerous awards and usually play for forty-night runs. Here in Canada, though, he’s a newcomer to the scene. I sat down with Yaghoubi to talk about the play, his directorial practice, Iranian politics, and what it means to stage this complicated work for Toronto audiences. You have written over ten plays. Why did you choose A Moment of Silence for this festival? The...

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Nassim, A Breeze From Iran that Stirred Global Theatre Scene

Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour grabbed the attention of international theatre community by his White Rabbit, Red Rabbit in 2010. His originality comes from his audacity in doubting the legitimacy of directorial authority, rehearsal process, actors’ presence and set design. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit has been hailed internationally for its originality in theme and form and is the most famous one of its playwright’s series of plays without directors. Nassim (literally meaning ‘breeze’) was born in 1981 in Tehran and is a graduate of University of Tehran. When he was denied a passport due to refusing to do obligatory military service,...

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