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Iraj Emami

Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Arts, for The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy University of Edinburgh

September 1987


Husayn Ali Zadeh, Muhammad Reza Lutfi and Muhammad Reza Shajarian.

ABSTRACT This thesis seeks to describe and analyse the evolution of traditional theatre in Iran and its development towards occidental and modern theatre, up to the Revolution of 1979.

The introductory chapter consists of a brief historical background to the Persian theatre and a discussion of its roots.

Chapter II examines the origin of popular theatrical forms in Iran and its development from such popular narrative forms such as story-telling, poetic recitation, oratorical contest, public amusements and puppet theatre.

Chapter III concerns Taziya, the passion play of Iran, the most famous and influential form of theatre in the nineteenth century. Taziya's origin, form, music and all related forms of traditional drama have been examined in this chapter.

Chapter IV focuses on the evolution of Taqlid and its developed form, Takht-i-Hawzi, the popular Iranian comedy.

Chapter V looks at the development of theatre in Iran during the Qajar era when both comic and tragic theatre, or Takht-i Hawzi and Taziya grew in two opposite directions and the first direct steps towards the evolution of a written text for the performance of occidental theatre were taken.

Chapter VI ;s a survey of the formation of modern theatre in Iran and the role of education in its development.

Also the impact of

western culture on this evolution is examined.

Chapter VII focuses on the pre-revolutionary Iranian theatre under the later period of the rule of M.R. Shall and its censorship.


chapter looks at the cultural conditions and forms of protest against government pressure.

As an appendix to the Thesis there is a translation of the contemporary Iranian play "A Dog in the Harvest Place" by N. Navidi.



L1ST OF PLATES.............................................


TRANSLITERATION ...•••....•.••••.•.•.•.•.•..•..••...••...•..





INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER ......................... .



Naqqa 1i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


17 18

Shahnama Khwani...............................


- Zurkhana......................................




'. -:-: Marlka-glrl...................................


Shamayi 1 Gardani..............................






, CHAPTER III A BRIEF SURVEY OF TAZIYA (PERSIAN TRADITIONAL DRAMA) Traditional and Western Influence of Drama on the Qajar Period..............................


Naqqa11 and its relation with Shabih-Khwan1...


Mawlud1, The Bride of the Qura1sh(or The Bride of Bilq;s)....................................


Muharram Commemorations.......................


Rawza -Khwa ni. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Nawheh-Khwani- .................•... : : . ~ . . . . . . . .

58 58

Traditional Music in Iran and its Relation with Iranian Traditional Theatre ....•...• ~


Persian Traditional Music ...........••. ~.:~


Persian Traditional Instruments............


A Glance at the technical aspects of Iranian


Traditional Music..........................


How music is put to use in Ta'ziya.........




Thea tre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Improvisation ...•................ :.........


Scenery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .




Mu sic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • . . . . . . . . . . .


Women's theatre or 'theatrica1 games


- towards Iranian Comedy The movement of Taq1id


l :.....

THE QAJAR PERIOD A NEW BEGINNING.............. The New School.

Discussion of Akhund Zadeh

and Mirza Agha Tabrizi ................. ~~.. ~



Azarbaijani Writers........................

127 134




The role of Education in the development of theatre in Iran............................


Sazman-i Parvarish-i Afkar..................


Nushin's Drama Class.......................


Anahita Open Faculty of Acting.............


The Faculty of Dramatic Arts...............


The Faculty of Theatre.....................


Faculty of Fine Arts.......................


University Theatre.........................


The Impact of the Western School on Iranian theatre............................


Governmental theatre.......................


The first step towards a national theatre..


Governmental Groups........................




The impact of the Theatre of the Absurd on Iranian Theatre..................


Festival of Popular Tradition..............


Festival of Tus, 1975-1978.................


The impact of Theatrical Activities of the Marxist-Socialist School on the Development of Iranian Theatre ..... .


Contempory Iranian Playwrights .•.•..•..•...




Bahram Bayza i .....•...........•...•...•....



Akbar Radi ................................ .

205 206

Bizhan Mu f; d•••....•.•••••••.••••.••••..•.••..


... Navidi ...•..•.•................•. Nusrat Allah



Guruh-i-Hunar-i Mi11i (the National Arts Group)...................................


The Ja'fari Group.............................


Tiatr-i Anahi ta (the Anahi tIl Theatre).........


Anjuman-i-tiatr-i Iran (the Iranian Theatre Association)..........................


CONCLUSION. • • . . . . • • • • • • . • . • • • • . • . • . • • • • • • . . . • • • . • • . • • • • • .


APPEND I X. • • • . • • • • . • • • • . • • . • . • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • . . • • • . • • • •


BIBLIOGRAPHy......... ..........•.............. ....... . ...




Sadiq Ali Shah, The Famous Iranian Naqqal.


A Painting, Parda, (Shamayil).




An Actor Acting in Taz;ya.


A Group of Taziya Actors.


A Group of Musicians Playing in Taziya.


Jafar Vali and Fakhri Khurvash, in Amir Arsalan, A Ru-Hawzi Play.


Kamancha, Tar and Tunbak, Instruments used in Ru-Hawii~


A View of Takiyya-yi Dawlat, (Tehran).



(i )


The system used for transliterating Persian is that used by the Department of Arabic at Edinburgh University.

(i i ) •


A deep

appreciation who




inspired and



Supervisor Dr.


helped me during my years of

education at Edinburgh University. I have a particular gratitude for Dr. M. MacDonal d for hi s careful readi ng through of the vari ous drafts of this thesis and his generous advice and guidance. I thank Miss Crawford, assistance.

the Department Secretary, who gave considerable

I express a special appreciation to my parents and my

brothers, whose help was of inestimable value.

I would like to

thank Miss Christine Barnard for reproofing the manuscript.

I thank

very much Mrs Valerie Haemsirirat who very carefully typed this thesis. -


Last but not least I would like to thank Mr Khalil Dilmagani and Mr Abbas Javanmard for their assistance in providing me with some documents about Iranian contempory theatre.

( iii)

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER Iranian history has undergone many changes,

both socially and

politically affecting both the lives of its people and their outlooks. Art, and in particular the performance arts, which have, by their very nature been a reflection of social consciousness, has as a result been vunerab1e to the ravages of time and social change in Iran.

In a study of Persian drama it is therefore necessary to

assess its development within the context of social changes which Iran has undergone.


The principal performance art,

drama, has been greatly influenced by a wide range of events in Persian history, and in order to appreciate it one must have comprehensive knowledge of Persian history and its role in the evolution of Persian theatre and the development of modern drama in Iran. Although there are not enough facts and documents available to prove the existence of the theatre form as we know it from Ancient Greece to Ancient Iran, we know that the Aryan people had their own customs and fascinating rituals which were employed in certain festivals as well as in their entertainments.

These ritual forms and festival s

evolved into various theatrical forms and dramatic performances.


survey of theatrical forms and the dramatic arts in the Ancient World requires research into different religions and ritual customs, and this will give us certain ideas about the roots of this form in I ran.

Around 540 B. C., Wi shtaspa, a mi nor king of Khorasan (or

Si stan) we1 comed Zoroaster to hi s court. [1 J

Zoraster was a sage

who preached that the Mazdaist religion should adopt a more

[lJ Jean Varenne, Zarathustre, Cit. Jean Hureau, Iran Today.Iran National Tourist Organisation, 1972. P. 86. - 1 -

spiritual approach.

The King became a convert, and Mazdaism spread

gradually to the whole of Iran.

An important and almost immediate

development was the adhesi on of the Magi to thi s al most doctri nal rel i gi on.

The Magi were bel i eved to be an Aryan tri be that had

settled in the North-West of Iran, and were eventually to be identified with Mazdaism. May be at the beginning they were not exclusively devoted to the rite, but they soon became so, spent all their time propagating the Mazdaist faith and were then regarded as the privileged priests of the rites established by Zoroaster, to such an extent that one century later, the Greeks described them as liThe chi efs of the Magi II and that the work IImagi c II was considered outside Iran as representing the Zoroastrian religion until the anti-mazdaist polemic made it a synonm of sorcery. [l ] The people of Persia were composed of a number of nomadic tribes who were devotees of the Zoroastrian religion.

The Zoroastrian Fire

Temples (Atash Kada), constructed by them were centred around large· fi res kept permanently burni ng to symbol i se the sub-l imi t of holy essence.

These fire temples were settings for regular prayer in

praise and glorification of the magnaminous holy essence across the whole of Persia.

These ceremonies were accompanied by musicians and

dancers, whose performances were looked upon as a major part of the piety of the ceremony to honour the holy light. The spl endi d burni ng candl es and the radi ant 1anterns ins ide thei r tents not only ill umi nated and hi ghl i ghted bri ght adornments but also created shadows.

Dancers' figures were cast upon the curtains

and veils inside the tent.

This sort of activity suggests the

beginning and indeed the foundation of shadow theatre which was to fl ouri sh 1ater.

--------------------------------------------------------------------[1] I bid.

P. 86.

- 2 -


This provides no more than an assumption of the existence of shadow theatre, but it based upon strong historical facts that cannot be overlooked.

However, if we assume that the origin of the theatre,

or of any theatrical


comes from people's religions and

beliefs, it is necessary to prove the existence of ritual forms and ritual festivals related to the Zoroastrian religion. Some part of these ritual dances gradually changed to secular entertainments in later periods. But this was gradually abandoned by the Persi an re1 i gi ous authori ti es in the fourth century. [1] Although these ritual dances were abandoned by the Persian religious authorities in the fourth century A.D., we can clearly see Islam as having its own kind of ritual dances, ceremonies and avant-garde theatre called Ta 'ziya.

The Ta 'ziya of Iran is ritual theatre and









traditions, even though it is Islamic in appearance.


Although Iran

was to undergo many changes in its hi story, its cu1 tura1 heri tage and drama always found means of expression. The changi ng government coul d not affect the importance of ri tua 1s in Persian history, and the transformaiton of actual events into annua 1 festi val s and sources of enterta i nemnt.

There are certi an

facts and historical references which confirm the existence of play houses, travelling entertainers, jugglers, dramatic dancers, etc. in the pre-Islamic period.


Herodotus (485-425 B.C.), the Greek

Ra~f Dar Iran, Maja11a-yi Namayish, No.2, Fine Arts Pu lcat;on, 1335/1956. P.10. cit. Mehrangiz Hatami Farahnakianpoor, A Survey of Dramatic Activity in Iran from 1850 to 1950, dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1977.

- 3 -

historian, briefly mentioned to the Magophonia, the annual Persian festival.

The Magophonia was a celebration of the death of Mogh

Smerdis, said to be an usurper of the Persian Emperor. The Persians observe thi s day wi th one accord, and keep it more strictly than any other in the year. It is then that they hold the great festival which they call the Magophonia. No Magus may show himse1 f abroad during the who1 e time that the feast lasts, but all must remain at home the entire day. [1 J In October 522 B.C., a magus who had usurped the Iranian throne was


killed by Danus of the Achaemenian dynasty, thus beginning a general massacre of the magi. [2J This story became the play of the annual performance of mourni ng and 1amentati on for Pri nce Badri a by the Persians.

This annual cOrTlTlemoration entailed many theatrical forms

and is in origin dramatic, although it was regarded not as a theatre, but as a memorial observation. There are many other i ndi cati ons of the f1 ouri shi ng exi stence of Ritual Art in pre-Islamic Iran.

Benjamin in his book Persia and the

Persi ans suggests that the Magophoni a festival was a base for the appearance and creation of Ta'ziya. I venture to suggest that possibly the Persians may have borrowed the idea of such annual commemoration from a practice which seems to have obtained ages before of celebrating the slaughter of Smerdis the Magian by King Darius, the annual celebration being called by the Greeks the Magophonia. What form of celebrating this event was in vogue among the shiahs before the safavean period, we can only ima9ine from what occurred with more pomp and pageantry durlng that dynasty.[3J


Herodotus, History of Herodotus by G. Rawlinson, third edition Vol.II, London 1975, P.P.475,476.


Farrokh Gaffary, Evo1 uti on of Ri tua1 s and theatre in Iran, Iranian Studies, Autumn 1984, P.361. S.G.W. Benjamin, Persia and the Persianr, London, 1887, P. 376.


- 4 -

With the invasion of Persopolis by Alexander a great deal of Persian culture and traditon was also destroyed.

Alexander, always thought









information about Iranian culture.




What he did leave us in the

fi el d of drama and 1 i terature are summed up by


Nurbakhsh s I

insight into Alexander's real reason for patronising the arts: Alexander was the first person who stayed up all night to He had a group of actors who made him happy and joyful by telling him stories. The purpose of thi s was not that he wanted to enjoy himsel f; the rna in reason was that he wanted to be surrounded by them and thus be guarded from any danger. He was followed by other kings in this manner.[l] Crude story-tell i ng therefore developed into the refi nement of the 1 i sten to the story tell ers.

theatre, having firstly begun as a means to aid the often precarious longevity of Kings. The following quotation indicates a certain kind of annual cermony commemorating the tragic death of Siyavush,

the innocent young

character of the famous Shahnama (Book of the Kings) by the great - Persi an poet Fi rdawsi • The dramati cal death of Siyavush, who was


killed because of jealousy by order of his enemy, Afrasyab, became a


lasting legend, immortalized by Firdawsi.

His head was cut off by

Afrasyab's brother, Garsiyuz, and placed in a golden basin. story dates back to about three thousand years ago.


A mourning

ri tual wi th songs call ed Ki n-i Siyavush (revenge of Siyivush) used to take place in Bokhara, and at least up to 1974 a ritual known as Siyavushun existed in the southern province of Fars in Iran. [2]


Husayn Nurbakhsh, Dalgakha-yi Tehran. 1335/1956, P.23.



Jabi r cAnaiuri, _ Janbah"a-yi Namay; shi -i -barkhl az marasim-i-afni dar Iran. Faslnam.>·· Tiatr Vol.4, Tehran, 135771978. P. 34. _ Al so, ·Slm1 n Dani shvar, Suvshun, Intisharat-i-Khwarazmi, Tehran, 1353/1974. J

- 5 -



In the year 211 A.D. the people of Fars rose in a revolt headed by a presumed descendant of the Achaemeni an dynasty.

Duri ng the ensui ng

Sassani d dynasty (224-651 A. D. ), another major rel i gi on appeared, founded by the prophet Mazdak, which was known as Mazdakism. Mazdakism was immediately followed by the populace and accepted. In the Mazdakian theology, music was the essential root of man's four reasons: Intelligence, Mind, Memory and Happiness. In their opinion dancing was the representation of the power of these four great reasons. Therefore, the art of music developed and reached its peak at this time. Thus, singers and composers were hight1y regarded by the peop1e.[1] In his book Iran, R. Sassanian court.

Ghirshman discusses the hierarchy of the

The courtiers were grouped in three classes,

accordi ng to thei r bi rth and offi ce.

Members of the Royal Family

and the knights of the royal retinue had the highest standing. There were also jesters, jugglers, clowns and musicians. The last . played an important part in the court life and were likewise divided into three grades accordi ng to thei r skill in perfonni ng upon thei r instruments.

Ghirshman does not discuss the existence of such

jesters, jugglers and clowns among the people and the society as a whole, as opposed to the royal court, but even so, one has to conc1 ude that these arti sts belonged to the soci ety, and must have performed for the public as well as for the courtiers. Other sources tell us of the existence of musicians, clowns, dancers and puppeteers in the Sassanid era.

Thus we learn that one of the

Sassanian Kings, Bahram Gur (421-438 A.D.) allowed several thousand

[1 ]



Dr. Mehdi Ba rkeshly , "Mus i gi Dar I ran, I ran-Shahr , Vol. 1 , P837. Cited in the Survey of Dramatic Activity in Iran from 1850 to 1950. Ph.D by Mehrangiz Hatami Farahnakianpoor. 1977,8righam Young University. 1977, P.14.

- 6 -

Indian gypsies into Persia.

The poet Nizami Ganjavi tells us in his Haft Paykar of the Mutrib (musician) pay-kub (dancer) and Lu'bat-Baz (puppeteer), and how, in the



Bahram Gur,

6,000 talented and



musicians, dancers and puppeteers, were brought together from every ci ty and town to entertai n the peop1 e and to make them happy and joyful. [1]

From 651 to 820 A.D. Iran was under the power of Arab rulers. In the political field the victory was complete; in the cu1 tura1 it was but short1 ived, for the 01 d cu1 ture of Persi a was not to be destroyed ina day, especi a1y when the Arabs had 1i ttl e of thei r own to offer in return, and what was an immediate political victory for the Arabs was to become, in the course of little more than a century, a cultural triumph for Persia. Persian art, Persian thought, Persian culture, all survived to flourish anew in the service of Islam, and impelled by a new and powerful driving force, their effect was felt in a widely extended field from the early eighth century onwards. The first dynasty of Islam, however, the Omayyad had its capi tal in Syri a and drew from the inheritance of Byzantium rather than from that of Persia, and it was only when the capital was moved from Damascus to Baghdad wi th the estab1 i shent of the Abbasi d dynasty in 750 that Persian cultural ascendancy was re-estab1ished.[2] With


passage of time,

Persian art and

Persian culture,

independent of festivals by the Arab invaders, which were regarded as paganistic, survived and grew in variety. One







a component


festival s, which became more dramatic by the addition of gestures and action, was storytelling. story

telling managed

theatrical form.

[1] [2]


By changing the subject of narration, survive and even

grew in

its more

Story telling, by using religious stories,

Nizami, Haft Paykar, Ibn sina, 1334/1955. P.106. D.· Talbot Rice, Persia and Byzantium, the Legacy of Persia, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1968, p.41. - 7-

continued to develop and became more dramatic and popular. Neverthe1 ess many tradi ti ona1 and hi stori cal customs were affected by the Arab conquest of Iran. Iran's second era, however, developed 1ess from the i nf1 uence of the I sl ami c re1 i gi on than from other influences. Mard-Aviz, of the a1-Ziyar dynasty in the tenth century A.D. rei nsti tuted many of the festi vi ti es of the Sassani an era including the fire-game,' which is still being practised on the 1ast Tuesday evening (Chahar-Shanba-j; Soory) of each year. [1 ]

The Safavid era is a landmark in the history of Iranian theatre as the improvisatory theatre and passion play take shape in parallel. Folk









environments, for example the farce plays, which developed first as a one-man show in the courts, coffee houses and private parties. Thi s ki nd of show may have i ncl uded story tel 1i ng, a puppet show (Khayma-Shab-Bazi) dancing, court-jesters, pah1avani, sUkhan-vari, ma ' rika-g1ri




types of plays were presented as comic p1ays.[2] like










The Persian comedy its


completely different to that of the passion-play (ta'ziya).

being The

Safavid period also confined poetry and literature to religious subject-matter, and that gave more weight to the content of ta'ziya and other dramatic arts related to religion, such as sukhan-var1, naqqal i (story tel 1 i ng) and rawia-khwani.

It must be noted that the

basic foundation of Persian passion plays took place during the Oaylamite or Buyid dynasty.


Habib Allah Shamlui, Tarikh-i t Iran az Mad ti Pahlavi, Tehran, ~afi 'A1ishah Publishers. 1343 ,1964, P.335.


For a discussion of these forms see below page 31.

- 8 -

It was






al-Shuhada (Garden of the Martyrs).





Thi s became a source for the

Muslim priest or Mulla to recite, and such reciters came to be known as Rawia Khwans, while the meetings that take place in the mosque are called Rawia Khwani, prophet's family.

lamentations on the calamites of the

This poem and the way in which it was recited

helped to preserve Iranian traditional music. It was the region of Shah Ismail Safavi, the founder of the Safavid dynasty, that the Sh'ia sect was accepted as the official Persian rel i gi on.


Sh ia I








son-in-law, should have assumed the succession to the Prophet. <

and They


rejected the caliphs and felt that only Ali's descendants - the II

imams" , literally "those who pray" intennediaries between man and

God coul d cl aim status as cal i phs and that the umayyds and thei r successors were usurpors. From the ea rly si xteenth century the I rani ans have cel ebrated the feast of (Umar Kushan or Umar Suzan; the ki 11 i ng of (Umar or the burni ng of cUmar.

Rel i gi ous peopl e woul d burn a huge effi gy stuffed

with wood, straw, cloth and cotton representing Umar, while singing and dancing and insulting Umar and his followers.


At the present day Persians invoke the aid of Ali more frequently than that of the Prophet. They celebrate the death of Omar with rejoicings and bonfires in which he is burnt in effi gy 1ike another Guy Fawkes; and it is looked upon as a deadly insult if one man calls another Yazid or Shimr. [1 ] the mi d-18th century the perfonnance of pass ion pl ays




(Taziya-khwani) in commemoration of the martyrdoms of the Imam Ali


Ella C. Sykes, Persia and its People, Methuen & Co. Ltd, London, 191 0, P, , 49.

- 9 -



first became customary.

Ta'ziya developed and flourished

under the patronage of the Qajar Kings, particularly Nasir a1-0in •

Shah; the greatest of arenas, Takiyya-yi Daw1at, was constructed by the same ki ng and Ta ziya reached its hi ghest peak and was well I

received and actively supported by the public. At the time of the Safavi s the Persi an fo1 k theatre a1 so began to develop and took shape in para11 e1 wi th Ta ziya and other dramati c I


Sir John Chardin gives us informaton in the Travel s about

how this development was taking place, giving us a clear picture of the exi stance of rope-danci ng, puppet-show and j ugg1 ers.

We can

thus see how these comic and folk arts were mixed with other games and how the development was taking shape • ... they have of those who dance upon the ropes, puppet shows, and doi ngs Feats of Acti vi ty as adroi t and nimb1 e as in any country whatever. They dance upon the rope barefoot. They draw a cord from the top of a Tower thi rth or forty Toi ses high, quite down, and pretty stiff; they go up it and afterwards come down, whi ch they don t do by crawl i ng down upon the belly, as they do elsewhere but they come down backwards, holding by their toes, which they fasten in the rope, whi ch of consequence cannot be very bi g. One cannot well see it without having a dread upon one especially when the rope-dancer to show hi s strength and Acti vi ty carri es a child upon his shoulders, one leg on one side, and the other on the other, that ho1 ds by the forehead. They don t dance upon strait rope, as the rope-dancers in Europe do; but they make Leaps and Turns.[lJ Cha rdi n s descri pti on also gi ves us i nforma ti on to whi ch we shall I



refer in later chapters, under the general heading of Ma'rika-giri: At the ei ght Course, the Tent was served wi th thi rty Basons of Massiff Gold, full of good meat, to regale the Foot-men; and at three in the afternoon, the King appeared at the windows of the Pavilions, which were upon the palace, before the Great Gate, then began all the diversions which had been prepared for that purpose, each before him, without any regard to the spectators; the beasts to fi ght, the men and women dancers to dance, each company apart; the rope-dancers to fly about, the jugglers to play their tricks, the wrestlers to engage. This confusion of excerc;ses and sports, where one did not know which to fix one eyes upon, [lJ

Sir John Chardin, Travels in Persia, The London Argonaut Press, London, 1927, P.P. 201-202. - 10 -

was the most whimsical si ght in the wor1 d; but everyone almost was intent upon the fighting of the wild beasts, which is one of the most ravishing sights among the Persians; among the rest, that of the 1i on or panther, wi th the Bull s; and upon the fight of the Buff1er, the Rams, Wolfs, and the Cocks. [1 ] In










(Khaymah-Shab-bazi) and about the appearance of another type of entertai nment which was comi c, and was perfonned by one man.

Thi s

type of dramatic form catered to the popular theatre of Iran, rU-hawii and takht-i hawii, and reached its peak in the Qajar era. The entertainer who perfonned this type of secular and comic event was called maskhara or dalqak. The Puppet shows and j uggl ers ask no money at the door as they do in our country, for they p1 ay openly in the pub1 ic places, and those give'em that will. They intennin~le Farce, and juggling, with a thousand Stories and Buffoonerles, which they do sometimes masked and sometimes unmasked, and thi s 1asts two or three Hours: And when they have done, they go ' round to the spectators and ask somethi ng; and when they perceive anyone to be stealing off before they ask him anythi ng, the Master of the Company cri es out wi th aloud Voice, and in an Emphatica1 manner, that he who steals away, is an Enemy to Ali. As who should say among us, and Enemy of God and his Saints. For two crowns the jugglers will come to their House. They call these sort of Diversions Mascare.[2] Iranian Kings always had clowns and buffoons (da1gak or maskhara). Ka1 'nayat (Inayat the bald) was one of the most popular clowns in the court of Shah (Abbas (1588-1629),[3].

These clowns were the most

talented actors of their time perfonning on certain occasions in the Shah's court.

These perfonnances were mai n1y one-man shows wi th

various themes derived from everyday life.

[1] John Chardin, Travels in Persia, Ope Cit.

P.P. 201-202.

[2] Ibid. [3] Husayn Nurbakhsh, Da1gakha-yi Mashhur-i Darbari. · P. 66.

- 11 -

Ope Cit.



of comedy,



Play of the


Ruband-baz1 (The P1 ay of Mask) and Bagga1-oazi (The P1 ay of the Grocer) were a1 so popu1 ar and performed at court.

Gradually these

one-man shows developed and came to be performed to the general public

in tea-houses and on occasions of marriage,


birth and .

Later as these comedies evolved the pool in the

centre of court yards was covered by wooden p1 atforms, beds and by carpets and thus the term ru-hawzi (over the pool) or takht-i -Hawii (wooden beds over the pool) became the names for the Persian Comedy, the improvisatory traditional theatre of Iran. About 1917 theatres of popu1 ar comedy opened in Tehran and survived a precarious period of closings and openings due to prudish elements. Their stage was at first square, surrounded by the audi ence, then three-si ded wi th a 1a rge painted canvas of a garden scene hanging as a backdrop. Famous animators of the 120lS were Akbar Sarshar, Ahmad Molayed, Babraz Soltani, and two formidable siyahs: Zabiho11a Maheri and Mehdi Mesri. The players joked with the audience, and musicians accompanied them for time to time [2]. These comedi es were enti rely p1 ayed by men and women 1s ro1 es were acted by young men wearing exaggerated make-up.

Men acting as women

became customa ry and even unti 1 recently men took part in rU-hawii plays instead of women.

Women had their own traditional theatre and

these performances took p1 ace at pri vate parti es in the women IS quarters.


such as


performed entirely by female casts.

Rowraw and


Havu were

These acts had no tent and were

improvised without any practice.


Bahram Bayiai, Namayish Dar Iran, Tehran, Kavian. 1344/1965. P. P. 167 -1 70.


Farrokh Gaffary, Ope Cit. P. 373.

- 12 -

To avoi d the cri ti cal aspect of Ru-hawii p1 ays these comedi es were •

restri cted by Reza Shah IS consorshi p and from 1930 the censorshi p demanded texts for all p1 ays before they were perfonned in pub1 i c. These regulations and restrictions worked against the spirit of improvisation









Comedy drama as we know it in the west began in Iran - - wi th trans1 ati ons of p1 ays by Mi rza Fath A1 i Akhundzada who is (.

credited as the first playwright in the western style in Asia[1]. He wrote six comedies in Azari Turkish, wh_ich were later translated by Mirza Muhanunad-i-Qarachadaghi into Persian. .

His collection of

plays, Tam§i1at, was published in Azari in Tif1is in 1859 and was translated into Persian and published in Iran in 1874[2].

Mirza Agha Tabrizi was the first Iranian playwright who wrote farce in the new style in which he followed Akhund..,7ada. Secretary at the French legation in Iran. Akhundzada






He worked as a

He was influenced by in

Turkish; Akhundzada

requested him to translate his plays into Persian, but he refused, wri ti ng to him ina 1etter dated June 1871 that he preferred to write his own dramas in Persian.

He worte six amusing satirical

comedies in Persian whose style is similar to that of Akhundzada[3].


A.R. Navabpur, A Study of Recent Persian Prose Fiction with Special Reference to the Social Background, Ph.D. Thesis, Onlverstiy of Durham, June 1981. P. 88.


Yabya Aryanpur, Az Saba Ta N1ma, Tehran, Ki tabha-Yi -Ji bi , 1354/1975. Vol. 1, P. 35. - H. Saai q, Panj Namayi sh-nama-Yi Mi rza Agha Tabri zi, (Tehran 1977) P. 13-24.


- 13 -

The first step towards European theatre began with the construction -




of the first European-style auditorium by Mirza Ali Akbar Khan Muzayyan a1-Daw1a. high school

This theatre was constructed in the Dar a1-Funun

in 1886.

The first translation of the Misanthrope

(Sarguzasht-i Mardum Guriz) was performed in this theatre [1]. Later some other p1 ays from Mol i ere were Persi ani zed and performed in the same hall.

The evolution of Iranian theatre and its

de1e1opment towards secular theatre began with the writing and translating of plays in 1912, after the constitutional revolution. Most of the translations were adapted and persionised by the translators to make them more interesting for Persian audiences who did not have enough knowledge of Western Theatre.




Thus Murtaza A1 i

Fikrf, wrote Hukkam-i Qadim va Hukkam-i-Jadid and Ahmad Mahmudi Kama ..

I t . ,


1a1-Vuzara wrote seven plays,

among them Hajji •

R1yai Khan ya

Tartuff-i-Shargi and Ustad Nawruz-i P1naduz, adapted from dramas from Victor Hugo and Oscar Wilde by Riia Kamal Shahrzad.


One of the


most important plays of this period is Jafar Khan az Farang Amada, wri tten by Hasan Muqaddam (1896-1925), a comedy about westerni zed . Iranians. A1sotA11 Nasr (1893-1965), wroteCArusi-yi Husayn Agha . •

Under the influence of a new national awareness, and also to avoid the censorship during the Reza Shah period (1925-1941) authors escaped into historical subjects.


(1903-1951) wrote two historical

plays: Parvin dukhtar-i Sasan,

Hidiyat, the gifted writer


(1928) and M~ziyar, (1933).


A. Jannati ~A:tai, Bunyad-i Ibn-i-Sina, 1333/1955. p.59.

Namayi sh

- 14 -




After the depa rture of Reza Shah cAbd a1 -Husayn Nushi n (l905-1970), • the

theatre director and


Committee of the Tudeh Party,

a member of the Central

translated and staged Mo1iere's

Tartuffe, The B1 uebi rd by M. Maeter1 i nck, Topaz by M. Pagno 1 and Vo1pone by Ben Jonson [1]. the 1953 coup.

Nushfn's theatrical activity ended with

For the first time in the history of Iranian

Theatre, Nushin used all the possibilities of stage craft, such as scenery, lighting, costumes and music which attracted both bourgeois and leftist intellectuals. two actors,


-Abbas Javanmard and < A1 -i Nasi-riyan were

playwrights and directors who together with shahin

Sar kissian fonned a national art group, their first production in 1957 being two adaptations from ~adiq H;dayat's short stories, Muha 11.i.1



Nasi . riyan




experemented wi de1y to achi eve a nati ona1 theatre for Iran, both using traditional

elements in contempory plays; Nas1riyan wrote

Af(i-yi Ta1a1 (the Golden Serpent, 1957) inspired by the patterns and gestures of the tradi ti ona1 ma'ri kagi r.

He 1ater wrote Bu1 bu1-i

Sargashta (The Wandering Nightingale, 1959) also using folk elements. The first cultural and arts organisation which operated on a wide sca1 e was the Department of Fi ne Arts.

Thi s department in 1964

became the Mi ni stry of Cu1 ture and Art.

In 1957, thi s department

established the Department of Dramatic Art.

A school of Dramatic

Arts (i ssui ng B. A. degrees) was founded and 1ater the Facu1 ty of Fine Arts of Tehran University was also created.


Majid Fallah Zadah, Yad1 az Nushin, Maja11a-yi Farda-yi Iran No.4, Tehran, 1361/1982. P. 302-303.

- 15 -

In 1960 the 25th Shahri var Theatre was opened by the Department of Dramatic Art, where most of the plays performed were contempory, -(




mainly Iranian works.P1ays by Saidi, Radi, Bayzai, Nasiriyan, Mufid,



Hatami, Navi di and many other pl aywri ghts were performed on thi s • same stage.

The National Iranian Television (N.1.R.T.) founded the

Jashn-i-Hunar, Festival of Arts in Shiraz and promoted a theatre workshop,

the Kargah-i-Namayish in 1969.

In this festival


National Iranian Television laid emphasis upon two opposite forms of theatre,

traditional and modern contempory.

Two other festivals

were organi sed by the N. 1. R. T., one at Tus and in the ci ty of Mashhad, and the other in Isfahan, both festivals being devoted to the promotion of traditional and popular theatre and related arts. After the Islamic Revolution all these festivals were abandoned and· both the Facul ty of Theatre and the School of Dramatic Art were closed for a few years. Thus the period of theatrical activity in Iran under consideration was relatively short-lived.

- 16 -



because of its social


has always had a close

connecton wi th popu1 a r tradi ti ons and has drawn closely from them. Indeed, a theatrical

tradition that is to have an effect on the

public cannot remain aloof from popular culture.

Furthermore, there

are plays which have been influenced by popular traditions or which have been written using local dialects and idioms.

Thi s sort of drama is 1arge1y successful because it shares cOf1l11on roots with the general public.

Because of this, some parables and

popu1 ar tal es whi ch form the basi s for p1 ays have such beauty and depth that they are unforgettab1 e, and for thi s reason they have lasted for hundreds of years in he culture and have roots thousands of years 01 d.

Popular culture itself contains its own separate forms of theatre which,




improvi satory fo1 k comedy, pleasure for the general folk






has always been a source of enormous public.

In some cases these theatrical

have served as a source of inspiration for the

formal stage, thus showing the interaction between folk and 'e1ite ' cultural traditions.

- 17 -

In other instances, different aspects of popular traditions such as parables, sayings, theatre.

idioms, songs and folk-tales have aided the

Of course the vi ew of the author and hi s abi 1i ty in

conceptual i si ng these fol kl ori c materi al s increases thei r i nfl uence a hundred-fold, since in theatre, thoughts are conceptualised and appear in dramatic form.

In other words, these things which have

deep roots among the people begin to live and take shape in front of their eyes, communication

and this is an extraordanary phenomenon in human which







attachment to their nation and culture.

One of these fol k theatri cal forms whi ch is known as the ori gi n of the Persian theatre is "Naggalill story-telling.


Naggal i

The Naggal (story-tell er) is an actor who has 1earned and pol i shed his profession in tea houses.

The heroes and locale of his stories

are always the same but on each occasion he adds a new vigour, freshness and vitality to the story.

He re-enacts every scene as he

tell s of the deaths, fi ghts, feasts and deeds of hi s heroes. 1i ves wi th hi s heroes.


He shares thei r sadness and joy and moves

his audiences with the same feelings.

Story-telling or 'epic declamation' consists of the narration of an event or story through prose or verse, using dramatic movements and gestures in the presence of an audience.

- 18 -


The nagqal aims at amusing and arousing the emotions of the audience through




elegant movements,


expressive and multifarious gestures, so that the nagga1 is imagined as one of the heroes of the tal e.

In other words, the naggal acts

the part of a narrator and the protagonists of the tale, all at the same time. The art of story-telling, Naqqali, dates back to at least the Parthian Gosan. In royal courts, pub1 ic squares, or tea houses, the naqqa1 recounted as he does even today, tal es of epic legends or popular picturesque romances by means of mime, hand movements, and varied vocal pitches. In the seventeenth century a book (Taraz-a1-Akhbar) was devoted to describing its technique [1]. Nagga1 i in Iran was ab1 e to develop many di fferent and sp1 endi d styles as it was able to reflect the spirit of the different epochs.

This was due to the fact that Naqqa1i was the only form in

which the performing arts could develop and also because it was in constant touch with the lives of lay people.

Naqqa1i is one of the most original and most powerful aspects of the performing arts in Iran.

It is a very difficult and specialised art

with its roots deep in principles and traditions. In other words, it demands maturity and full

knowledge of essential techniques and

ski 11 s.


task of the nagga1


consists of a detailed knowledge and

of the pyscho10gy of people in general

audience in particular.

The mastery of the naqqa1

and the

is directly

related to the depth of his knowledge and understanding.


Farrokh Ghaffary. Evolution of rituals and theatre of Iran, Iranian Studies. Autumn 1984. Page 364.

- 19 -

He s~ould know very clearly at which parts of the tale the audience is aroused and thus be abl e to focus on these poi nts in order to intensify








gestures, the naqgal can express the di fferent physi cal and mental states of the meanness,




such as old age, youth, pride,


drunkenness, anger and the

physical postures such as riding a horse, seated, fallen on the ground, fighting, in chains etc. [1].

At all times he pretends to have somethi ng in hi s hand such as a trumpet, a sword, a horse on which he rides, a bow and arrow, a wall over which he climbs etc. as



By using various theatrical skills such






shouting, trembling of the voice, alternately changing the voice (for each protagonist) and especially by clapping the hands and stamping the feet and by expressive facial grimaces, the naggal employs all his performing talents.

It is due to thi s immacu1 ate control that the audi ence can imagi ne him to be all the heroes of the story at a gi ven time.

Al though

this kind of acting appears to be exaggerated, it seems natural and usual to the audience because of the epic character of the stories. On some occasions when the performance of the nagga1 has reached its height in giving life and colour to the legend, the audience have begged for the 1i fe of thei r favourite hero to be saved by hi s mediation.

Nagga1i does not require the use of a stage or props and

[1] Bahram Bayiai, Ope Cit. Page 79.

- 20 -

the naggal can gather people around him in any place without the use of any aids and start the narration of the epic.

It is an

i nteresti ng fact that they achi eve the same dramati c impact that some drama groups do with the use of modern facilities.

Naggali is performed in both serious and comic styles.

In the first

part, perfonned in serious style, we hear the tragic story of the death of Suhrab at the hands of hi s father Rustam, probably the best-known heroes of Iranian mythology.

Suhrab was concei ved in the one ni ght marri age of Rustam wi th the daughter of hi s enemy, the Ki ng of Samangan.

The fi rst time the

father and son met is on the battlefield where they are engaged in a deadly combat.

Twice Suhrab emerges victorious in the fight but, in

keeping with tradition, does not kill Rustam.

The third time Rustam

comes out the wi ner and immedi ately stabs Suhrab to death.


realises his fatal mistake only when Suhrab, in the last moment of life, tells him that his fater, Rustam, will avenge his death.

The second part, which is done in comic style, is an accout of the


espi onage mi ssi on of Nasim, an offi ci a1 of the court of Al exander, to the land of the enemy.


Nasim, who is a clever and witty old man,

gets involved in many funny adventures during his mission.

His real

identity is discovered by the enemy, but each time, just at the point of being captured, he manages to escape by an ingenious plan.

- 21 -

For social and religious reasons, many fonns of entertainment were restricted in the Islamic world.

The story-teller was the only type

of entertai ner whose acti vi ti es were 1ess restri cted, for he was able to ornament his art with the trappings of religion, make use of religious poetry and thus continue his work unencumbered.


course, a great deal of the success of the stroy-te11 er was due to the immense popularity he enjoyed with the public at large, which did a great deal


vitiate the criticism of




Ibn Qutayba, a writer of the ninth century AD cited a narrator who played his


(a kind of musical instrument) to instill a sense

of serenity and joy after a tearful


We do not,

however, have any knowledge of the type of story that was told, but we can concu1 de that it was sad and most probably re1 i gi ous in nature, but the story-teller would play his tanbur in order to lift the audience's spirit and make them joyful.

Besides the story of Rustam and Suhrab which was scripted for story-telling, Ka1i1a and Dimna and the 1001 Nights (Arabian Nights) entered Iran and became widespread texts among the story-tellers.

- Shah Khusraw Anushirvan (AD 531-579) at one point was so much taken by the Ka1i1a and Dimna tales that he sent his physician, Borzoye, to India to obtain a complete version of that collection of stories, a

















Ibn Qutayba Dinavari, Uyun a1-Alsbar, Vol. 4, page 91, Cited in Bahram Bayia'i, Ope Cit., Kayvan, pp61-62. - 22 -








throughout Persian and Arabic literature.


story-tell ers

The practitioners of

these could be found in every city square, in front of every mosque and at the city crossroads delighting the people with their craft.

Bayza'r, in hi s Namayi sh Dar fran, says that story-tell i ng was a musical art before the founding of Islam.

The story-teller usually

sang or told the story accompanied by a musical instrument (usually a harp). c-


This form was called 'Qavvali' [1].




similar form




-of Iran, Azerbaijan.






The Ashiq is a man who plays a Saz

long-necked pl ucked 1 ute) and si ngs a song whi ch is usually

based on a story. 'lover'.

The word ~ Ashi q' comes from the Arabi c, meani ng <-

Many of the tales and poetry of the Ashiq recites are

concerned wi th lovers famous in Mi ddl e East 1i terature, such as


Khusraw va-Shirin,


va-Majnun, A~li va-Karam and Ghar1b va


In cities, towns and villages throughtout Iranian Azerbaijan, Asheqs (professional poet-musicians) entertain audiences in coffee houses and at weddi ngs. Asheqs compose and perform songs in a variety of poetic forms. The longest of these forms is the oral narrati ve poem call ed the dastan in the Azeri dialect of Turkish. In his presentation of these tal es, the Asheq observes a standard protocol, to stretch some segments of hi s entertai nment, or to cut other parts short. It is this flexibility within the framework of an establ i shed presentati on format that keeps these oral narrative poems from growing stale in the mind of the performer and in the perception of the audience [2]. [1]

Bayza'1, Ope Cit., P.60.


Charlotte F. Albright. The Azerbaijani Asheq and his performance of a Dastan, Irani an Studi es, Vol ume 1X, 1976, p220.

- 23 -

One of the most famous songs played and practicsed in the Azari language is 'Koroghlu ' which in Turkish means Ison of the blind ' . Thi s heroi c tal e and al so love strory is one of the most popul ar stories among the AzerbaiJani people. It is perfonned out of doors and indoors in the coffee houses known as Qahvah Khana.


the establishment of the coffee house as a regular city

institution in Iran, story-tellers were counted as a species of publ i c entertai ner not di sti ngui shed from magi ci ans, juggl ers and other similar perfonners.

All such persons perfonned in the open

air, and it may be that even those who were not professional story-tellers would lace their acts with eloquent speech, eventually becoming famous enough to appear before kings, viziers and military commanders to liven up their celebrations and collect gratuities. At thi s early stage, however, there was no establ i shed gui 1d system for entertainers. governmentally

It was only under the Safavid kings that a

recognised fonnal

organisation of sufi


called the 'A'jam order ' was established over the Naggals, eulogists and other entertainers.

The tenn 'Naggali ' should in fact be taken as having a more general meaning than just recitation of the Shah-nama of Firdawsf and other stories in coffee houses.

Naggal in fact refers to anyone who uses

the narrating technique (Naggali) in order to arouse an audience, or to make them laugh or cry.

Thus we should include Rawia-Khwani and

Parda-Dar1, both recitations of the events of the martyrdom of Imam ~usayn


and his followers at Karbala,the fonner in a private setting,

- 24 -

using sermonising and chanting techniques, the latter in public using a curtain or parda illustrated with scenes from the story as well as other entertai nment forms dependi ng primari lyon 1anguage, as kinds of Naggali.

We see then that Naggali in its original form was not entirely secular but had a definite religious component.



Naqqal s woul d narrate stories from the epics during the week, and . turn to religious subjects on Fridays following the narration of the secul ar story.

Whereas the Naggals have a definite arena for their work, the coffee house, their practice has even carried over to radio and televison. In the course of the history of the art, the repertoire of the Naggal was never limited to just a few epic stories; however, owing to the increased prosperity of the Iranian public, their work has decreased somewhat, and it is rare to be able to find a Naggal today who can narrate equally well, three or four different pieces of popular " literature (such as the Shah-nama, Iskandar-nama, Darab-nama, Amir Arsaran etc.).

They are more commonly specialists in one piece of

1i terature whose narrati ve techni ques they have 1earned from thei r own teachers.

At one time in the past there were many stories which were immensely popular among the people and indeed were narrated for centuries with great









circumstances they gradually lost their popularity.The delightful

- 25 -

epic, the Abu Muslim-nama, was once extraordinarily popular, and was recited in all Persian-speaking areas of the world to the point that the Shiites thought it to

be a Shia work and the Sunnites declared

it to be a Sunni product.

However, duri ng the Safavi d era Abu

Muslim, as the result of a doctrinal conflict, was accused of having been a supporter of the Abbasi ds, and an enemy of the Shi i tes, and thus suffered an immense drop in popularity. Samak-i

Other stories such as

'Ayyar, the Darab-nama, Khurshid Shah, Amir Hamza, Malik •

Jamshid etc. took its place.

Among other writings the Iskandar-nama was the most popular in the 1ast century.



Indeed, the killing of Shirzad by Iskandar was as

popular an episode for listeners as the killing of Suhrab by Rustam in the Shah-nama.

Some stori es were not ever presented in publ i c but were rather perfonned in pri vate assembl i es, especi ally in the royal chambers during the Qajar era.


Famous tales such as Amir Arsalan, Zarrin


Malik and the Bath of Bulur (Hammam-i Bulur) were stories of this sort.

Sir Lewis Pelly in his book talks about the story-teller and the story of Suhrab and Rustam.

As I watched some public story-teller seated in the bazaar on a rude di as, i ntoni ng the story of Suhrab and Rustam and gradually raising his voice until, towards the close of the hexameter it seemed to pause and then fall into the following lines, while the miscellaneous street assembly listened with

- 26 -


rapt attention, I fancied I had there before me a counterpart of the early recitations of the Iliad, and in the West we possessed no complete translation of this singular drama [lJ. As Pe11y pointed out, usually this type of performance took place out of doors,

in bazaars,

squares etc.

But later,

as their

profession became more recognised and with the establishment of coffee houses, this place became a permanent stage for story-telling. The teahouses, which were also called coffee houses, are the places where the tea is usually served. !t was once a place which served as a playhouse for the nagga1i. It was in these pl aces that thi s form of theatrical acti vity grew to one of its peaks. The people spent their leisure time listening to the epic-heroic stories [2J. The coffee houses were indeed the right place for Iranian people to gather and enjoy their rest time. Not only did they serve as a play house for the Naggal i, but al so other theatri cal forms such as Shah-nama Khwan1 and Chashm Bandi (magic), Khaymeh Shab-Bazi (puppet show) and many other traditional Persian games. These things were all a part of leisure activities in Iranian folk class life. The folk class of Iran consists of: working class, lower class, and the illiterate class. Conversation is the chief form of diversion and relaxation when groups of men gather to drink tea and to discuss opinions. Tea houses are the cOl1l11on places for people to communicate and share their experiences and express themselves. These meetings also help to perpetuate the stories, songs and ballads of the regi on and to keep ali ve the love of poetry whi ch is so characteristic of the Persian people [3J. One can safely say that the coffee houses were the most important bases for preserving all traditional activity and custom.


Sir Lewis Pe11y, The Miracle of Hasan and Husain, Vol. 1, London 1879, P.IV.



Iran [3J

A11ah-i Fa1saf1,Tarikh-iahva-va ahva-Khana Dar ~=-~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Maja11a-yi Sukhan, Period 5, 13 19 . P.P. 265-2

Hossein Adibi, An Analysis of the Social Economic and Physical Aspects of Urbanisation in Iran, Dissertation, Onlted States, International UniverSity, 1972, P. 31.

- 27 -

Ismail-Beigi Shirazi comments: There were three elements that started the trend of social rehabilitation and the move towards westernisation. The first cause was the rise of industrialisation and this brou~ht about an ever-increasing number of jobs, speclalisation and increasing salaries. It also created less 1ei sure time for the workers which forced them to be very choosy as to how, when, where and with whom they should spend their time. This began to lessen the peop1e ' s belief in myths and folklore. The last cause was the propagation of other types of public entertainment, such as radio, cinema and the western theatre [1]. Coffee houses were al ways full

of customers, and hence di fferent

varieties of entertainment were perfonned there before the arrival of tel evi si on.

As a resu1 t

of thi s new fonn, the coffee houses

bought tel evi si on sets in order to retai n thei r customers.

Thi s

meant that the peop1 e goi ng there became entranced wi th recorded movi ng pi ctures as they were once capti vated by the tal ents of the story-teller.

Television dominated over the old art, the coffee

houses had to concede that television was more popular and gradually 1 i ve story-tell i ng and other popu1 a r entertai nments were dropped as an attraction.


Fi rdawsi was born at Tus in north-eastern Persi a about 935 AD and t

came from an old Iranian family of landed proprietors.


His claim to

Foroud Ismai1-Beigi, A study of the Evolutionary trend and the current atmosphere conditions of Shahnamih Khani in Iran, Ph. D.

Dissertation, Detroit: Wayne State University, 1973.

P. 98

- 28 -

fame rests on his Shah-nama, (Book of Kings), which comprises nearly 60,000 couplets of flowing Persian verse, and in which nearly four thousand years of Persia's history is chronicled.

The poet seems to

have spent thirty-four years of his life on his great work, which he commenced when he was forty and completed just before his death in 1025AD.

His main aim throughout was to glorify the national history

of his fatherland and its folk, whether in myth, story, religious tradition or popular tale [1].







comparable with Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.




It contains a series of

stories about the conflicts, courage and heroism of ancient Persian kings.








fountain-head of ideas for 'Shah-nama-Khwani'.

A thousand years had gone by si nce the gl ori ous era of the ancient kings of Persia, while Firdawsi, father of the Persian poetry and language, with his new ideas and power of eloquence gave new life to those kings, heroes and valiants, immortal i si ng thei r names in the monumental book. Nearly a thousand years have gone by since the composition and compilation of those glorious stories [2]. Shirazi states: Shahnamikhani is one of the simplest forms of the classical theatre. It is classical, not in the sense that it is an old form of theatre, but in the sense that for centuri es it has remai ned rather uni form in its manner of presentati on and performance. There are at least 400 years of documented [1]

Bapsy Pavry, The Heroines of Ancient Persia, Stories retold from the Shahnama of Firdawsi, Cambridge University Press, 1930, P. 1


Modjtaba M1nuvi, Firdawsi va Shi'r-i U (Firdawsi and his poetry Anjuman-i A~!r-i Milli, No. 56, Tehran. (, (1976-68), P. 62.

- 29 -

verifying the existence of such a theatre, with all its basic characteristics intact [1].


Persians seem to have two historical s,ources: one is real history and the other, mythological history.

The majority of the Persian

folk class are more aware of mythological history than the real one.

This mYthological


history is gathered and written in the

The most popular and famous mythological character in

Iran is Rustam.

The story of Rustam consi sts of seven epi sodes

which the Persi ans call Haft-Khwan-1 Rustam.

These seven epi sodes

became the mai n source of Shah-nama Khwan1, and are known by the majority of Iranian people.




know the whole content of the


Shah-Nama, it is the way in whi ch Shah-nama Khwan, the man who performed the Shah-nama acts and amuses them that makes them able to 1i sten to him one hundred times over and sti 1 enjoy the same story and· be amused ni ght after ni ght. time to come to an end

Usually the story takes along

and the audi ence comes to the same coffee

house every night to hear and follow the same story.

One of the methods the Nagga1 uses to make audiences concentrate is the sa1avat. •

Sa1avat is the praising of God, the prophed Muhammad, •

and the fami 1y and the descendants of the prophet Muhanrnad. •


Shah-nama Khwan usually call s out for a new sal , avat after whi ch he continues the story, when he feels that he is losing the aUdience's


F.I.B. Shirazi, Op Cit. P.9S

- 30 -

attenti on, if they tal k to each other, or swi tch 1i ghts on or if there are any ki nds of interrupti on.

When the story reaches an

interesting and exciting point such as when the hero is about to be killed, or to start fighting, the nagga1 also calls for a new sa1avat • • Zurkhana -


Zurkhana is an institution where traditional exercises take place to the accompaniment of a drunnner, who also reci tes verses from the epi c poem the Shah-nama.

These drummers a re call ed Murshi d.


Shah nama Khwan was not only popular in towns and cities, but was also largely accepted by the illiterate people in all vi 11 ages and small towns.


Whenever all the farmers of one vi11 age

gathered together in one place to help each other with their tasks, they would invite the local nagga1, then they would serve tea, dates and sweets.

This ceremony would take place every night in a

di fferent place in the same vi 11 age wi th the same poep 1e unti 1 the whole job was done, and the story was finished at the same time.

Sukhan-Va ri










a display


extraordinary intellectual dexterity and deep knowledge, and at the same time a highly entertaining contest. Iran, and is unfortunately nearly extinct.

- 31 -

It is found exclusively in

Sukhan-vari, (Eloquence), at the height of its popularity, was a ~

practice centred in the Ajam order of Dervishes.

This order was

gi yen authority duri ng the Safavi d era over all entertai ners and oral

artists dealing both with sacred and secular themes.


practi ce of Sukhan-vari ref1 ect not only 1eve1 s of ski 11 in oral art, but also ranks of office within the AJam order.

Though the practi ce cou1 d be used as a means both for testi ng and challenging








associated especially with the month of Ramadan, when the citizens, having fasted from dawn to dusk, often remained awake all night unti 1 the morni ng meal just before dawn.

The practice of Naqqa(i

wi th its strong na rrati ve techni ques added greater strength to the Sukhan-vari traditions, and was likewise a featured entertainment in the month of Ramadan[l].

Sukhan-vari was held in large coffee houses in the traditional qua rters of I rani an ci ti es and requi red the presence of a complex array of persons: singers, speakers, assistants, poetry chanters, as well as contestants and judges of the contest [2].


The Naqqa1, or leader of the assembly, would take his place at the


Dr. M. J. MatJjub, NamaYish-i-Kuhan-i-Irani Shiraz, Jashn-i-Hunar, 3, 1346/1967. P.P. 27-28


Bahram Bayia1. Op Cit. P76.

- 32 -



sardam, a place of leadership designated by numerous ritual objects hung on the wall: the skin of a lion, tiger or leopard;

two crossed

sticks from which hung a ritual axe; a sackcloth; a cowls-horn trumpet; a dervishls stone on which he would normally take his seat; a lion cloth; a gesturing stick; a picture of the first Shia Imam, Ali; and a dervishl begging bowl (kashku1).

The programme would begin with the singing and chanting of ghaza1s, lyric poems in classic style.

Eventua1y another dervish,


opponent in the contest, stands at the door of the coffee house listening to the ghaza1s until he sees a point at which he can announce


presence to the assembly,

ideally tying

in the

references of hi s announcement to the theme of the ghaza1 s just presented . . -'


At this point, the first section of the Sukhan-vari is begun.


side has the right to challenge the other to mental feats, such as producing numerous lines of poetry all beginning and ending with the same letter, or producing correct catalogues of information.


side also has the right to call on others to help him in his efforts.

Both sides are strictly limited as to the manner in which they can answer.

To answer correctly they must pay strict attention to the

form of the questi ons.

Throughout all of thi s mental dexteri ty,

there are judges standing by to make certain that no mistakes are made by either party.

- 33 -

I f one or the other of the two contestants makes a mi stake, or cannot answer the ri ddl e of the other, or fai 1s to perfonn a task set for him, he loses hi s cl othi ng and possessi ons are gradually removed from him each time he is adjudged to have lost, until he is left standing with only a bare minimum of clothinng [1].

In effect,

since the contestants are dervishes, the loser has lost his title as a dervish.

If the contest continues to pass through all the stages,

the loser may win his clothing back, or he may continue to lose and suffer puni shments such as havi ng to perfonn ri di cul ous stunts, or being beaten.

All of this adds to the enjoyment of the spectators.

Ma I ri ka-Gi ri

Ma'rika originally and in the literal sense, is said to mean a battlefield, however, it refers here to a place where a person stands and perfonns artistic endeavours, while other people gather around him.

The reason that such tenni nol ogy is used here is that, as in the battlefield, each man who has a talent for war and combat uses it and some men are busy exhibiting and showing off their talent and bravery










themsel ves[2].


Dr. M.J.



Ibid, P.28. .J







ijusayn Waiz-i-Kashifi-yi Sultani, Futuwwat-NamaYi-SU1~ani. ed. Muhammed Ja'far Mahjub~ No.4 of the series of Far ang-i:Amiyana: Tehran, Bunya&~i-Farhang. Page 273.

- 34 -

Ma ' rika-g1r1 means the holding and performance of a ma'rika.

In general,

some traditional

and popular theatrical

forms were

performed out of doors in a circle in any open air location known as Ma'rika,


and performers were known as Ma'rika-gir or Murshid.

Ma'rika-giri also applies to Pah1avani (wrestling and strong-man acts), Mar giri

(snake acts), Parda Dari or Shamayi1 Gardani, -(


Shumurta-Bazi and Chashm Bandi (magic), Rope-Dancing, Lutiantari (monkey acts), Shahr-i-Farangi

(Magic lantern shows), and Da1i

(improvised poetic prose or lampoons).

(Abbas Bu1 ~ki -Fard, the 01 d and expert nagga1 from the Qahva Khana generation says that Parda-dari or Shamayi1-gardani are born from Ta'ziya, but Sadeg-i Humayuni, a schol ar who has been researchi ng for a 10ng time on Ta'ziya has a different point of view. He says that the text and content o~ Ia'ziya has no~hing to ~o with what is in the Shamayi l-gardani [1]. Shamayi l-gardani means 'moving portraits around' Here crowds gather around a narrator who shows them pictures drawn in oi 1 on canvasses, ill ustrati ng such re1 i gi ous epi sodes as the exploits of tAli, the punishments inflicted upon the infidel in hell, batt1 es of

Mu~ammad ~

agai nst the unbe1 i evers and scenes from the


events of Karba1a [2]



Islamic theatrical art: Shamayi1-gardani Maja11a-yi Javanan-i Imrui 818, 1361/1982, P. 5.


Ihsan Yar-Shater, "Persia", The Readers Encyc10peadia of Wor1 d Drama, ed. John Gassmer and Edward Qui nn, New York: fnomasy, Crowell Co. 1969, P.650.

- 35 -


Practitioners of Shamayi1-gardani play their trade in city squares in traditional sections of large cities, religious shrines, and in smaller towns, but they have no fixed location of performance.



Parda-Dari and Shamayi1-gardani are recitations of the events of the Martyrdom of Imam Husayn and his followers in the plain of Karba1a, the former in a private setting using sermonising and chanting techniques and the latter in public using a curtain or parda (a framed canvas 3m x 1.5m) illustrated with scenes from the story [1].

In Shamayi1-gardani the Nagga1 of the story establishes the most subtle and exact re1atonship with the audience by the means of poetry,









It is possible that the presentation of shamayi1 gardani

is an advanced form of Nagga1i.

Shamayi1 gardani presents religious

stories, using verse and prose, using the colloquial language of the peop1 e.

Thus Parda Dari or Sh-amayi 1 gardani can be catergori sed as

a colloquial religious play, or more appropriately it can be classed as a one-man show in which the themes and events of Ta ziya are I

performed by one man only.

Dominantly the themes of these plays are

taken from the history of the events of Karba1a and other religious books.


Tapestries and paintings are the main props of the Nagga1s,


Bahram Bayzai, Op cit. P.73.

- 36 -

and these images developed and evolved continuously.

The tapestries

and pi ctures used for thi s purpose are devoi d of perspective and technical refinements, and are called Tea House Paintings.

The Shamay11-Gardan identifies the oppressed protagonists, i.e. Imam Hussayn and his kin through the use of sorrowful and lamenting songs which are composed in a specific musical Ta'ziya.


The enemies of the descendants of the

used in

Prophet are

identified by the use of coarse tone of speech and no music is used.

One of the characteristics of the tapestries used, the

colouring and the composition of the faces, very clearly reflects the faith and the undying love of the painters for the sacred family of the Prophet, and thei r hatred for the enemi es of the sac red family.

In the most of these pictures the latter are portrayed with

unpleasant and ugly faces,

closely-shaven bald heads, long and

upturned moustaches, bulging eyes, and altogether a very unpleasant and

bl oodthi rsty







portrayed with a halo, gracious beards and moustaches, tongues and plaited hair and graceful

outfits which are usuallly in green

co lours, whi 1e the faces of the women and gi rl s are covered by vei 1s.





Bul"Uk1-Fard, Husayn Hamalani, .







Fat~ Allah GhLAllar, ~asan Isma(il-£ada

and Qullar Aghasi.

The Naggal excites and encourages the active participation of the audience by requesting Salavat and the damnation and cursing of the , enemies of the sacred family, or honouring of the sacred ones, bl essi ngs for the dead and prayers for the si ck, as soon as he detects any kind of boredom and passivity; he then proceeds with the

- 37 -



- abandoned this kind of The majority of the shamayil-gardans

work and were absorbed into other forms of performing arts.

Some of

them gave performances only on the days of Muharram and the sphere of their activity was limited to the small towns and villages. However, the tendencies of society towards industrialisation and the development






of cinemas,

theatres, television and radio, brought about a lack of interest on the part of the public to this kind of art.

Shows of this kind usually take place in the streets and in the bazaa r, and the people j oi n the audi ence by putting a coi n in the bowl of the Naggal.

Sometimes people can watch the show for hours

without even paying.

Usually when the story reaches its climatic

points the Naggal interrupts the story and this functions as a hint that the audience should put money in the brass bowl Shamay1l-gardan so that he continues with the story.

of the

At this point,

those people who are not willing to pay any more, leave the audience and others wishing to watch the show join in.

Shahr-i Farang

Shah-i Farang can be categorised as one of the branches of Naggali. In Shahr-i Farang the Naggal presents the stories with the use of an instrument call ed a Shahr-i Farang.

In the past pai nti ngs and in

recent times photographs have been used for this purpose.

Thus the

Naggal tells the story in a colourful, exciting and interesting language.

The difference between the work of Naggals in Nagga11,

- 38 -

Shamayi1-gardani and Shahr-i Farang is that in the two fonner cases there is a large audience to address.

In the latter case, however,

the number of the audience is only three.

The roots of this

instrument should be sought in the primitive technique of cinema and therefore it is a very old means of entertianment.

This form of art

- -- (shadow plays), with some can be related to the art of Saya-Bazi di fferences.


Fanus-i -Khiya1 [1].

ori gi n








Fanus-i -Khiya1 is the ancestor of ci nema.


consisted of a lantern in which a candle was lit, covered by a glass case on which painted images would be reflected on a wall or curtain and thus the resulting effect was very similar to the images obtai ned by projectors used in the ci nema or by the 01 d-fashi oned Magic Lantern.

It is believed that this invention came from China

and that it was from the Far East that it found its way to Iran and Europe.


is based on the- same principle as the

projector except that the latter is operated by electricity.

The Fanus-i-Khiya1

has been drawn upon occasionally in Persian

1; terature and poetry ; n reference to Saya-Bazl (shadow theatre). However, the difference between the equipment used in Shahr-i Farang and in Saya-Baii is that in the former two mirrors are installed. The fi rst mi rror ref1 ects the image on the second one in front of which there are three round openings covered by lenses which magnify the image.


The spectator places his eyes on the opening and thus


[l]Bahram Bayzai. Ope Cit.


- 39 -


views the pictures after having paid for the show.

The pictures are

all arranged in a sequence and so the Shahr-i Farangite11s the story as the pictures move. Usually the stories are based on the old tales and folkloric stories of Iran.


The most famous of these is the


story of Amir Ars1an and Farukh· Laqa.

Sometimes the stories which

are presented by the Shahr-i Farangi are from religious stories, if he is in a holy city like Qumm or Mashhad.

With the advent and fast

development of cinema, and especially with the widespread use of television and modern means of communication, this kind of art faces a gradual decline and except in isolated villages which are far from the towns and cities this form of art has become very rare indeed.


Exactly how and when puppet shows (Khayma-shab-baii) began in Iran is sti 11 unknown.

Evi dent1y up to the present time no concerted

effort has been made to confront the queston as a whole.

There are

many theori es about the ori gi ns of Irani an puppet theatre.

In hi s

book Namayish dar Iran, Bayiii comments that

Irani an nomads, observi ng the shadows cast by thei r camp-fires on their tents, initiated this form of entertainment. In the developing of this idea, shadow-plays were refi ned and puppets were created thus gi vi ng bi rth to Khayma-shab-baii [1]


Bahram Bayiai, Ope Cit, P83.

- 40 -

Owi ng to the fact that the puppet show found its way to Europe from the East, it seems quite unlikely that it could have gone unnoticed in Iran. Shadow theatre spread from the Far East, and having first being recorded in Java, China and India, it came to Turkey and travelled westward. Some scholars like Berho1d Laufer or Hennann Reich, however, have claimed that puppet or shadow theatre orginated in the Mediterranean area and spread later to the East, but this theory has been rejected on many grounds, more particularly on the grounds that there is no record of shadow theatre in ancient Greece or Byzantium. In these days it is an accepted fact that it came westward from Asi a. However, there remai ns sti 11 a controversy concerni ng by which route it came to Turkey [1]. Si nce Iran shared a cOlllnon border wi th 01 d Indi a thi s geographi c factor has to some greater or 1esser degree vi si b1y contri buted to the production, development, standardisation and continued existence of the puppet show in Iran.

As we turn to the glorious c0lTl11ercia1 ages before the Islamic era, which gave birth to the celebrated silk route to the East, it is understandable that this period of unlimited commerica1 and cultural exchange opened up

new horizons.

brought with them painting,

The travellers most probably


silk with highly complex

designs and woven cloth as well as puppets from India and China. records


a wide


range of exotic goods and products were

exchanged and it can perhaps be assumed that puppets were among those items exchanged.


Metin And, Karagoz, Turkish Shadow Theatre, Dost YaYlnlarl Istanbul. 1979. P.21.

- 41 -

Dr. George Jacob has put forward a thesis based on Dr. Pi sche1 s theory on puppet-thea tre, that it is most probable that gipsies emerging from north-west India about one thousand years ago, traced a path across Asia and Europe. It is qui te 1i ke1y that they brought the Indi an shadow theatre with them and stopping in Asia Minor, might well have popularised that art in Turkey [lJ Omar Khayam

illustrated puppet show and shadow puppet in his


. .



'l((J'J,l.JI; J~dJ';'



Tis all a chequer-board of nights and days, where destiny with men for pieces plays. Hither and thither moves, and mates and slays, and one by one back in the closet lays [lJ.


/..; (~J'~'L J~J~~I /

d,J?!I;'J~v-1~ v-1~·)t;bf;;!/~; (




If ..

Georg Jacob, Geschi chte des Schatten Theaters i n Mor1en-u~d Abend1and, (Hanover, 1925) PP109-110. Cited by nd 1n Karag'oz.

RUb~iyat-i ~akim Omar Khayam, Mu~ammad Mi hdi Fulladvand ed. Tehran, 1348/1969. P.ll.

- 42 -

For in and out, about, above, below Tis nothing but a magic shadow-show, played in a box whose candle is the sun, round which we phantom figures come and go. [1] Khayyam in his poem talks about Lu'bat; the meaning of the word in Persian is puppet, and Lu'bat-baz means puppeteer.

He drew upon the

puppet show and illustrated and compared man's life with that of a puppet at the end of a show, as they all sink down in the box of the puppeteer one by one.

The worl dis man s stage on which they pl ay I

their role one by one, and they vanish in the box of non-existence.

Chardin in his description

refers to the puppet show in the

seventeenth centry: The other end of the place, which is to the north, had likewise its companies for diversion, and for show there were the rope dancer, compani es of women dancers, compani es of footmen ready to dance, bodies of jugglers for a thousand seYeral sorts of tricks, such as leger-de-main, fencers, puppet show, etc. [2] The stock characters in Khayma-shab-bazi were generally taken from folklore and were popular and therefore easily identifiable to the Persian audience. In harlequinades (maskhareh bazi) puppet shows (kheimehshab-bazi) and shadow plays (fanus-e-khiyal) which were perfonned by clowns and puppeteers both for popul ar and for royal or aristocratic audiences, the central figure was often a comic, bald man called "Kachal". The humourous character of Kachal makes a sharp contrast with the selfishness of kings and cunning of viziers [3]. [1 ]

I bid.

P. 106.


Chardin, Travels in Persia, Ope Cit.


A.R. Navabpour, Ope Cit.


- 43 -


The stock characters in Pahl avan Kachal, whi ch is the most popul ar


pl ay, were Sarv-i -naz Khanum


Firuz-Kaka), ~aji var-dar va-Buraw (thief), Mulla (the religious man), the comi c hero Pahl a van-Kacha 1 (the bald-headed hero), and Pahlavan-Panba (man of straw).

There were musicians called Luti who

accompanied the puppeteer during the performance of the puppet show.

The melodies were usually played by Kamancha or Tar and

assisted by Tunbak (iarb).

Khayma-shab-baz1 is improvisatory and is based on Persian folk stori es and the techni que of operati ng is ei ther a glove puppet, whi ch is operated by hand, or a rna ri onette mani pul ated by stri ngs from above; rod puppets were also employed.

The puppet shows were

perfonned at courts, pri vate ceremoni es and , commonly, on street -corners for the public.


The Turkish scholar Metin And, in his book Karagoz gives more detailed information about Persian puppetry: In Iran we fi nd exactly the same two ki nds of puppetry, the mari onette desi gnated as Kheimeh shab bazi (ni ght tent or booth play) or shab-bazi (night play) which is like the cadir hayal of central Asia, with the platfonn at gound level. The number of puppets are as many as sixty or eighty. The reason for its being perfonned in the evening hours and the artificial light is that the strings that control the puppets are then less visible to the spectators. There is a small orchestra consisting of a drum (Tonbak), fiddle and a clapper player. The other kind, the glove puppet theatre, is called Kachal-Pahlavan, taking its name from its main character where Pahl avan means hero, arti st or athe1 ete and Kacha1 means bald-headed [1]. I,


Metin And, Karagoz, Ope Cit.

P. 106,

- 44 -

Puppets are usually operated by two people; one stands off the pl atfonn and takes part in the di al ogue or di rectly in the acti on with the puppets, and his assistant inside the booth manipulates the puppets.

The puppets a re made by the puppetee r.

neck are made of wood or papiermache.

The head and the

The man in the booth sometmes

speaks the parts directly and sometimes through a small


instrument called Sutak (whistle) held between his lips.

James Mew in hi s Modern Persi an Stage tal ks about Pahl avan Kachal. The following is a synopsis of this kind of play from his book: There is a favourite piece in which Pahlavan Kachal betakes himself under the guise of a most pious Muslim to the house of a certain Akhwund, or rector of a parish. He sighs, weeps, groans, prays, recites verses, from the Koran or elsewhere, and quotes scraps of morality after the most approved fashi on. the Akhwund, del i ghted wi th hi s vi si tor and edified by his religious zeal, begins to imitate and to emulate him. Pahlavan Kachal displays his theological knowledge, his acqaintance with the traditions and the patristics of Islam, and recites legends in favour of the virtue of giving alms. Voluntary charity meets his highest panegyric. He quotes many lines of the mystic poetry so dear to the Persi an heart, the poetry whi ch under the profane semblance of love and wine, celebrates the activity and wisdom of Allah the all-merciful. The Pahlavan begins to describe the delights reserved for the charitable in Paradise. Far indeed is he from saying with Chaucer in the "Kni ~ht S Tal e", that as he never was there he can say nothlng about it. On the contrary, he speaks as an eyewitness. He sings of heaven and its houris with the grace of antelopes, of its splendid banquets and its sparkling wine. The Akhwund is in ecstasies. He tastes already those ri vers of mi 1k whi ch never grow sour, and those seas of purified honey which never become dry. He reposes al ready under the perpetual shade, or couches whose linings are of thick silk interwoven with gold. He gathers fruits from gardens of palm-tree and pomegranates. He sees damsels advancing to meet him, with complexions like rubies and pearls, beauteous damsels with eloquent deep black eyes. He dances with delight, thereby demonstrating - as evolutionists tell' us - hi s descent from the ape, he gi ves Pahl avan, that second Iago, his purse, bids him buy a banquet, and produces Khullari, the most excellent wine of Shiraz, which by some strange chance is found in a corner of his room, hidden away with a guitar. The piece of course may be extended at I

- 45 -

pleasure. It is a vivid and never ill-timed representation of the Tartuffe of the religion of Islam [lJ Kayma-shab-Baz1 was improvi sati ory and creati ve and had no wri tten text.

The same scene may be shortened or 1engthened accordi ng to

the aUdience's request.

It is entertaining and carries a strong

theme of social criticism and hence it is one of the most popular forms of theatre in Iran.

Owing to the various forms of repression, religious, social or political,



the outspoken criticisms which were


throught the puppet shows, this form of art held a very valued place for the general public.








people were

portrayed in the puppet shows , usually outsi de the text of the story, and this was the only way that the people's views about their social

conditions could find a mode of communication with the

authori ti es.

However, subtlety, cynicism and criticisms which were all part and parcel

of the puppet shows differed according to the kind of

audi ence whi ch vi ewed the show at the time.

Even more i nteresti ng

was the fact that censorshi p cou1 d not damage the shows si nce the criticisms were given outside the text on an improvisatory basis and hence the puppet shows remained untouched by the bias of repressive authori ti es.


James Mew, The Modern Persian Sta~e, The Fortnightly Review, LIX, 8 (January-June) 1896, P.P.OS-906.

- 46 -



Traditional and Western Influenced Drama in the Qajar Period

Ta ziya is an ori gi nal form of Persi an rel i gi ous theatre. I

It is

ri tua 1 and deri ves its form and content from deep-rooted re 1i gi ous traditions, yet is strongly Persian although it is Islamic in form.

The conventional meaning of the word TA'ZIYA has somewhat departed fom its original and literal meaning. The literal meani ng is I mourni ng for a dearly departed I ; but the conventional meaning now specially applies to a form of religious or passion play based on certain formalities, ceremoni es and tradi ti ons. Contrary to its 1i tera 1 meani ng, sorrow and grief is not an essential element of it because it may occasionally be a happy or even a comical presentation [1] .











Shabih-Khwani, correspondi ng in many respects to the mystery or miracle play.

Shabi h (dramati sati on) in the Ashura mourni ng ceremoni es and in connection with the social changes appearing in Persian society, earned an important place in the past which was founded upon traditional values. Today it has a respected place in Iran's national culture [2]. It appears that the basic formation of the Ta'ziya took place under the Day1amite dynasty:


Dr. M.J. Mahjub, Traditional Persian Drama. Arts, Shiraz - 1967.P.1.2.


Mayel Baktash, Taziyeh and its Phi1isophy. 3, Festival Arts, Shiraz - Persepo1is, 1967.

- 47 -

3, Festival of of

It is related in the history of Ibn-Kathir the Syrian that Muizzud-Dow1a Ahmad Ibn Buwayh issued orders in Baghdad that during the first ten days of Muharram all the bazaars of Baghdad shou1 d be closed, and that the peop1 e shou1 d wear black for mourning and betake themselves to mourning for the chief of martyrs (the Imam Husain) [lJ. Ta'ziya is a ritual Shiite production, a comprehensive and broad spectacle embracing the entire community.

Consequently it enjoys a

dimensi on beyond its form whi ch extends to the depths of myth, belief and articles of popular faith. into existence




Ta'ziya could only have come

of the

peculiar national


religious circumstances which have played an important part in its creation.

Its plot is based on the legend of the plain of Karba1a, and the complete story is known by the Persian audience.

This fact does not

change in any way the great attraction of this kind of play.

Muhammad is recogni sed as the greatest and 1ast of the prophets by Muslims; after his death, in 11AH (632 A.D.) the Islamic community was faced with the problem of providing new leadership. divided them almost innnediately into two factions.

This event

These factions

were as follows: Those who espoused the ancient Arabic tradition of succession by election and those who desired succession by inheritance, through b1ood-re 1ati onshi p to the prophet. The former are known as Sunnites, the latter as Shi'ites [1] [lJ

E.G. Browne, A History of Persian Literature in Modern Time


Peter J. Che 1kowsk i, Taziyeh, Indi genous Avant-~arde Theatre of Iran, Surush, Nirt Publications Tehran N.d. P.

(A.D. 1500-1924) P 31.

- 48 -

To the Shia,

IAlf the son-in-law and who eventually became the

fourth cal iph was the true successor of the prophet.

To the Shia

~lr is so exalted that they call him the IILion of God the IIFriend ll

of God ll and other high titles.



Unfortunately, Al i was assassi nted

and hi s son ~asan became the 1eader of hi s cormnuni ty, only to be faced by the oppos i ti on of Mu' awiya, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty.

Since war.


was a man of peace, he did not want to cause a civil


he abdicated


the caliphate




Mu~awiya, but reserved the successi on for himsel f after Mu I=awiya Is


However, after Mu "-awiya Is death hi s son Yazfd succeeded to

the Caliphate, and, as the Shia believe Hasan . was poisoned through Yazid1s conspiracy.

His younger brother,


was war-like,

of energy


was of quite different character. and resolve.


His marriage with

Shahrbanu, the daugher of Yazdajird, the last of the Sassanian kings of the Persian dynasty, gave him an additional claim to Persian regard.


Hasan1s .



brother Husayn •


not give



leadership of the muslms to Yazid.

He persisted in his efforts to

claim his right to the Caliphate.

In the meantime the people of

Kufa, a city near Baghdad, asked as thei r 1eader.



to go to Kufa and join them

The KUfans promi sed him thei r support in fi ghti n9

against Yazid.

- 49 -

~usai n set out wi th hi s fami 1y and a group of foll owers towards

Kufa, hopi ng to overthrow Yaz1 d, usurper of the true Cali phate.


~usayn had not arrived in Kufa, when he noticed the city of KUfa was

already seized by the follower of Yazid,



governor or Kufa.

- the new Ibn-I-Ziyad,

was a man of courage: he would fight and

die rather than give up the Muslim leadership.

It was on Thursday,

the 1st of ~u~arram, 61 A.H. (680 A.D.) that ~usain received some letters

- that stated he must swear from the governer of Kufa -

a11ediance with Yazid or else he and his men would be trampled under the feet of Yazid's army [1].

The seige began on the first day of the Muslim month of


- came to its bloody end on the tenth day, called ( Ashura.


It was in

the 61st year of the Muslim calendar which corresponds with 680 A.D.


Soon after, the battle-field and tombs at Karba1a became a place of sacred pilgrimage for Shi'ites throughout the Islamic Empire [2].

Before the estab1 ishment of the Shia sect as the official faith of Iran by the Safavids, Maw1ana ~asan wa'i~-i Kashifi wrote a book in




the 9th century A.H. entitled Rawzat a1-Shuhada, describing the , massacre of Karba1a. \


Sir Lewis Pe11y, The Miracle Play of Hasan and Husain, London, W.M. H. Allen and Co., 1819, Vol. 1., pXIII.


Peter J. Che1kowski, Taziyeh: Indigenous Avant-Garde Theatre of Iran, p5.6.

- 50 -

A co11 ecti on of bi ographi es of the martyred Imams enti t1 ed Rowzato Shohada wri tten by Kashefi (D. 1504), a preacher at the Teymuri d Court, became so popu1 ar that the customary Shi'ite recitation of the stories of the martyrdoms acquired the generic name rowzeh-khwani [lJ II


Later, whenever there was a gathering to mourn the martyrdom of the Imam, a man would recite - eloquently and dramatically - passages from the book to the accompaniment of wailing and lamentation. Centuries after the event, although many other books have been wri tten along the same 1i nes, and a1 though the narrati on of the sufferings and martyrdom of the Iman have undergone changes to the extent that the narrati ves are now in full verse and reci ted by


heart, none the 1ess the procedure is sti 11 call ed Rawza-Khwani. The reciters of the book usually chanted the passages to effect a greater impresison on the audience.

Thus, the outstanding chanters

had to have a good voice and some knowledge of Iranian music. In the first year of the 16th century when, under the Safavid dynasty, Persia, which had always been a strong cultural power, again became a political power, Shi lite Islam was estab1 i shed as the state re1 i gi on and was used to uni fy the country especially against the aggressive Ottomans and Uzbeks who were adjerents of Sunnite Islam. The Muharram observances received royal encouragement; commemoration of Hosain's martyrdom became a patriotic as well as a religious act [2J. Ta'ziya plays may be divided into several categories.

One of them

is comic and light religious plays which can be divided into two groups:


Navabpour, OP cit p61.


Peter J. Che1kowski Ope cit. P.6.7.

1. c Umar ,

Plays which are about the rightly-guided Caliphs (Abu Bakr, and CUthman) and which in fact poke fun at them.

It has been

menti oned that when the Shi a sect became the offi ci a1 re1 i gi on of Iran duri ng the Safavi d peri od, emni ty between the Shi a and the Sunni s was continuously encouraged by the government of the time in order to compete with the powerful Sunni Ottomans of Turkey.

Thi s state of affai rs prevai 1ed unti 1 much 1ater times and only



during the reign of Nadir Shah Afshar did it relax somewhat.

It was

inevitable that plays of this kind would come into existance.


examples of thi"s class of play, The Battle of Khaybar, The Garden of Fadak, The Caliphate of IUmar, Yazdigird, and The Battle of Trench may be cited.


Comedies whose




not about the


These plays are not as riotous as the former group and

most of the stories are taken from the narratives of the Quran.



Among these are Yusuf and Zu1aykha, The Binding of the Thumbs of the Demon and Solomon and Bi191s.

Another group of plays that are concerned with the events after the tragedy at Karba1a,' that is after the martyrdom of Imam ~usain, like The Remorse of Yazi d, The Causes of the Returni ng, Shahrbanu, and The Secession of Mukhtar.

The stori es and characters of Ta Iziya drama are all known by the audience in advance, and all are written in poetry. these stories came from the tragedy of Karba1a.' do not regard the unities,


The Ta Iziya plays

and there are no barriers of time and

- 52 -

the space.

Most of the Ta' ziya repertoi re i ncl udes Shi lite stori es

ei ther from the tragedy of Karbal a or Qurani c stori es as its core, and the pl ays are based on a development of these stori es.


texts of Ta ziya pl ays were simpl e but the stori es were strong I

enough to engage the parti ci pati on of the audi ence.

These texts

gradually became more developed and literary. In fact, it may be sai d that the 20th century rural Taziyeh is the unconscious avant-garde of the 'poor theatre' [1]. The tragi c story of Ta' ziya pl ays is buil t around the character of Imam Husain.

The female characters are played by males, often by a

young boy.

Regarding the characteristics of Ta'ziya, the principal requirements for a performer of Ta I ziya (ta I ziyakhwan) are that he shoul d be educated,





fi ne

voi ce,




experi ence


performers of Ta'ziya recite their part from a

script that is given to them an hour before the start of the play, and they have not practiced it.

Each script contains only the


poetic lines relating to the actor (shabihkhwan).

The script is

then acted out with the addition of the movements and actions of the actors themselves as they perform, influenced by the experience they have gained in the part in previous years and under the guidance of the director (fihrist gardan).

A great variety of melodies is used

and the poetic lines can be sung in varius dastgahs. (shabihkhwan)

is free

The performer

to choose the melody he likes.

And as a

result of this many folk tunes and old melodies have been preserved.


Che1 kowski,

Ope Ci t. P. 16.

- 53 -

Female shabihkhwans wear a long black dress that reaches their ankles and they also put on a black veil and scarf.

Those who play

the Imams and the Martyrs wear a black cloak (qaba) together with a black turban [1].

The thi ng whi ch makes ta' ziya spec; a1 is the fact that most of the performers




from amongst the

best and most

educated people and the ceremonies are performed out of devotion to the Prophet's family.

Naqqa1i and Its Relation with Shabih-Khwani

Naqqa1i is an art whereby the naqga1

(story-teller) tells and

reci tes a poem or a story before an audi ence, emp1 oyi ng all hi s powers and performing all

the roles.

In the course of this

recitation the nagga1 aims to communicate interesting pieces of advice.

These characteristics are enough to show that he must

c1 early have total control over hi s voi ce, so that he can vary the pi tch and tone wherever he wants at just the ri ght moment yet preserving the balance; and so that he can increase or lessen the volume at will and according to the requirements of the subject. must






different moods




expressions, sometimes needing to show anger, love, disobedience or oppression.


Murtaza Hunari, Ta'ziya Dar Khur, Culture, 1955 A.D., P.7

- 54 -

Ministry of Art and

And he has smoothly and wi th ease to combi ne hi sinner wi shes and desires with the running tone of his narration and show their reflection in his facial expression.

He has to speak like a hero,

laugh with the audience, cry with them, cry out with them in joy and j oi n them in gri ef and mourni ng.

Until twenty or thi rty years ago

naqga1s sometimes used to put on chain-mail


and helmets,



likewise gave these also to their pishkhwan to wear [1].

Thus they

wou1 d act out the death of Suhrab as they narrated it.


when they were going to put on a show about the killing of Suhrab,



shl rzact or Isfandiyar they wou1 d i nvi te the 1eadi ng members of the local quarter (maha11a) to the gahva khana. fell

on a Thursday evening.

Most of these meetings

And at the end of this type of

gathering the naggal would be asked to intercede for Suhrab, Shirz~d and the others and perform rawza.

He used to sing and pray.

It is

i nteresti ng to note that even today two parti cul ar trai ts, cl early those of the nagga 1, are evi dent in ta ziya: fi rst the mournful I

signing in certain of the dastgahs of Iranian music as used by the mazlumkhwan-ha (victims) and which is a hang-over from religious . naqqa 1i .

Second, the exaggerated modes of expression full of 1i fe

and pomp as used by the ashgiya (wi cked ones) and whi ch is a hang-over from epic naggali.




is man who

beginning of the show.

- 55 -







The Bride of the Quraish (or the Bride of Bi19is) One of the theatrical presentations especially for women which may be called a kind of female religious or miracle play is The Bride of the Quraish.[l]

This play is usually performed on the occasion of the Birthday of the Prophet Mu~ammad or on the anni versary of hi s Sendi ng. players, all women, number from fi ve to seven.


The performance is

customarily opened with prayers and prai ses of the Prophet and Imam Al i~

The story in bri ef is thus:


on the thi rd day after the death

of Lady Khadija (the wife of the Prophet and mother of Fatima), the , Quraish tribe holds a wedding celebration and some women are sent to


the Prophet in order to i nvi te hi s daughter Fatima . to attend.


motive for extending this invitation is to show disrespect to her in her mourni ng and sorrow, and at the same time to fl aunt thei r own position

and wealth.


Prophet declines




Fatima, but Gabriel is sent by God to instruct him to let her go. But Fatima who has only old and ragged clothes to wear is ashamed. At that instant Gabriel and several other angel s apprear bringing ri ch garments and ornaments for her and she goes to the weddi ng wearing attired,


The bride,



Fatima . so magnificently

suddenly suffers a stroke and dies on the spot.

Quraish tribesment prostrate themselves before




kissing her

hands and beggi ng her to intercede wi th God so that the bri de be brought back to 1 i fee



prays and the bri de is revi ved.

Manyof the women assembled for the wedding accept Islam .

[1 ]


Bahram Bayzai, Op Cit. P.P. 162,163. - 56 -

This play is accompanied by the rhythmic beating of tubs, poetry, and song, and the performers wear special costumes.

The spectators,

all women, assist the performers in the production.

During the

course of this Mawuludi (Nativity) gathering, whoever has a special need or wish prays to God that it be granted [1].

Muharram Commemorations, Rawia-Khwani













religious tale, the dramtic narration of the life and death of Shi lite




reci tal s


Rawza-Khwan1 is static.





- is The narrator, a mullah

seated on a rai sed pul pi t, hi saudi ence gathered ina semi -ci rcl e ei ther ina house or tak iyya.

Rawia-khwani uses partly narrati on

and partly singing; when narration, the same style as naqqal i is -

used and when singing, one of the dastgahs of Persian traditional music which is mostly sad and mournful.

In cities such as Meshed, where the priests set their faces against theatrical representations, the populace attends ruzakhana, or rectials of tragic tale, which are given by the mull ahs in di fferent houses. Three or four pri ests wi 11 be hired by a pious man to give a recital, and the hearers attend in black clothes and carry large pocket handkerchiefs. It is de rigueur to weep profusely, even though some pri ests have not the power of movi ng the the listening crowds; but to be unmoved stamps a man at once as an unbeliever. The priests say that such a one will be consigned to hell at his death, while every tear shed in remembrance of Husein washes away many sins [2].


Dr M.J. Mahjub, Traditional Persian Drama, Ope Cit. P.ll


Ella C. Sykes, Persia and its People, P155-156.

- 57 -

Rawia-khwani and its more developed form Ta'ziya-khwani, greatly helped to preserve Persian classical music.

Persian traditional

music survived under religious cover, especially that of Ta'ziya [lJ


One of the important activities which commemorate the month of Muharram is the formation of the Dasteh (group).

A Dasteh consists

of a group of people gathered into a religious procession. wearing black,

they begin with processions,

breasts, and singing sad and grieving songs.


beating their bare

These songs, which are

called Nawheh, reflect the Shi'ite Muslim's sentiments towards the q

martyrdom of Imm Husayn. . (\

When the Muharram begi ns, the devout gi ve up shooti ng and their usual amusements. They dress in black, leaving part of the chest bare, and wal k wi th naked feet in the di fferent processions, beating their breasts with much vigour. Princes and merchants j oi n process ions for one, two, or more days, especially if they have recovered from any illness [2J These dastehs may be observed at their best during the last ten days of Muharram, until ~shura, the day of Imam ~usayn's martyrdom. •


-of these dastehs show the scenes of<.-Ashura with great theatricality.

[1 J

R.A. Khaliqi, Sarguzasht-i-mus1 qi- y i Iran)~afi

Ella C. Sykes, Persia and its People, p149.

- 58 -


Scenes such as the cut off and bleeding head of Imam Husayn placed •

upon a tray accompanied by the singing of Quranic verses or the


(the actor's body is concealed from the spectators); camels with hundreds of pigeons flying over them;

horses painted to appear

covered in blood representing the famous horse Zu1janah of Imam H.usayn;


(actors acting as lions),

drul1111ers and musicians

playing sad melodies, groups of musicians playing lutes, clarinets, trumpets and tab1 (big drum) could be observed in these processions and tragic carnivals.

These events took place in the streets of

cities and villages in Iran.

Binning gives a description showing

how ta'z;ya and these festivals were related. Towards the end of October, the Moharram festival commenced. This feast is of ten day's duration, ...• The principal day is the tenth and 1ast, call ed the ashoora or more corrvnon1y, roozi kat1 (day of massacre), as on thi s day Hussei n was slain at Karba1a. Many Persians fast during this day. In vari us parts of the ci ty, were erected tak iyas or temporary theatres, roofed with canvas, in which was represented a kind of dramatic performace, celebrating the melancholy fate of these holy personages, as sty1 e of drama much ak into the religious shows, denominated mysteries and moralities once common in Eng1 and; and as in those shows, the fema1 e parts are acted by boys [1]. However, these re1 i gi ous ceremoni es and festi val s were parts of a ta •ziya as a who1 e and nawha-khwani, rawia-khwani, and dasta all •

helped to present traditional Persian drama and traditional Persian music.


Robert B. M. Binning, Two Years' Travel in Persia, Ceylon, Vol. II, London. W. M. H. Allen &Co, 1857, PP 409-410.

- 59 -

Traditional Music in Iran and Its Relation with Iranian Traditional Theatre

While the nature of Persian music is already known to the Persian people, it may be necessary to give a brief background and to explain some of the technical aspects of traditional Persian music in order to give some idea of the subject to non-specialist readers.

Historical Background

Owing to religious, social and political pressures, Persian music has the pecul i ari ty of havi ng developed very slowly over the past 3,000 years.· Research has been hindered by the lack of material and by the fact that, until the twentieth century, most music was passed down by rote and was not notated.

However, we can be fai rly sure

that present-day Persian classical music is similar to that of ancient Greece.

Both kinds of music are improvised using melody

types (nomoi or dastgah).

The Sassanian period was a golden age for

the flourishing of Persian music.

From A.D. 224 to 642 musicians

enjoyed an exalted status at their court and music flourished, especially

under King Khusraw Parviz





Many -


mus i c i ans worked under hi s patronage [1], such as Ramti n, Bamshad, Nakisa, Azid, Sarkash and the most important - B~rbad.


H. Farhat. (Iran Art Music), New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. ed Stanley Sadie, London 1980, P. 292

- 60 -







a high



- It was only at the court of the Samanid dynasty


(874-999 A.D.), based at Bukhara, that an important revival of Pers ian 1i terature and musi c took place.

Thi sis where Ibn si na

(980-1037 A.D.), an important writer on music, lived and worked. Besides being a doctor of medicine and politically active, he wrote _ o,}



_ Q,



on music in the Kitab-Shifa and the Kitab-Najat. 7\


Among the great Persi an theoreti ci ans during thi s peri od we shoul d

- --

include the name of Al-Farabi

(872-950 A.D.), whose writing on

scales, intervals, modes, rhythms and the construction of intervals became the basis for many later Muslim theorists [1].

Unlike Ibn sina, he was a practical musician and also a member of the Sufi branch of Islam.

The Sufis, in contrast to the main branch

of Islam which on the whole disapproved of music, believed that it was mainly

through music





that people could achieve a closer they

championed music,




significant that most of the important Persian musicians of the late medi eva 1 and modern peri od were ei ther members of Sufi orders or influenced by them.



Farhat, The Dastgah Concept of Persian Music, (Diss. U.

California), 1965 P.7

- 61 -

In addi ti on, many of them wrote mysti c poetry.

Ouri ng the twel fth

century, many of Farabi' s works were transl ated into Lati n, and through the Arab presence in Spain his works came to be used widely in European universities.

This was one of many important means by

which theories from the East were incorporated into European culture [1 ].









to write

treatises as they had done under Arab domination.

However, the terrible reality experienced by the Persian people during the Mongol period left a legacy of great mystic poetry, which is of importance in the history of the country's music.

The history

of poetry in Persia has always been closely linked to that of music, whi ch poetry featuri ng si gni fi cantly in the musi c. in1ude






Promi nent poets





fourteenth century poet Hafiz, whose poems have been used in Iranian • music for a long while.

Works of art from the Turko-Mongol period <'-

depict many instruments, including the lute (ud), the harp (chang), the kettle-drum (gudum), cymbals (sinj), the oboe (surna), the vertical flute (nay), the psaltery (q~anun) and the trumpet (buru)[2]


Ella Zonis, Classical Persian Cambridge, Mass., 1973, P.33


H.G. Farmer, An outline History of Music and Musical, A Survey of Persian Art, ed. Pope and Ackerman Oxford, 1939:-

P.P. 2783-2804.

- 62 -






of Persian culture



dynasty, after many centuri es of forei gn domi nati on.



Un1 ike other

arts whi ch f1 ouri shed in the Safavi d era, musi c was not favoured. This may be linked to the renewed emphasis on religion.


Safivids made the Shia branch of Islam the official state religion; while encouraging religious writings, they opposed the deviance of the Sufis, who had always been the main supporters of music.


this time music lost its social standing and respectability and consequently suffered a loss in patronage.

From the si xteenth century to the ni nteenth century, no important treati ses were wri tten on the theory of musi c.

Despi te the early

preoccupation with the theoretical side of music, this lapse created the idea among musicians that in fact their music had no theoretical basis, but was a purely practical art.

It ·was during the twentieth

century that there was a renewed interest in theory.

At the

begi nni ng of the century there were two si gni fi cant fi gures in the field of Persian music, Mirza (Abdullah [1] and(A11 Naqivaziri. [2] Another most important fi gure at the time

- -



was Musa Marufi [3].

Persi an tradi ti ona1 musi cis an art whi ch had tradi ti ona11y been confined to small groups of performers, often just one or two and a small audience.


Kha1iq1, Ope Cit. P.P. 115.120


See Kha1iqi, Sarguzasht-i Musigi-yi Iran ,Ope Cit, II edition


Ibid P.112

- 63 -


Persian traditional Music

Traditional Persian music or Iranian classical music was rarely performed in public before the twentieth century.

This was a result

of the hostility of the religious authorities.

Music was restricted therefore to royal courts, parties at private homes, and to the gatherings of certan Sufi orders. is usually played by a small group of performers. instruments are gentle and quiet. improvisatory and creative.

Persian music

Persian classical

The nature of this music is

The core of each piece is a brief and

simple musical idea which the player expands during the performance by means of improvisations into a large and elaborate composition.

This repertoire, therefore, is merely a point of departure and source of inspiration, performer and composer.

in which the musician is at once both As a result,

no two performances by

different musicians will the same, and even performances by the same may differ.

A variety of terms or names are referred to identify

Persian music:

M~siqi-yi-Asil (noble music); Dastgah-i-musigi, or





the music of the Radif and Musigi-yi-Sunnati (traditional music). The repertory is known as the Radif which literally means IIRow

li •

The radi f of Persi an musi c i ncl udes about three to four hundred pieces known as gushaha.

The exact number is not known and there is

continual disagreement about this among musicians.

- 64 -

Persian Traditional Instruments

The instruments most used for classical music in Iran are generally quiet,




ornamental nuances.

tone which





Usually a single melodic instrument is used,

with the accompaniment of a tunbak (goblet drum) in the rhythmic parts.

The melodic instruments used for the performance of classical music in Iran are: tar and the sitar, from the family of long-necked lutes; a bowed stringed instrument, the kamancha; a struck zither or -

dulcimer, the santur and a vertical flute, the nay. wi de1y used throughout Iran.

These are

All of the instruments may be used

alone or in ensemble, for solo work or accompaniment [1].

A Glance at the Technical Aspects of Iranian Traditional Music

Although founded on the same general principles as Arabic, Turkish, and even

Indian music,



music of


is an

independent and distinct system that must be understood on its own tenns.

The music of Iran has experienced many changes, particularly in this century.

Persian music is partly composed, partly improvised.


traditional music of Persia is perponderantly instrumental, but the style as well as the terminology is derived from vocal models;


Ella Zonis, Ope Cit, P.P156-175.

- 65 -

the words of both composed and improvised singing are usually taken from the great classics of Persian literature and from the poetry of Sufism,

the mystical

movement of Islam which has always been

concentrated in Iran.

The improvisations, which form the central portions of performances,


are based on a model - the radi f - whi ch a student must memori se painstakingly before he may improvise upon it in his own personal styl e.

The scales of Persian music are complex, using besides the whole and half tones found in Western music, three-quarter and five-quarter tones.

When Persian musicians use Western notation they employ


signs to supplement the system:

quarter-tone flat, and




to show a

(Sori) to show a quarter-tone sharp.

Rhythm is also complex, extending from the completely free, though mai nly i ntermedi ate forms, to the sharp, dri vi ng repeated patterns of the chahar miirab.

One of the most important elements in Iranian traditional theatre, both Ta'ziya and RU-hawi1, is traditional music.

Both Ta'ziya and

Ru-hawii employ special Radifs and Dastga ,hs to achieve their aim better.

However, certain Rad1fs and Dastgahs of Persian traditional

music with certain instruments have been used for each form, either Ta ziya or RU-hawii; sad and dol eful tunes for Ta ziya, joyful and I


rejoicing tunes for RU-hawii.

- 66 -









instrumental characteristics, is considered one of the richest kinds of music in the world.

In addition to the common intervals of Western music, Iranian music enriches









These i nterva 1s are not always quarter-tones, but

are constantly variable owing to their function.

The intervals used

in I rani an music are compri sed of the maj or and mi nor keys, plus those special quarter-tones which are characteristic of Iranian music.

Each Iranian Dastgah is based upon a very distinctive scale.


pos i ti on and preponderance of the notes in each scale creates the character of each Dastgah.

Iranian music consists of seven Dastgahs

and five Avazes (small Dastgahs), all of which have various parts called Gushas (corners).

The seven Dastgahs and five Avazes are as follows: Dastgah Mahur, Dastgah Shur, Dastgah Chahargah, Dastg-ah Humayun, Dastgah Nava, Dastgah Rast-panjgah, Dastgah Sihgah. Avaz Abu-(a~a, Avaz Bayat-i -Turk, Av-az Afsh-ari, Avaz Dashti, Avaz Bayat-i-I~fahan


Persian traditional music is a great and inseparable part of popular art and theatre in Iran.



It plays a major role in Ta 'ziya, Ru-hawzi

Khayma-shab-bazi, Nagqali, Shahnama-Kwani, Zurkhana, Rawia-khwani, Nawha Khwan1, and ShamaYl1-gardani.


See Ella Zonis, Op Cit p.p. 62-96 - 67 -

Ta'ziya Music

Over the course of its hi story of some thousands of years Irani an music has been affected by its contacts with civilisations and cultures such as those of the Greeks, the Turks, the Mongols, the Arabs and others.

These contacts have produced mutual inf1 uences.

At the same time Irani an musi c has borrowed from other musi c what was conduci ve to its growth and development, whi 1e preservi ng its own identity and lending the borrowed element an Iranian character. During the course of all the ups and downs that Iranian music has experienced it was in the Sassanid period that it reached is apogee.

The Iranian music that we have today is what has been passed down from the Qajar era. The music which is known in modern Iran as traditional music (muslql-yi aSll) is spiritual in character. It has been nurtured and' given its strengh by the real spiritual guides (i.e. not the clergy). It has been passed down to us by ear (by word of mouth). Regarding this music it has been said that music is a form of melody, that is, it is formed out of a comparatively large number of small melodies which in Iranian music are called ,Ushas. _The rushas follow a strict code or system which is ca led radif [1 • Every







represent, may be seen to have its own special effect.



But the

important factor in determining the dastgah's character is the style


of performance.


Dr Daryu·sh_SafVat and ~asan Mash~un, D~maia1a dar bara-Yi Musiql-yi- Iran, Intisharat-i Jashn-i Hunar, P.62

- 68 -

Mus i c i ans, for example have classed Mahur as joyful because of its natural intervals, although at the sme time sad melodies can be produced in thi s dastgah. performed which


sorrowful character.


In the dastgah chahargah secti ons are complete





Examples of this are the martial sections that

are sung in the zurkhana.

There is a gusha in this dastgah called

Rajaz in which a wedding tune is set, where as the gusha Mansuri in the same dastgah is sad and heart-rending.

The dastgah-i-humayun is also like this.

it is similarly on the

face of it a dastgah which produces sadness, but in its performance in the zurkhana we are on the contrary rather struck by its pompous nature.

The reason for thi sis the presence of the drum (Tonbak)

which works by dividing up and emphasising certain notes.

-Avaz-i -


Dashti is also ina sad key, but if it is performed in thi s

style it becomes transormed into something happy.

Thus we see that

every dastgah is a collection of numerous gushas, each of which has its own character, and that overall there exi sts no uni ty between the varius gushas.

Not all the gushas of the dastgah Mahur, for

example, possess the joyful quality which is attributed to this dastgah.

An examp1 e of thi sis the gusha Shikasta in thi s dastfah

whi ch iss imi 1ar to Avaz-i Afsh-ari, or the gusha Di 1kash whi ch is like Shur, or Rak which is very similar to Avaz-i Isfahan [1].


Riia Qasimi, Musigi Dar Ta'ziya, Maja11a1jl'Rastakhii-i Javan, N.90 1356/197';":'7. : . :p:. . ;.7~'l~ . ....::....:;...--.:....~~

- 69 -

In fact, unlke the avaz and the dastgah, every gusha more or less has its own particular character.

And because each gusha is a

melody and every melody must have a particular character, so some gushas are either very happy or very sad, while others are a mixture of the two.

In order to make an approximate judgement about the different types of Iranian music we can look at the intervals in the various scales.

In this fashion, therefore, if we look at the scales of


Shur or Si-gah we see that the intervals are, for example, of the order of three-quarters of a tone, three-quarters of tone, a whole tone, three-quarters of a tone, a whol e tone and so on.

And so

their intervals are moderate and are not greatly different from each other.

Thi sis the reason why, as regards thei r character, these

two dastgahs are tempered and do not excite strong feelings. Chahargah, however, is by no means uniform as to its intervals.


interval between its first two notes, for example, is three-quarters of a tone, between the next two one and one-quarter tones and between the third and fourth notes one-half a tone.

As a result of

the di fferences between the i nterva 1s a l ack of moderateness and uniformity is produced.


If exciting festive and epic pieces are perfonned in this dastgah, it is precisely because of this arousing quality which it has. Mlahur, however, has a natural scale and so when a sound is produced in Mahur it takes other sounds with it so that we hear everything as one sound.

Furthermore, it does not have qui te the same exc; t; ng

quality that the dastgah Chahargah has.

- 70 -

In this fashion we can say in general that Chahargah is exciting and Mahur has a natural scale.

Humayun and Isfahan have both excitement and gentleness.

Shur has a

scale of moderate character and in character Sigah too is similar to it; it also has a sad and sorrowful quality.

Nava is mysterious and

is executed in the scale of Shur, but its furud is not in the scale of Shure

Rast-i Panjgah, from the point of view of its scale, is

like Mahur, or calm and attractive.

And finally, the -avazes which have been derived from the dastgah


Shur generally powerful.



same quality as Shur,

but are more

For example, if we are looking for something sorrowful in


Shur, then we choose Dashti, or if we want to induce a sense of contempl ati on we use Afshari.

The thi ng whi ch fi nally determi nes

the effect is the style and method of performance [1]

How Music is put to use in ta'ziya:

Ta'ziya usually employs two kinds of music, vocal and instrumental. Pieces qit'as are most often played before the start of the ta'ziya •

for two reasons:

fi rst, in order to announce the performance and

attract people's attention, since ta'ziya is usually performed in an open space.


See, Ma~mud Karimi, Rad1f Avazi Musigi-yi Sumtati-yi Iran, M. Taql Masudiya, Tehran,Surash. 1985.

- 71 -

Second, in order to create the ri ght atmosphere and prepare the audience, loud instruments such as the tabl, duhul (large drums) and trumpet are generally used.

When the talziya actor gets ready for battle the music that is played is also martial music.

And as a rule this sort of music is

also used to divide the scenes.

At times, such as for the donning

of battle dress, the music aims to predict the turn of events and as such takes on a discursive role.

The non-vocal music in talziya by and large consists of attractive sounds that together serve to rei nforce and sometimes express the general

feeling of each scene as need be.

The decorative and

splendid aspects of its sound are recalled; they represent martial musi c.

The rei nforci ng and i nsti gati ng

inspiration and suggestion to the scene.

aspects 1end an air of The nawhakhwans on the one

hand, and the harmony of the trumpet, cymbals and drum (kus) on the other, create now moments of sadness wi th separati on, defeat and enslavement









sword-fights, the cymbal s are most prominent and conjure up the sound of clashing arms [lJ)




- -






Humayuni, Ana~\.tr-i-sazanda Ta Izia, Majalla-yi Rudaki, fifth year, Tehran 1 55, 1976 p5.

- 72 -

Although most of the singing in ta'ziya is done without instrumental accompaniment, thi sis not a1 ways the case.

At those poi nts when

this occurs the clarinet and flute (nay) is usually used [1].

During the performance the ta'ziya singers naturally have to observe completely all the details and niceties of the musical mode, the dastgah.

The choice of dastgah is also taken on the basis of

experience and it is not without reason that: ... each character maintained his singing in one particular key. ~urr would sing in Chahargah in order to show his bravery and bravado. The women wou1 d si ng in Humayun or Shushtarl. But the singing was always simple and was unaccompani ed by instruments except for sometimes when they would sing along with a clarinet or flute (nayy-i 1abak) especially in Bayat, Dashtl, Dayr Rahib and Ta'ziya-yi Su1ayman [2] Those who sing the parts of Imams generally sing in dignified modes such as Panjgah, Hudi and Nava.

Hazrat-i'Abbas, who is martyred in

the. 1ap of hi s father and took hi s severed hand up in hi s other



For this reason this gusha became known

as Rak-i rAbd Allah [3].

If the call to prayer is performed during

hand, sings the gusha Rak.

the course of the ta ziya it is doen so in Avaz-i Kurdi -yi Bayat. I

Balance is observed in the passages of question and answer, so that if the Imam and Hazrat-i (Abbas are involved in such a piece, and the Imam is singing in Shur, then 'Abbas will give his reply in Shur, also.

[1] [2]


(Abdullah Mu~tawfi, Sharh-i-zindaganiyi-man, Tehran, first ed. i 1mi, 1342, 1963 P. 164 ..


Yasami, -

Rashid 1937. P. 124

4 (-

Adbiyat Muasir-i-Iran. First Ed. Tehran, 1316, /I

A. Mustawfi, Ope Cit. p.390

- 73 -

The harmony on the one hand of the nawhakhwans (s i ngers of el egy)


and on the other of the instruments such as the drum (kus), trumpet and cymbal s sometimes conjured up mournful moments of separation, defeat and enslavement and sometimes scenes of battle.

In the

sword-fi ghts the cymbals are most promi nent in order to represent the sound of clashing weapons.

The drum (tab1) is used especially

when characters came on stage or when a decisive event occurrs.


the second instance the drum (tab 1) will fu1 fi 11 the functi on of predicting events.

The role of the clarinet and even the trumpet is

to p1 ay touchi ng and sad tunes duri ng the mournful scenes and so make them more effective.

In spite of all this these principal

instruments as a rule are played together and it seldom happens that they accompany the singing.

The reason for this is probably that to

have instrumental accompaniment mi ght work to the detriment of the poetry, in that it would be less clearly audible and so the audience would grasp less of its content.

So perhaps the fact that it could

hinder the singing and it audibility is the basic reason for this. [1].

Nawhakhwani involves singing in unison, employs interesting

and lively music . .••• Something about these groups (dasta) that is interesting is the harmony and smoothness of their movements together and thei r theatri cal qual i ty that sometimes becomes dance. In addition there is unison which features in Inaw~al (elegy) and in 'dam' and also the intricate adornments with abstract patterns-whi~h they move about, all of this giving the group (dasta) grandeur. The groups (dastas) usually move along with the rhythm of breathing while a single performer sings a nawba or someone p1 ays the cymbal s and the movements are patterned accordingly [2]



Bayzai, Ope Cit, p155.


Ibid, p50.

- 74 -

The music of speech in ta1z;ya

What distinguishes ta'ziya from a modern play, aside from the characteristics of the play itself, are the facts that its speech is in poetic form and it is recited in a musical form.

Iranian Musical Instruments Used in Ta'ziya

The Nay


simplest and


the oldest instrument used



performance of Persian Classical music and in ta'ziya is the Nay. The Nay is made of a long piece of cane.

Near the lower end are

five holes on the front and generally one hole in the back.


player holds his instrument slanting downwards, blowing across the upper edge.

An unusual feature of the Nay is the two di fferent

mouth positions.

To blow the tones of the lower register, the

player holds the instrument against one side of his nearly-closed lips.

The notes of the upper register are produced by inserting the

end of the instrument between the two upper front teeth.


The duhul is a shallow drum used to accompany the surna.

The duhul

is a large instrument from 60 to 120 centimetres in diameter but its depth is only 20 centimetres.

The duhul is covered on both sides

with goat skin and is played with a wooden stick.

- 75 -




The naggara is a kind of large kettle drum that is actually a pair of drums, one larger than the other.

The body of the naggara is

made either of copper or heavy pottery, to which sheepskin is attached by means of a rope.


The karna is an extremely long trumpet, often seven or eight feet in length, with a wide bell. Surna-

- a shrill wind intrument, is the 'principal instrument for The surna, celebrations in Persian villages.

In the cities, it is played for

rel i gi ous drama such as ta ziya.

The surna is a short, coni cal


instrument of about thi rty fi ve centimetres in 1ength, the bore being two and half centimetres at the top and seven centimetres at the bell.

The mouth pi ece is a double reed.

European instruments

such as trumpet, cymbals and clarinet are also widely used in ta'ziya music.

- 76 -



The term taglid refers to a kind of Iranian play that is light rather than sad in tone and strictly speaking consists of comedy. Originally the play was performed quite freely at no particular site or time, and depending on what was possible, might be performed on a platform set up over a hawi or small pool, in a garden, on a tea-house platform or in a hall.

Eventually, as it evolved, it came

to be performed on the stage of an auditorium.

Tag1id dates back to

Safavid times, though it was in Qajar times that tag1id had one actor, then parallel with other theatrical trends it developed in the direction of a full play.

The principal performers of the first

of these light and amusing plays were the da1gaks or jokers.


da1 gak s job is to tell jokes and make fun of peop1 e, and these I

jokes rely basically on improvisation.

By and large he uses his own

mental powers and imitates what he finds in nature.

In fact, the

da1gak works by mimicking and exaggerating nature.

Despite the

development of theatri cal knowledge improvi sati on sti 11 persists to an extent.


Gradually the plots in tag1 i d expanded and instead of

one actor, have come to include two or more performers.

In addition

to this expansion the plot has also developed, and so too there have been developments with the characters and the creation of ro1es.[1]

[1 ]

Bahram Bayiai, Ope Ci t.

P. 51.

- 77 -

The Arab invasion abolished most of the pre-Islamic festivals which they regarded as pagan festivals. court

jesters and clowns,

festivals and ceremonies.


Pre-Islamic kings always had

these were

independent of the

Their arts somehow survived and even grew

and developed through different phases, one of these forms being the Maskhara,-Baz (clown) who was named Ghu1ak (lit. a small ogre).


fact, ghu1 ak was a funny character imi tati ng an ogre using a mask and wearing multi-coloured clothes.

Sometimes ghu1ak did not use a

mask but painted his face and then started with a funny and dramatic dance.

Bayza'i believes this character may still be found in puppet

shows in the south of Iran [1].

One of the first forms of tag1id was Ca1baii, a play without words, or in other words, pantomime.

The reason for this may have been the

lack of written text for this kind of performance.

La1bazi was

always based on stories which had a great deal of movement to fill the gap created by having no words.

Bayza'i in his Namayish dar













The scene is a garden and the characters are a

gardener, a passer-by and a tree; in this example, the tree is not used as a prop but is a character.

The passer-by quietly enters the

garden and goes across to pick some fruit from the tree.

In the

middle of this action, an amusing quarrel starts when the gardener

[1 ]

Bahram Bayza Ii


Ibi d.

P. 51 .

- 78 -

comes and catches the passer-by.

When the quarrel ends and the

passer-by is gone the gardener si ts down to rest wi th hi s back agai nst the tree, but the tree changes its p1 ace ina ri di cu1 ous manner and so there is another funny and amusi ng act between tree and gardener [1].


Tag1id was a result of the development of

theatri cal forms such as Maskhara -bazi and Bagga1-bazi (Lit. the play of the grocer), Kacha1ak-bazi (Lit. bald-play), and Suratakbazi or Ruband-bazi (Lit. play with mask).

In the latter, actors walked on stilts wearing long robes.


comedi es were performed in tea houses as well as in pri vate hou ses on the occasion of marriages, births, and circumcisions. still used in today's popular comedies [2].

Masks are

As with other forms of

dramatic art one can say that the Safavid era was a landmark in the development of Persian comedy.

This continued to develop until the

end of the 19th century and eventually became known as Takht-ihawif or Ru-Hawii and Siy ah-baz1.

The term Ru-hawii literally means

"over the pool", Takht-i-hawii means "wooden beds over the pool" and I

Sijah-bazi means "b1 ack p1 ay".

Ru-hawii theatre is the most famous

form of traditional comedy in Iran, comparable to Italian Commedia del Arte and French farce.

Sir John Chardin gives some information

in his description of traditional forms of amusement which were


Bahram Bayia'i, Ibid, P.52.


Farrokh Gaffary, Evo1 uti on of Ri tua1 s and Theatre in Iran, Iranian Studies, Autumn 1984, P. 372.

- 79 -

popu1 ar in the second hal f of the 17th century.

Thi s i nfonnati on

leads us to see how these comic fonns were mixed with games to amuse people. One ~annot well see it without having a dread upon one, especla11y when the Rope-Dancer to show his Strength and Acti vi ty, carri es a Chi 1d upon hi s Shou1 ders, one Leg on one si de, and the other on the other, that ho1 ds by the Forehead. They don't dance upon a strai tRope, as the Rope-Dancers in Europe do; but they make Leaps and Turns. Their finest Turn is this, They give the Rope-Dancer two hollow Basons, like Soop Dishes; he puts them upon the Rope, the bottoms of the Basons being one against the other and he sits in that Bason which is uppennost, havi ng hi s Backsi de in the hollow of the Bason; he takes two Turns, backward and forward; then at the second Turn, he causes the undennost Bason to fall dexterously, and rest upon that whi ch is uppennost, upon whi ch he agai n takes two Turns, and then makes it fall again, and he himself is astride upon the Rope [1]. These fonns of tradi ti ona1 amusement 1ater become more popu1 ar and were regarded as one of the fonns of the Ma' ri ka-g1 rio these dancers and other fonns,

Besi des

Chardin gives infonnation about

jugglers and puppet shows and Chashm Bandi (magic) another form of Ma'rika-giri. Thei r Jugg1 ers make use of Eggs instead of Ball sunder thei r Cups to p1 ay thei r Tricks withal: They put about seven or eight Eggs in a Bag, which they have stamp'd upon beforehand, and which they cause to be done by those of the Spectators, who have a mind to it; and in a moment afterwards they will cause these Eggs to become Pidgeons or Pullets . . . . • The Puppet-shows and Jug1 ers ask no Money at the door as they do in our Country, for they p1 ay openly in the pub1 i c Places and those give 'em that will. They intenning1e Farce, and Jugg1 i ng, wi th a thousand Stori e~ and Buffoo~eri es, whi ~h they do sometimes Mask' d, and sometlmes Un-mask d, and th, s 1asts two or three Hours: And when they have done, they go round to the Spectators and ask something; and when they perceive anyone to be stealing off before they go to ask [1]

Chardin, Travels, P. 202.

- 80 -

him for any thi ng, the Master of the Company cri es out wi th a loud Voi ce, and in anEmphati cal manner, That he who steals away, is an Enemy to Ali. As who should say among us An Enemy to God and his Saints. For two Crowns the Juglers wi;l come to their House. They call these sort of Diversions Mascare, that is to say Play, Pleasantry, Rail1erie, Representation; from whence comes our work Masquerade [1]. Besides the Persian Juglers, of which there are in all the Towns of the Kingdom, as I have been saying, there are Companies of Indian Juglers in the great Cities, especially at Ispahan, but who don't know any more than those of the Country. I admi re at the Credul i ty of many Travell ers, who have sei ously reported that these Jugl ers know how to produce in a Moment, such and such a Tree loaden with Flowers and with Frui t; make Eggs hatch upon the Spot, and a thousand other wonderful thi ngs of that Ki nd" [2]. These descriptions

are clear enough for




how this

development was taking place, as he menti ons Masquerade and actors wearing masks and he admires the ability of jugglers and conjurers. There were troupes of musicians and dancers in the seventeenth century.

These troupes were called Mutribha-Yi majlisi [3].

Mutrib was the name given to those creators of joy (tarab) whom we nowadays call goups of musicians or an orchestra.

There were two

sorts of mutrib: first, those whose sole profession was music, and second, those who played music but had other jobs besides.

At that time, minstrels or musicians were categorised into two groups.


Male groups consisted of a Tar player, Kamancha player and

drummer, plus one singer, one or two dancers and a few actors.

P. 203.


Chardin, Travels,


Chardin, Travels, P. 203. , Bayiai~ Ope Cit, P. 168


- 81 -

The dancers were in the main made up of pretty looking young men who wou1 d a1 so wea r women's clothes on occas i on for their performances. These groups performed specifically for male gatherings. However, there were also women's groups entertained both male and female gatherings, usually taking part in wedding celebrations and large festivities. Dependi ng upon the type of party gi ven and the di scernment of the host as to how much the group was worth payi ng, a choice would be made for either a first rate group of entertainers or rather in favour of a second rate group. Naturally, the first class entertainers had a more glamorous repertoi re and when i nvi ted to perform they wou1 d attend with a selection of trunks containing a variety of outfits for their performances. During the reign of Muzaffar a1-Din Snah, women's musical gourps such as Munavvar and Gulfn were highly fashionable and very famous [lJ. Accordi ng to Bayia' f, the fi na 1 development of the characters 1ike Ghu1ak, Maskhara Da1qak (clown), and S,uratbaz (actor with mask), was Si"yah, the main character of Ru-hawii plays.


The hilarious activities of characters such as Ghu1ak, $uratbaz, Da1 gak and Maskharaha, the sati rica1

songs of these jesters and

street entertainers, and the mimes, whether or not including dance


and funny performances, were all generally call ed Tagl i d and the peop1 e who performed these were call ed Muqal1 i d or Taql i dchl .


the numerous types of Tag1id some found a permanent form,


example Maskhara-bazi, Da1qak-bazi and La1-bazi.




R~~al "a~Kha1 i qi, Sarguzasht-i -Musi qi Dar Iran, Vol. I, Tehran, Safr~ 1f Shah, 1353/1974.

P. P. 470-471

- 82 -

Amongst those entertai ners one was known as Ghul ak-baz who waul d dress as a Div for their performance of a particularly funny dance; he woul d wear a mask for thi s performance and al so a colourful outfit.

The jesters whose performances were mainly satirical in content, who dressed in worn-out colourful clothes, and who woul d pass comi c insinuations and make strongly sarcistic remarks, especially against the wealthy, were called Maskhara.

Many of the characteristics of

thei r acts were 1ater taken by the Takht-i hawii or b1 ack-faced clowns [1].

The Movement of Tag1id Towards Iranian Comedy Theatre






important places

in which



development of tagl i d may have started was the royal court.

and Shah

'Abbas the Safavid ruler (1588-1629) for his enjoyment and amusement had a few Da1gak (clowns) the most famous of whom were Dal1a1a Qizl (a woman clown), Kacha1 Mu~tafa (Mu~~afa the bald) and the most distinguished, Ka1 terrible end.




Of these clowns Kacha1


had a

Fa1safi writes about him thus:

A story about the wiles of Shah tAbbas goes like this: One day whi 1st bei ng entertai ned by r~pe dancer~ he angri 1y orders his jester to leave the dals. The Jester who~e perogative it was to follow the king everywhe;e except t~ h~s harem, leaves the dais, only to return agaln wlthout the klng s knowledge. [1] Bayia'i, Ope Cit. P.P. 51-52

- 83 -

Upon discovering his presence, the king, whether through genuine anger, or in order not to lose face amongst his followers, draws his sword from its sheath and severs the jesters head from hi s body; then in venomous anger Shah f-Abbas descends to the royal stab1 es and departs 1eavi ng the poor man's body behind [1]. -'-


Karba1ai 1nayat, who was famous as Ka1 lnayat tInayat the bald} was a tal ented actor who perfonned di fferent short p1 ays for the Shah and his guests.

Besides the King's court and his Divan Khana (the

interior courtyards), coffee houses (gahva khana) became one of the


main places for perfonning taqlid.

Coffee houses were large places

mainly providing facilities for travellers, and one of the things they had was entertainment.

Coffee houses usually had a platform in

the middl~ for perfonning.

These coffee houses were maybe the first



p1 aces





pub1 i c.


perfonnances became regular and popular. -

It is in the reign of Nasir a1-Din Shah that we see that the Ru-hawii

theatre grows and reaches its peak.

Peter Chelkowski

bel ieves that the ta ziya was the groundwork which prepared the I

Irani an pub1 i c for a secu1 ar theatre by the end of the ni neteenth century.


Nasr Allah Fa1saf1, Zinda~ani-Yi Shah tAbb~s-i. Avval, Third Edition, P. 129, cited, H. Dr Bakhsh, Dalgakha-Yl-mashhUri-Darbari, P, 71-72.

- 84 -

The epic passion play of Iran had prepared the public to deal with modern drama. In some of its aspects it represents the early English-Latin mystery and miracle cycles, from which modern western drama evolved. Indeed by the end of the ni neteenth century it wa s on the bri nk of gi vi ng bi rth to a secular Iranian theatre. This does not mean that the religious theatre would have disappeared; rather it would have paralleled the newly-emerged secular theatre, grown from the ta'ziyeh. Unfortunately, the native intellectual elite that had resisted other western-motivated inovations in literature joined in the campaign against the ta'ziyeh as merely a backward and superstition-ridden ritual. The production of western-style dramas was encouraged and praised by the whole spectrum of the literate pubic, as well as by the government. [1] The Takiyya-yi daw1at (royal arena) indeed was not only used for the representati on of the ta ziya; it was bui 1t for that purpose only I

because of the re1 i gi ous authori ti es, but other comedi es such as ru-hawii were a1 so performed on the stage of the same ci rcu1 ar theatre.

This is clear from the following account:

This Mushira was a theatre near the Shams a1- f lmara which used to be call ed




did" just that.


And when we were to1 d to produce some tag1 i d we I was seven when we were brought there; there was a

play on at the Takiyya-i daw1at called Su1ayman and Bi1qis and it was p1 ayed by Sayyi d Muhammad Ta ziyakhwan. . I

Next there was Aqa


Mu'addab who founded the traditional theatre (Ti'atr-i sunnati). The ticket was one rial with two cups of tea •......





Allah Khan

also blacked up.

[1 ]

Peter Che1 kowski The 1i terary Genres in modern Iran. Iran under the Pah;avis. George Lenczowski, Editor, Hoover Institution Press, Stamford Unviersity, 1978, P. 360.

- 85 -

In fact no-one ever dared black up alongside him.

You'd remember

every word he sai d for the next fi ve years and sti 11 1augh about it.

Aqa Mahdi talked well and sang well and had a really beautiful

voice [1].

In the rei gn of Ahmad Shah, in addi ti on to homes and tea-houses tag1id was created.



in a few auditoria which had been

At this time also ta'ziya plays such as 'Hazrat-i Su1ayman

and Bi 1qi s' and 'Yusuf and Zu1 aykha' were bei ng performed in the Takiyya-yi daw1at at Tehran without any relation to the subject -matter of tAshu~a.


Tag1 i d has been performed as an entertai ni ng

play at' festivals, marriages and circumcision ceremonies for a very long time.


The taq1id groups were mainly a source of gaiety and amusement in many great celebrations and gatherings, but at the same time because of their critical nature they were also the cause of displeasure and anger on occasi on. change



The 1ack of a scri pt gave then the 1i berty to to








improvisatory skill s were mian1y used for expressing and looking into questi ons of interest to the general pub1 i c at any gi ven time.


These tag1ids would slowly develop in the progress of the show and songs and dances would also be gradually included.


Intervi ew wi th Mubammad Yusufi-: Associ ati on of Theatre workers and artists of Iran, Bulletin No. 2, 136071981.

- 86 -

Due to the fact that rel i gi ous authori ti es were agai nst pl ays and


play-houses, the taglid groups would also focus upon them as a subject


critici sm.







escalation of criticism and aversion of the religious authorities towards the theatre and in particular the theatre of the Dar al-Funun school.

Eventually the clergy built up their opposition

towards theatrical practice and under their instigation the general public



swayed against the

Dar al-Funun and finally

theatrical practice at that place was prohibited.

The factors which

stopped the progress of development of the theatre were firstly religion, secondly pressure from the ruling authorities in the form of censorship and thirdly the belief of the general public who saw the performances of the Muqallid as something bad.

Thus the


anti-Taqlid propaganda of the religious establishment forced the regressive trends in Taglid theatre.

The actors of comedies and joyous theatre were condemned and repressed;




kind of players,

repression was under


so intense that some retired



- -

professions, returned to the Maktabs and assumed the roles of Hajjis in their new lives.

The degree of pressure at the time caused great

players such as I smafi 1 Bazzaz, the master of Tag1 i d, after the closure of Dar a1-Funun to renounce hi s ro1 e in that theatre and later to assume the role of a religious thinker [1].

[1] Hiva Goran, Kushishha-yi Nafarjam, Intisharat-i Agah, 1981, P.9l

- 87 -


is b1 ack (Siyah).

He b1 ackens hi s face and hi s hands wi th burnt

cork and grease, and talks with the accent of fonner black Iranian slaves.

Maybe the origin of the black face comes from the time when Iranian Muslims brought black slaves from Mecca back home as servants. During the Safavid period, the Portugese who were involved in building military fortifications on the southern coasts of Iran also brought a number of black African slaves.

When the Portugese

departed they left the blacks behind [1].

folk tales.

They were various types of plays, historical, epic,

fantasy and plays dealing with everyday reality.

As ru-hawii was

improvi satory and creati ve the stories were rather simp1 e and not written.


Reza Khaki, The development of the black-face clowns in tradi ti ona1 Irani an theatre, Irani an Centre for Perform; ng Traditions, Shiraz Art Festival. International Seminar on Improvisatory Theatre, 19 August 1977.

- 88 -

The most famous character in ru-hawii is Almas, a black servant. Names

such as Mubarak and Yaqut are also used for the same


Characters in rU-hawii as in Ta'ziya had a special name ,

such as Siyah-p-ush (the actor who always acts as b1 ack), Shah-push -


(the one who acts as a king), Vazi r-push (the actor who acts as prime mi ni ster), Zan-push (the one who acts as a woman, usua 11y a man dressed as a woman).

The mai n character of rU-hawii, Siyah, ,

usually criticises and makes fun of upper-class people, governors and even Islamic authorities, making use of funny and amusing language, and improvising whatever they thought would be appropriate at the time.

Ru-hawii is a social and political fonn of theatre as well as being entertaining.

One of its most important elements is dancing,

singing, music and improvisations. The ru-hawzi is a type of folk drama, staged in private parties and festival s. Using certain stock farcical characters, the actors improvise upon current local gossip, historical or political events, and Iranian lifestyles in general. It was intended that this nostalgic revival of the ru-hawzi would provide a fresh impetus to the world avant-garde theatre [lJ. [1] Che1kowski, The Literary Genres in Modern Iran, Ope Cit. , P. 361.

- 89 -

Improvisation Improvisation in rU-hawi1 is such that everything is left up to the perfonner, wi th the resu1 t that each perfonnance is di fferent and apparently new. ski 11

The actors in ru-hawii possess varying degrees of

and abi 1 i ty.

For thi s reason,

sometimes when one of the

actors is rather weaker thi s gi ves greater room to the stronger actor and lets him swing the perfonnance the way he likes. this


At times

becomes to pronounced that the stronger and more

subtle actor assumes overall control of the whole play. The actors in ru-hawzi need most especi ally to have a good know1 edge of each other's character, acting ability, inclinations, taste and all the other things that have a bearing on the perfonnace.

Indeed it is

these factors whi ch most of all detenni ne the shape the perfonnace is to take. And the more the actors know each other the closer they are to each other, the more successful they are at improvisation.

The process of improvi sati on in ru-hawzi is just the same as it is in Iranian music.

The Iranian musician freely improvises within the

structure of a dastQah in vari ous gushas and p1 ays questi ons and answers within the limits of the dastgah. The perfonnance of ru-hawzi is the same: the players.

the basic theme of the play is detennined by

Each actor assumes a role and within the estab1ised

framework improvi ses by means of acti on and reacti on.

The rU-hawz1

actor must be good at speaki ng, not in the sense that he shou1 d simply speak well, but rather that he shou1 d be capab1 e of gi vi ng a discourse about a couple of lines that lasts some hours. speaking ability is helped a good deal by a powerful imagination.

- 90 -


As a ru1 e the performer tal ks for hours about soci a1 affai rs that are going on around him.

The Style of Acting in the Performace of Itakht-i hawii


As has been said, the acting in takht-i hawii plays relies upon a basis of the one man da1gak




this term

signifies acting and clowning according to the performer1s character and potential for


imitation of others. There were, in the past,

be it in the context of the family, the local neighbourhood or the town, individuals who were particularly witty and gifted in the way of mockery and bei ng amusi ng and who used to make peop1 e 1augh by gesturing and mimicking others. In addition, they understood peop1e 1s points of weakness and where they could be criticised, and they did just that.

By constitution these individuals were witty,

amusing and always ready with a quip.

These sorts of people

gradually, as a resu1 t of thei r c1 owni ng and the reputati on they gained therein, began to play at parties and gatherings and found themse 1ves

begi n

si ng1 ed








These short and humorous one-man plays gradually became professional and eventually this had the result that they left the private environment and came to be performed at large public gatherings. Most of these i ndi vi dual s had other jobs as well, but gradually accordi n9 to the strength of thei r interest they abandoned thei r original jobs to concentrate on earning their livelihood from acting.

- 91 -

These people gradually attained mastery without recourse to any particular teacher or master.

In fact

their real

teacher was

society and the people around about them, and they became skilful in thei r art by imi tati ng the way certai n peopl e wal ked and spoke, thei r accents and amusi ng acti ons and the way of 1i fe of ordi nary people.

In fact their work consisted of a highly polished wit and

the ability to spot those weak points, which lent themselves to criticism










exaggerate such poi nts as they found and make a pl ay out of it. Gradually these people gained experience and special expertise in this kind of role. stature


thei r

In other words, according to their physique and style






particular skills in the perfonnance of an individual role such as



that of the 1andowner, the .Hajj i or the governor.

Thus in group

perfonnances it was immediately apparent who would take which role. Without any director or anything written down, they simply had a general scheme for the plot as a whole amounting to no more than a few




woul d change

thei r



borrowing from the audience a hat, a shawl or a stick and with that they would immediately be ready to perfonn a complete play. Sometimes the skill of these people was such that in time their family name was changed and its place taken by the name of the role they pl ayed.




This was the case with famous actors like Zabih. Allah

Mahiri who became known as Zab~h Allih Siyih due to his outstandign

- .

perfonnances in the rol e of


Siyah I , and Babraz Sul ~ani who became

known as Babraz Khan due to hi s acti ng in the rol e of governor and Khan.

They usually imitated somebody thay had seen and knew and the

- 92 -

spectator also as a rule knew the person they were imitating. Because of this the audience could judge the skill of the actor when caricaturing someone by simply recalling the original character whom they knew themsel ves.

The di fferent parts in the ru-hawii p1 ays

were not always perfonned in one fashion, rather they varied in accordance with the type of gathering and the group who were playing.

For example, the 'Siyah' role, the basic part in ru-hawii, .

has been perfonned in di fferent regi ons and by di fferent actors usi ng di fferent accents and types of voi ce.

Let us say that the

basic origin of the Siyah in rU-hawii is the black slave who used to be employed in the houses of the notables. Thus it was natural that they di d not know Persi an properly and coul d not pronounce it well, so havi ng thei r own speci al accents when they spoke. suited to becoming a subject for mimicry and comedy.

Thi s was

And so usually

comic situations were created from this character,

namely the

cha racteri sti c of not understandi ng or pretendi ng not to understand 1anguage.

For exampl e the servant, who is the Siyah, very often

intentionally misunderstands what his master, the Hajji, says; then • after a great deal of wrangling he finally understands, but in his 1ast words he says somethi ng that shows that in fact he mi ssed the Hajji's point and in this way very funny situations are created.


can be said that most actors who play the various comic roles in Iranian theatre possess qualities that exist in the very parts they are






by exhibiting


characteristics, then added to this by imitating others and finally they found themselves acting in the plays themselves.

Most of these

people in their daily life also acted out the part they liked

- 93 -

and made efforts to move and tal kin the same way as the character they wished to represent [1].

Since rU-hawii plays were always accompanied by music and dancing, the actors also had a knowledge of these and at the requisite times would make use of these skills.

Most of the actors who played the

Siyah also sang and the javanpushs (young men) were also skilled at dancing.

one that is no sl ave to the 1iterary text and possesses a rich theatrical quality.

The essence of this kind of play lies concealed

in imitation and in the exaggerated portrayal of every action.


takht-i hawii actor aims, wi th hi s exaggerated pl ayi ng whi ch even goes as far as the costume and make-up, to portray for the audience some thing which represents a satirical version of his daily life.


[l]tAli Nasiria-n, S~ati Ali Nasiriin, an interview, Majalla-y; Rudakf,*No. 34-35. Tehran, 135j/1914. P. 5.

- 94 -

The takht-i hawzi actor has di rect contact with the audi ence and del i vers many of hi swords di rectly to the audi ence, and even at times brings them into the play [1


In takht-i hawii plays there


is always an alienation between the actor and his part, and this division is generally preserved. where the


This is the same as in Brecht

pl aci ng of di vi si ons lis the rul e.

In takht-i hawii

pl ays just as in ta I ziya the actors regul arly throughout the pl ay abandon their parts and their portrayal of those parts, thus showing that it is a play that is being witnessed.

Because ru-hawii does not use a wri tten scri pt the actor becomes most important of all, and it is he that effectively writes the script.




ru-hawii of

is performed the form of the play and the

the plot take on a new gUise.

This variation is

dependent on a number of conditions and exigencies that include the daily situation, the personal life of the actor and the spectators present in the auditorium or place of performace. is basically dependent upon the actor.

A ru-hawii play

The principal difference

between theatre that works from a written script and that which relies on improvisation is that the player is playing in the present and not in a past sense, and that the actor does not memorise his


William O. Beeman, A Full Arena, The Development and Meaning of Perfonnance Tradition in Iran, Modern Irani The Dia1etics of Continuity and Change. State University 0 New York, Albany USA, 1981. P.345.

- 95 -

part, but rather creates the part as he goes along.

It is important

for a rU-hawii actor to have a powerful imagi nati on whi ch can hel p him each and every moment to bring about a new happening through his words.





improvi sati on is hi s creati vity.


bea ri ng




Improvi sati on is re1 ated to the

powers of imagination, quickness of response and intelligence of the actor.

In fact rU-hawzf has the same bases as Commedia dell' Arte.

Due only to the improvi satory capabi 1i ty of the actors, the commedi a dell' arte openly confessed that it was usi ng but a restricted number of characters, always the same; however, since it was a 'comedians theatre' and not a 'text theatre' the apparent limitation of roles came as surprisingly rich source of possibilities, contrary to any expectation. Each comedian woul d perfonn the one ro1 e throughout hi s 1i fe; forever, he would be no-one else than Scapino, or Har1eqin or Matamoro [1]. It is indeed the same in rU-hawii.

Each actor whether he is

professional or amateur, would play the one character throughout his - - life; the rU-hawzi actor will be Siyah, ~ajji, Zan-i ~ajji, Hakim

forever and will play no-one else.

The Characters of Ru-hawzi The Siyah is the most important figure of rU-hawzi perfonners.


actor who usually plays this part is called siyah-push (the one who wears black).

Unlike the literal meaning of siyah push, he wears

most distinctive clothing, often red, but has a black face.



Enrico Fulchignoni, International Seminar on Traditional Improvi satory Theatre, The Structure and Growth of Commedi a dell 'Arte, Shiraz Arts Festival, August 19, 1977.

- 96 -












tradi ti onal Irani an petty merchant who has perfonned the pi 1grimage to Mecca.

He wears traditional petty merchant's clothes, a turban ~ajji

and a beard. Zan-i

(Hajji's wife), or Zan-Push (the one who

wears women's clothes) is a man playing a woman's role.


character is Shah-Push (the actor who wears king's clothes).

Make-Up ,-




hawzi is simple, with great exaggerations . . Actors are responsible for their own make-up and the materials they use are usually very simple. For example, Siyah uses burned cork or soot to bl acken hi s face, and Hajji uses white cotton wool, simply •

hanging it with a piece of string from his ears as a beard

Actors do not pretend that thi s make-up isreal i sti c and sometimes it happens that, in the middle of acting, in an exciting moment - ~ajji's beard falls off in such a case he will without any difficulty pick it up and put it on again. They use flour on hair, beards

and moustaches


- -










also uses sheepsKin for his beard and moustache,

and his bushy eyebrows.


Hajji has the most exaggerated •

make-up; to make a man into a beauti ful woman they use 1i psti ck. Wi gs and all sorts of tradi ti onal masks are al so used for demon; c characters and hence are attached to thei r heads.

For the same

character they al so use a hat with horns attached and makeup the face.

- 97 -


Scenery Ru-hawzi used no scenery except for the erection of a painted scene on canvas, usually a view of a garden, although there was no relation between the painted canvas and the subject of the play. the wearing of false beards and moustaches was usual for .actors. And by way of scenery they a1 so used to construct small frames out of wood and then in order to show a difference they wou1 d pai nt on curtai ns and draw them in front of the specators [1]. This was due to the turn of the century and the evolution of ru-hawii towards secu1 ar theatre. Before the mi d-twenti eth century theatre houses used a painted landscape as a backdrop. By the second quarter of the twenti eth century and the popu1 ari ty of rU-hawii plays, and their move to a permanent place such as La1azar, Tehran's centre of entertai nments.

Scenery in the European sty1 e came into

common use for ru-hawii play in theatre houses.

The other independant groups were not affected by this.

There was a

platform or simply the ground, if the troupe was performing in the coffee house, and indoors, a p1 atform covered wi th a rug cou1 d represent any 1ocati on, such as ~ajj i



store, ~ajji



home, the

street or any other place. The platform or the rug would define the performing area.

The characters would always announce to the

audi ence what the next scene wou1 d be; by goi ng around the carpet and returni ng to the same p1 ace the actor wou1 d change the scene, going for example from home to shop or vice versa, and of course he would announce that by telling the audience.




Nasir Najmi, Dar-a1-Khi1afa Tehran, Tehran, Sipihr, 4th Ed. 1356/1977, P. 259.

- 98 -

The rU-hawii

stage in private houses in the yard had the same

p1atfonn, using a wooden bed covered with a rug to cover the pool. The pool was always in the middle of the yard and audiences sat around the pool.

There was no curtain and no props.

An actor would

approach the p1 atfonn by passi ng through the audience.


they wou1 d change and apply thei r make-up among the audi ence.


musicians, usually three players, on Tar, Kamancha, and Tunbak, were seated at the side of the p1atfonn.

The actors and musicians would

not leave the perfonning area during the perfonnace unless there was a reason for doi ng so. They wou1 d perfonn for hours and hours, providing the audience showed they required it by paying attention, clapping and whistling.

Lighting In the past lighting in rU-hawii only fulfilled the function of making things visible, and most of the time the plays were perfonned in the daytime in the open or in qahvakhanas (tea-houses). during the day there was no need for extra lighting.


But at night,

with scientific progress and the discovery of electricity, in the course of time, lamps were placed over the stage and lanterns along the sides.

Later on still, with the further development of ru-hawzi

and its paving the way for professional

theatre, the role of

1i ghti ng gradually increased sti 11 further and modern projectors were also used. With the course of time and due to the wishes of the peop1 e and thei r enthusi asm for the comi c theatre of the

La1 azar

area of Tehran, in the years 1970-1978 more changes were brought about: sometimes theatres gave four or five performances

- 99 -

and employed all


scenery and lighting.

stage facilities

such as modern costume,

Gradually the plots of these plays changed

under the i nfl uence of transl ated and modern pl ays. And sometimes even in these plays, which were later known as 'Lalazarf plays', a but not strictly correct, sometimes tenn synonymous with ru-hawzi . not even a trace of the Siyah was 1eft and only the form of the production was perserved.

Music One





components of


has been the accompaniment of music.

ever since its Unfortunately, due

to the short history of written music, the musical compositions of the by-gone ages do not exist in any written or concrete fonn.


it appears that they have been handed down generation by generation, always by verbal recitation.

The joyous "and gay music associated


wi th the ru-hawzi is in di rect contrast to the sad and mournful • tunes played in the ta'ziya. The normal traditions of these plays suggest that the musicians accompany the acting throughout, and that sometimes the actors too take part in playing the music,


generally have good enough voices to accompany the musicians with songs.

The rhythm of the music is light and the emphasis on certain

notes is greater.

Among the most important instruments used in

ru-hawii are the Tar, Kamancha and Tunbak.

Musical Instruments in Ru-hawii The perfonnance of Iranian comedy without music is inconceivable, since by and large the singing and dancing is accompanied by the

- 100 -


kamancha, tar and tunbak and sometimes also a singer who is usually one of the musicians.

Each player, in addition to his special role,

has his own special dance, and sometimes also when performing their roles the actors sing.

The entrance of the actors is usually

accompani ed by happy and rhythmi c musi c and dance. Sometimes before the start of the play itself the players sing tasn1fs as a prelude, •

which is done in order to prepare the audience better.

The siyah

has his own special dance, which makes much use of movements of the arms and head with very delicate and supple movements to a 6/8 rhythm.


~ajj i

•s dance is gent1 e and he mostly 1eans on hi s

stick, feeling the rhythm with his whole body.

The Hajji's wife

behaves coquetti sh1y, and her movements and dance are thoroughly coquettish.

Sometimes the dialogues and conversation take on a

rhythmi c character to the beat of the tunbak, and thi s form of dialogue is occasionally repeated.

The relationship between music

and the actor in light Iranian theatre is an inseparable one.


The Tar (lit. string/chord).



One of the most popular instruments used in ru-hawzi is the Tar. This is one of the most popular plucked instruments in Iran, and probably dates from the late eighteenth century in its present fonn.

A long neck (about 95cm long) is fonned to a double-bellied

mu1 berry-wood body whose front is made of sheep-ski n membrane.


small bridge placed on the membrane supports six strings which are usually tuned in pairs (cc',gg,'cc').

Five of the strings are made

of steel, and the lowest one is of brass.

There are twenty-six

movable gut frets along the neck, usually covering a range of c to g.

- 101 -

The instrument is plucked with a small metal plectrum, which is held in the right hand, while the neck is supported by the left hand and the body of the instrument rests on the p1 ayer s knee. l

The tar is

used both as a solo instrument and to accompany voices as well as in ensembles to native instruments.

The Kamancha The Kamancha is a bowed, spi ked fi ddl e, whi ch is found commonly in the Middle East. The spike, extending as on the western cello from the bottom of the instrument, ends with a flat metal plate, which rests on the p1 ayer s thi gh. l

The round body has a f1 at sheepski n

membrane for the face, the neck no frets and the instrument is about the si ze of a vi 01 a.

The Kamancha usually has four stri ngs. The

1eft hand supports the neck of the instrument whi ch may be rotated while playing and the right hand holds the bow.

The Tunbak The tunbak or zarb is a one-faced goblet drum, the chief percussion instrument of Persian classical music.

The upper end is covered by

a sheepskin membrane which is glued to the wooden body.

An average

tunbak is forty centimetres high and the playing face is twenty-five centimetres in diameter.

The drum is played with the fingers and

palms of both hands, and is held diagonally across the player's lap with the widest section on his right thigh.

Some players have

evolved an elaborate technique by means of which they produce a wide variety of sounds.

- 102 -



S 9

34 em 90 em

67 em





3 I

) 19 em

Women's Theatre (Theatrical Games)

Bazi ha-yi namayi shi are in fact games whi ch are more in the nature of theatrical performacnes than games or pastimes. possible

to look

In one way it is

upon _b-_az_i_h_a_-YL1_·__n_a~m-~ay~i~·s~h~1 as



created in response to the restrictions encountered by women outside the home, and whi ch has 1imi ted them to fema1 e-on1y parti es wi thout men.


have created these games


something to do,

recreati on and so as to conjure up a joyful atmosphere. name given to these names is baziha-yi




(female games).

Usually the performers of thi s type of game or show are women who work without any prior practice simply by knowing what it is about. Baz1ha-yi zanana mostly have a social origin. The meani ng of bazi ha-Yi namayi sh1 is a seri es of domesti c games or pastimes that are both artistic and humorous, and have many of the qualities for serious, standard theatre. The varied and subtle movements of the actor in these games, and her expression of states of mind and reactions, are of the hi ghest order in the way they eloquently convey meani ng and comprehension; with only the smallest expenditure on costume and adornment the actress succeeds in portrayi ng well even the most difficult characters and states of mind. These games are performed by members of the fami 1y wi thout any pri or introduction [1]. Maybe one of the reasons for the formati on of women's theatre cou1 d be the prohibition of their participation in theatre groups in the past.

As a resu1 t of these 1 imi tati ons, women fonned thei r own

home-based performances in whi ch they were able to undertake and perform major dramatic roles which could reflect their talents and to establish a kind of female solidarity.

[1 ] AAnj avi

Sh1 razi , Bazi ha-yi 1352/1974. P. 129.

Namayi shi •

- 103 -




One of the most well known women's or domestic games is one that is found in most of the towns and villages of Iran. It is called 'Kha1a Raw-raw' (Aunty Go-go) and is usually performed at parties, weddings and circumcision celebrations when the women are on their own.


play is extremely popular and for this reason the groups of rU-hawii •


players and travelling mutribs (minstrels) also know it well and perform it at pub1 ic gatherings of men and of women.




groups and bands of mutri ... bs usually have boys wi th good looks who act out these p1 ays: they make themse1 ves up very stri dent1y and suggesti ve1y and act and dance coquetti sh1y to the 1i ve1y musi c of the tar, kamancha, tunbak and suchl ike.

It can be deduced from

reading the poetry used in this play that its subject concerns sensual and fickle women who have a different man every few days. The expressi on 'kha1 a raw-raw' was probably chosen because of thi s, since it means that the woman is in constant motion like a rawravak or child's go-cart.

The play shows a time when the woman is due to

give birth and does not know who the father is [1].

The play is like this: one plays Kha1a Raw-raw and another plays the midwife. ladies.

'Kha1a', meaning aunt, is a title given to respected old A third woman, who can play the drums, also participates

with the other two, and so does any other woman there who happens to be a player of the tar or another instrument.

Meanwhile the guests

present at the party also have an important role in the performance, and they both take part in the di a1 ogue and c1 ap and snap thei r fi ngers.





A. Anjavi Shirazi, Ope Cit. P.1.

- 104 -

The one who takes the part of Khala Raw-raw is a young and beautiful woman with a lively tongue who nonnally wears her ordinary party clothes, tying a few prayer chadurs to her stomach to make it look as if she is pregnant.

She makes up in front of everybody and gets

ready for the perfonnance. When she is ready she slowly begi ns to dance. and

At the same time she sings to the accompaniemnt of the drum




and the

question and answer session

There now follows an example of the poetry that is usual in

thi s p1 ay: Jl> ~tS'JI~ ~t..






Jl.;. :~l>

c...!J ' J.)J JJ JJ

~~Ij~ I~


~~ ~ ~l I~.J~~~ 4J~ '~.J~ ,~y.;; U~ ~~ :~Ij ·rJI~


WJL..·~l> (rJI~ uLJ.) (4.jMJ.r- uL ~

~tS'J I" 4..At..~ (~ J r~



(~ ~)






J) ~l> :JJ~

~~Ij~ I~

~J t~~


~i (~J~.;!~ 4.l~ (~J.r.> .~y..) 0~

.rJI~ WJI.>o J~ 'rJb ~L ~tS',.>I~

uL. ~






~ '1j'I.J~ ~L. J~ I~~...,s

The Woman in Labour



I~ 4..::...!J .JJ J .JJ .JJ tJJ J~ :JJ~ ~~I~ I~


Jl> :~Jj


Aunty Go-go-go, noodles an' rice, lentils an' rice, barley and wheat and all things nice. How many months is it now then? Why don't you give birth, Aunty? My dear, my darling, mY dazzler, I'm forever your companion on the road •••••.• to Kennan and I'll always be the fire that lies. hidden in your ciggies (hookah). Marrled a month and two months gone. I'm not in the mood.

This poem is repeated until she comes to nine months.

At this point

the rhythm of the drums changes and the mother-to-be starts howling and screaming to show that labour had begun.

- 105 -

And of course the

crowd present join in this section enlivening it with their clapping and snapping ther fingers.

-- .

6w' , • ..,.

;'J u~ ~ I.> ,; I" u~ ~b


~ L..~

~ l..~~ ~



i L• ~L•

~" J.J&4. 1

rl.) .).1u.11




I~ .,rt..)

~ .1


c.r.J-~ ($.1\

The Woman in Labour The rest, together

Uncle, uncle dear.


Oh dear, oh dear.

The actress pl ayi ng the part of the pregnant woman names all the members of her family, then all the parts of her body. The Woman in Labour ~.11


My ankles, ny temples, over here in the middle, down there in the middle. i~ t:..!4






And finally the time for delivery arrives and of the drum beat changes.

- 106 -

rl" .).J &4. 1 rl" .).1D.1' once aga 1n the


The Woman in Labour


Dear Lord, mY time has come but not the father of my child. Dear Lord, mY time has come but not the aunt of my child.

At thi s poi nt some of the women go into another room and bri ng a khwancha (white tablecloth). woman

They join in the delivery scene.


in 1abour produces a chadur or a bundl e from under her

stomach. One of the women from the crowd becomes the midwife and picks up the bundle and wraps it in swaddling clothes.

Then they

dance and sing ho1dinng the bundle which represents the baby.


course the cl appi ng and snappi ng of fi nges carri es on all through this.

The mother finally takes the baby and leaves the room dancing

[1 ].

Another of these women's plays is one called Qanbar Sima, which is performed at circumcision celebrations, weddings, the festivals held seven and forty days after the bi rth of an infant and at women's parties and get-togethers.

This is the story of a husband who has

been comp1 ete1y carri ed away by the hope of somethi ng better and wants to take a second wife.

The first wife, who is the mother of

hi s chi 1dren fi nds thi s out from Qanba r Sima, who is the master's servant and agent. Thi s p1 ay is performed by two women, one of who plays the children's mother and the other Qanbar sima.

Men are most

certai n1y never present at these all-women performances.

The woman

who now has a rival wife dances and acts, and in doing so employs mockery and makes faces; she mostly reinforces her words and


- --


A. Anjavi Shirazi. Ope Cit. PP. 3-7.

- 107 -

expresses her state of mind with her eyes and eyebrows and by moving her face and hands.

The whole play is accompanied by a group of women playing the tunbak and musical instruments. These sort of plays derive all their humour from daily life and develop themes from this origin.

As a rule the

plays have a critical side as well as being happy and comic.


poetic lines of the play are very long and deal wholly with the story of the husband criticism of him.


goi ng to take another wi fe and the wi fe

When the chi1dren ' s mother hears that her rival



baby had died and her husband has grown tired of lovemaking with his new wife her acting changes; she becomes happy and sings lines about the return of her husbabd while all present too rejoice.


Murcha dara

(she s got ants) is the name of one of the most



pri vate of these women


p1 ays. It is perfonned at weddi ngs and

parties when the women are alone together and basically is simply a striptease.

The play begins with the tunbak player cOlTlllencing,

then someone present gets up and starts dancing slowly. As the play proceeds the rhythm of the tunbak speeds up.

All through the p1 ay

the actress makes gestures to show that an ant has bitten her and so she takes off her clothes one by one until finally she is naked and dances passi onately.

Even young boys are forbi dden from attendi ng

thi s pl ay. Actress

live got an ant on me.

The rest

Where, where?

Ouri ng the course of these questi ons and answers the actress each time points to a part of her body and says: I

Here, here,

i I


- 108 -

During this short dialogue the actress each time indicates a part of her body and names it.

Some start with the head and neck, then go

on to the chest, the stomach, the navel and so forth.

The dance is

the most important part of this play and is performed skilfully and fl i rtati ously.



The rest Actress

live been bitten by an ant. Where's it bitten you?


It's bitten me here, here, here.

She starts once again to point to the different parts of her body. Actress The rest

What shall I do?


Take them off, take them off.

The actress takes off her clothes one by one and while dancing throws them aside. faster.

The rest all clap excitedly and the rhythm grows

The actress goes just as far as she likes in taking her

clothes off as she dances and this depends on both her own

- 109 -

inclinations and the privateness of the gathering.

This play is

performed in different parts of Iran under different names.[l]

Another of these women's games which is performed in private female gatherings is called 'Ay taw bi-bagh rafta budi' (Hey. did you go to One woman takes the main part. gets up in the middle

the garden?). of










The singer sings half a couplet and the guests who

are seated around togeter sing the other half in answer.


actress dances and snaps her fingers while she sings and the play is accompanied by the tunbak or daff.

Every time the woman dancing in

the middle names a part of her loved one's body. she points to that part on her own body.

-- .


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r"~ O~J ~ ~ ~ J~.A J,)J ~.)~ CSJ~ I

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~c.sJ~ o~J ~ .; ~

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~,)~ ~

A. Anj a vi shi razi. Op. Ci t. P. P. 54-56.

- 11 0 -


i';~ ($~



Hey, did you go to the garden?

The rest


Yes, yes I did.


Did you see my loved one?

The rest

Yes, yes I did.



Your loved one's head was painful.

And thi s conti nues unti 1 they reach the sexual parts of the loved one's body.

At this point the drum beat gets faster and the dancer

moves quickly and erotically [1].

Another of the most well-known women's plays, one which criticises men who take more than one wife,

is called 'Havu havu daram, havu ' ('live got a rival, rival, rival wife ' ). This part is usually

pl ayed by a woman who makes hersel f up to look as if she has been broken by a great deal of sufferi ng and made prematurely 01 d.


the blame for her becoming worn out and ugly is laid at the door of the




The play is performed with great skill


Knowledge of the lines and finer actions help the

actress to perform with greater vividness.

As a rule this play is

performed with tunbak accompaniment and the audience answer what the actress sings.

The actress describes on by one all the parts of her

body: first she shows then in good condition and the, in her second series of movements,

she shows them distorted and twisted, all

because of the rival wife.


A. Anjavi Shirazi Ope Cit. P.P. 101-106.

- 111 -

u-d.J ~J

Jy. r,)l~ J,)

.J ,y.

~IJ (S'.)LrjJ,) ~

~ .J~ .J~


r.) IJ

.J .,..

~1.J.i J~ ~


~ ~







.• t.,

.rw..J •

~J~.J r.)l~



rlJ t$;LrjJ; ~ ~ o,,~


rJ I"

rl~ J.JA


~ ~

Actress and the rest


.s csjJ')


•• ' - .,_ • ..,.. . J


.J • : .t··

.r:.J u•

~.) ~

I've got a rival, rival, rival wife. I've got no peace of mind.



When I had no rival wife, oh how happy I was. I had an eye just like this, but now my rival's made it this.

Or for example, the actress takes her foot and most probably kicks with it in the air, and then twists it and makes herself look 1arne. [l ]




- -

A. Anjavi Shirazi.

Ope Cit. P.O. 49-53.

- 112 -



Ouri ng


Qaj ar


especi ally

Nasir-al-D1n Shah who ruled Persia,

duri ng


rei gn


from 1848 to 1896, both the

Tragedic theatre of Iran (Ta'ziya) and the comic theatre of Iran (Ru-hawzi) grew in two opposite directions.

The personal interest

of Na~ir-al-Din Shah played a major role in this process. it is necessary to mention





characteristics and

interest in theatre to get a better understanding of the elements of the progression of the art.

One of the teachers of the French

1anguage who cme to Tehran in the mi dd1 e peri od of Muhanmad Shah -

Qajar's reign and continued to teach French in the Dar al-Funun College until his death in 1850 wrote thus in a letter:



Mi rza Taqhi -Khan Atabaki hand1 es everythi ng and doesn't care about forei gners at all. I vi st the Shah only at greeti ngs and since I have known Nasir-al-Dln Shah, and how he has left affairs to Amir, this is the first time that I see he has done somethi ng ri ght. It seems as if he has acted reasonably. He himself spends his time with women in his inner house, and can't handle governmental affairs. [1] Since Nasir-al-Oin Shah cared about free-living and the women in his •

haram of whom there were many, the need for havi ng humorous clowns and











Nasir-a1-Din Shah was fond of art, especially as an amusement.



[1] Dr Khalil ~aqafi, Maga1at-i-Gunagun, Tehran, 1322/1~~3 cited by

Husayn Nurbakhsh p. p. 18/19




- 113 -

Tehran. Sanai


Thi s can be seen c1 ea r1y in three descri pti ons of hi s Europe.


ou rney to

He writes about entertainments that he has seen.

In the

first he sees mime and dancing: In the evening we went to the theatre; there was a ballet and a representation in which nothing was spoken. A woman, who dances very well, and whom I had previ ous1y seen when I was here fi ve years ago, danced again tonight [1] In the second description he is referring to an opera: In the evening I went to the theatre, which is a small one of five tiers, and lighted by gas. It was crowded with people. I sat alone in the speci a1 box. Men and pretty women sang, and the perfomance was a dramatic version of an old legend, and was very good [2]. We left together, the Emperor going to his apartments, I to the theatre. This theatre was built ten years ago by the present Emperor, and is very handsome and roomy. The theatre had been closed on account of hot weather, but for the sake of our special amusement, and as an act of hospitality, H.M. the Emperor ordered the company to conti nue the perfonnances, payi ng them .£400 a night. [!he theatre was well filled, and the perfonnance was very good 3J. Nasir-a1-0in Shah, who saw everything as a fonn of entertainment, . made frequent visits to theatres on his travels, the effect of which prompted him to order the construction of a playhouse at Dar a1-Funun (Iran s fi rst modern co11 ege), and Takiyya-yi Daw1 at (the I

Royal Arena).

[1] A Di ary

ourney Louis De

[2] Ibid, pp142-143 [3] Ibid, p 244

- 114 -

Dar a1-Funun, the first European-style college, was founded by in




1851 by Amirkabir, the Prime Minister of Nasir-a1-Din Shah • . Mohanmad Shah di smi ssed Qaljnmaqam and put him to death in 1835, and Nasir-a1-Din Shah similarly dismissed Amirekabir in 1851 and put him to death in 1852. Amirekabir left lasting achievements, however, with the foundation of the Daro1 Fonun, Iran's first modern College, in 1851, and the establishment of a regularly appeari ng government gazette, which gave an impetus to printing. The Daro1-Fonun employed Iranian and European professors and used Persian and French in its courses [1]. Amirekabir, the prime minister of Na~ir-a1-Din Shah, was a great patron of a higher political system including education, art, and modern sciences.

It was he who in his short period of official duty

(1848-1851) took the first step in modernising Iran [2].



Hasan Moqaddam, •

cited by A.J.



Atai, .



scholar, there was a small playhouse built in Dar a1-Funun with a capaci ty of 300 [3].

Qaj ar ki ngs also had pri vate theatres;


, Ali Shah had two separate theatre s for men and women, and a group of actors acting for men and a group of actresses acting for women. For thi s purpose they were pai d by the government [4].

At the Dar

a1-Funun theatre, actors were European tutors, teachi ng at school s, who had formed their own group [5J.

[lJ A. R. Navabpour, Ope cit p8. [2] E.G. Brown, History of Persian Literature in Modern Times, Vol. 4 Cambridge University Press LQ.ndon 1924, P.152. __ [3] ~ Jannati!Atai, Bunyad-i Namayish Dar Iran, Ibn-i sina, Tehran, 1955, e.59. _ _ __ _ [4] Yahya Aryan Pur, Az Saba ta Nima, Tehran, 1351, 1972 p323 _ _ [5] Muhammad Hasan Khan I~imad-a1-Sa1tana. Ruznama-yi Khatirat; Tehran, Amfr Kabir, 1345/1966 p412 . .

- 115 -

Apart from foreign theatre groups,

there were others who also

performed in the Dar a1-Funun theatre. One such group was the Armenian theatre group:




Shah will go to the theatre tonight to watch the Armenian play [1].

The theatre was influenced by the style of


Francaise, ,

because many of the Persi an experts at the time were educated in France.

liThe Misanthrope" by Moliere was translated into Persian

verse and was on of the fi rst p1 ays shown in thi s theatre.




order was given by Nasir-a1-Din Shah, and the founder of the theatre • was Muzayyi n a1-Daw1 a "Naqqash Bashi French into Persian himself.


who trans1 ated the pl ay from

Naqqash Bashi was one of the students

who was sent to Europe and on his return he was chosen by Nasir-a1-D1n Shah to build and form the first theatre in western . sty1 e. To make translator idioms for translator translated with great Rafi


it more comprehensible to native Persians, the substituted the Persian title for the French, Persian French, etc. Thus the play became as Persian as the could make it. Later, more plays by Moliere into Persian appear, but they were seldom received enthusiasm [2].

Ha1ati, director, actor and sculptor, in his diary writes

about the Dar a1-Funun theatre and give detailed information: The playhouse had a seati~g capaciy of three hundred: it was an east-west hall about 18 metres in length, 10 metres in width and with a height of 9 metres. At the end of the hall, on the east side, instead of a stage, there was a large platform, 1.5 metres high across the width of the hall. [1] I'timad-a1-Saltana, 1306 H.Q./cited by H. Guran, Kushishha-yi-Na

Farj'am-J P. 74,!. · [2] Jannat1 5 Ata ' i. Bunyad-i Namayish Dar Iran, P.60.

- 116 -

On the west side there was a large wooden, crescent-shaped door, made by inlaying, behind which was a long vestibule. Near the entrance there were two spi ra1 stai rcases, one on each si de of the vestibule. Another vestibule connected the back of the large platform to the street behind the theatre through a wooden door. There was also a dressing-room on each side of this vesti bu1 e; these two rooms were connected by a corri dor. The semi-circular ceiling was decorated by coloured plaster moulding and coloured lanterns; burning gas provided light [lJ. It is in the reign of the Qa jar Kings, that we see the influence of Western cul ture growi ng rapi dly in the country.

Thi s movement had

much influence on the development of the national drama.

One of the other factors affecting

-Shah and the court's



arti sti c ori entati on was the pol i ti cal and cul tura1 1inks between the Qajar court and Europe.


Ihsin Tabari, in his book "Iran in the

Past Two Centuries", writes: The questi on of I rani an ori entati on towa rds the Western civilised ways is in itself an intensive field of study. It is briefly reminded that the Western way of life, not only recently but from the anci ent Roman and Greek times, has been cl early di sti ncti ve from the East. Mu1 ti -storey bui 1di ngs, si tti ng on chairs, sleeping on the bed, using spoons, emancipation of women from veils, ballroom dancing and so on, have been the features of European life for centuries. The initation of certain aspects of European life has a long history in Iran ..• [2]. This, as mentioned before, was widely practiced during




Shah's time.

Nevertheless, due to the resistance offered by local customs, an odd mixture of Iranian and European civilisation came about.

[1] Khatirat-i Rafi Halati, in possession of author. , [2] Ihsan Taba rl,


Iran Dar Du Sada-yi Tehran,'1360/1981. p133.

- 117 -

pi shin. Inti sharat-i -Tuda,

For instance, the ballet costume, which Nasir-a1-0in Shah had seen in European "charity" shows, became the crino1ined skirt of the


women in the court which was called sha1ita (derived from the French pronunciation




" chari te).





perfonnances were introduced at the Takiyya-yi Daw1 at and Ta ziya I

[1 ].

Seei ng the A1bert H a I lin London the Shah ordered a new play-house to be built in much the same style as that theatre. His purpose in building this play-house was to spread the style of European entertainment and theatre in Iran, but he changed his mind when the religious authorities opposed him. The p1 ay-house was call ed the Takiyya-yi Daw1 at and was buil tin 1869 [2]. o

The Takiyya-yi Daw1at (Royal Arena) was located at the southern side of the Gu1estan Palace area, a1-Imara.

and to the south-west of Shams

It was a wide area like a circle which wasrsurrounded by

beautiful trees. The most famous and influential of the ninteenth century Taziyeh theatres was the Tekieh Dow1at, or Royal Arena theatre in Tehran. (Construction started in 1304 A.H.) under the patronage of Naser-ed-Din Shah ••• Taziyeh reached the peak of its development. According to many travellers its dazzling splendour and its intensity of dr~~tic action overshadowed eventhe opera of the Western capitals L3J. The American envoy, Samuel

Benjamin, who attended the Muharram

celebrations, left a vivid description of the Takiyya-yi Dawlat: I was invited to attend on the fifth day of the Taziyeh. We arrived at the Tekieh toward noon. On alighting from the carriage I was surprised to see an immense circular building as large as the amphiteatre in Verona, solidly constructed of brick.


[1] Ihsan Tabari: Iran Dar Ou Sada-yi-Pishin, Ope Cit. P.134. •

[2] B. Bayia ' 1, Namayish Dar Iran, p159.

[3] Peter J. Che1kowski. Taziyeh, Indigenous avant-garde Theatre of Iran, Surush, NIRT Publication, p12.

- 118 -

Ferashes, or liveried footmen, cleared the way before us. Thrashing their slaves right and left, they opened a way through the crowd that packed the great portal; and enteri ng a dark, vaulted vestibule I groped, or rather was impelled by the throng, towards a staircase crowded with servants whose masters had already arrived. Like all stairs in Persia these were adapted to the stride of giants. A succession of springs upward finally landed me on the first gallery, which led around the building. A few steps in the twilight and then an embroidered curtai n was rai sed and I entered the box of the Zahi r-e-Oowl eh (Shah s son). It was in two parts, the fi rst hi gher that the other; stepping into the front and lower division, I was invited to recl i ne at the 1eft of my host upon a superbly embroi dered cushion of velvet; the seat of honour is at the left hand in Persia. The walls of the loggia were of price, and the choicest of rugs enri ched the floor. A number of Persi an gentl emen of lower rank occupied the back part of the apartment by invitation I


On looking over the vast arena a sight met my gaze which was indeed extraordi nary. The i nteri or of the bui 1di ng is nearly two hundred feet in diameter and some eighty feet high. A domed frame of timbers spliced and braced with iron, springs from the wall s, gi vi ng support to the awni ng that protects the i nteri or from the sunlight and the rain. From the centre of the dome a large chandelier was suspended, furnished with four electric burners a recent innovation. A more oriental form of illuminating the building was seen in the prodigious number of lustres and candlesticks, all of glass and protected from the air by glass shades open on the top and variously coloured; they were concentrated against the wall in immense glittering cl usters. Estimati ng from those attached on one box, I judged that there were upwards of five thousand candles in these 1ustres ••• .•• in the centre of the arena was a circul ar stage of masonry raised three feet and approached by two stairways. On one side of the building a pulpit of white marble was attached to the wall .•• but I soon discovered that all the architectural details of this remarkable building were secondary to the extraordinary spectacle offered by the assembled multitude. The entire arena with the exception of a narrow passage around the stage was absolutely packed with women, thousands on thousands. At a rough estimate it seem to me that quite four thousand women were seated there cross-l egged on the earthen floor, which was made slightly sloping in order to enable those in the rear to see over the heads of those before them.

- 119 -






\_! '-

'\--. (



• ~

.... ."'. , .... . ' '.



~' .

. •.


.. .




,.',' , • ~ .,






.... ,

•_\ '

•,- .

. . -,.

... -\.


· .. refreshments were served for mysel f ... but after the refreshments were banned inconsistent with the Tragical ,.

in our box repeatedly, and ci gars perfonnance began, all smoki ng and as indications of frivolity events of the dramas [lJ.


Dr Mahdi Furugh also in hi s descri pti ons gi ves more i nfonna ti on about Takiyya-yi Daw1at: It was by 1869 A.D. that the greatest event took place in the world of the Persian Ta'ziya. This was the construction of the Takiy~e-i-Daw1at (the Royal Arena Theatre). It had a seating capaclty of 20,000. The construction of the whole building cost 150,000 Tomans [2]. and Edward G. Brownementions: 1ast1y the actual 1i brettos of the dramati sed taziyas, to be seen at their best at the royal T~k~a of Tehran during the first ten days of the month of Muharram LJJ.

- -

Nushin, the theorist, scholar and director, describes the method of performance of Ta'ziya as follows: Ta'ziya was performed on a p1atfonn in the middle of the Takiyya instead of a stage. There was no scenery and curtai n. The style of perfonnance was realisation with symbolism. That is to say the Euphrates was represented by one or two gl asses of water, and the palm plantation by a tree branch in a vase. The audi ence were qui te fami 1i ar wi th thi s representati onal styl e and were not surpri sed at all. The p1 ay, 1ike 01 d Greek pl ays, started with an ensemble as an introduction (prologue). The sympatheti c characters or the so-call ed Imam-khwans started their roles with ritual songs; the actors playing these roles were selected out of well-known singers. The antipathetic characters or the so-call ed Shimr-khwans on the contrary, played their roles singivg in a harsh voice and in an unbalanced and unrhythmic manner [4J. I




[1] Benjamin, Samuel G.W., Persia and the Persians, Boston 1887 cited in Che1kowski, pp12,l3,l4. [2J Mahdi Furugh, Iran Shahr, Vol. 1. Tehran 1963. P.908.

Unesco-Iran, Publication

[3] Edward G. Brown~ A History of Persian Literature in Modern Times. Ope Cit. P 194. [4] A.H.

Nushin, Majalla-i Payam-i Bunyad-i-Namayish dar fran, p39.

- 120 -






It is thought that from the early days of the bi rth of Ta' ziya, its actors were not professi onal and the majority of them earned thei r 1i vi ng by other means. Each town, vi 11 age or country had its own group.

Most of the perfonners came together on the mourni ng days

when each person played his favourite role at which by this time he was



and experienced enough.

usually detested by people.

The Shimr-Khwans were

On the other hand, people were most

sympatheti c towards the 'Imam-khwans ' •

Qui te often people, charged

with emotion after seeing the show, would attack the 'Shimr-khwan', causing injury or pain.

To avoid such incidents, the process of

alienation was carried out by many 'Shimr-khwans' who would join the peopl e in mourni ng fonn Imam Husayn by beati ng thei r heads and cryi ng before the scene in which Shimr woul d ki 11 (This act is comparable with Brecht's alienation).

Imam Husayn.

With such an act

they express thei r bereavement so that none of the spectators wi 11 take revenge on them.

Ta'ziya can be considered on the same footing

wi th the greatest uni versa1ly famous tragedies, and has attracted the attention of many infonned writers in the world [1]. As no Mohammedan woman may appear in public, the actors are all men and boys, who mostly play their parts well and with conviction the honour of appearing in the Tazieh often descending'from father to son. Indeed, parents in the audience will sometimes beg that their boys may be allowed to stand upon the stage for short time in such parts as that of Husei n' s little nephew or of his infant son Abdullah.

[1] F.

Ghaffari, Ta(ziya va ruhawii, Fa~l nama Ti atr No. 7 Tehran,

nod, P.70

- 121 -


Many of the actors are clad in suits of annour; there is no "scenery" but horses and camel s gi ve an ai r of real i ty to the movi ng tragedy of the "Family of the tent". The European spectator speedily forgets the primitive mise en scene, and cannot fail to be impressed by the passionate emotion evinced by the great audience as the play proceeds [1]. One

point worth

noting is the


in Ta'ziya of tennino10gy

belonging to traditional religious play in which, as the literal meaning of Ta'ziya conveys, the mourners gather in commemoration of the lost dear one and to perfonn lamentation.

The interesting point is that this type of religious show is not only used in mourning and memorial sessions, but also appears in many happy and joyful perfonnances. and not a general rule.

Thi sis, however, an excepti on

But even in its exceptional fonn, it draws

from the general rules of Ta'ziya in relation to costumes, manner of performance and other Ta'ziya conventions.

Obviously, the prime

theme of Ta'ziya has always been sorrowful and it has been used as a tool to create an emotional discharge for people through weeping. Later, comedy Ta I ziyas were performed on the stage of Takiyya-yi Daw1at.

I'timad a1-Sa1tana . writes about them:

Last ni ght the Ta' ziya of Fatimas weddi ng was on the stage in Takiyya-yi Daw1 at. They have somewhat vu1 gari sed thi s Ta' ziya. Especially last night's production was vu1garised very much. It was so vulgar and comical that the spectators laughing could be heard from the back of the Takiyya, so much so that those who were present said this production is even funnier than the comedies shown in European theatre [2]. Mayi1 Baktash in his Book Namayish-i-iran1 (Iranian Theatre) writes: [1] Ella C. Sykes, Persia and its People, Methuen & Co. Ltd London

1910. pp151-l52 _

_ -'1;



[2] I\amad-a1-Sa1tana, Ruznama\ Itimad-a1-Saltana, 4th Muharram 1299 H.Q. P. 145 . A

- 122 -


Ta' ziya or shabih is an Irani an theatre whi ch has developed in the mourning ceremonies as a religious institution and which has found a performing potential through its social functioning. Hi stori cally, Ta' ziya is a dynami c and evo1 vi ng phenomenon. On the one hand it 1inks wi th soci ety, and on the other, it has gone through an almost complete phase of evolution from the religious and mourning performances reaching towards the boundaries of free theatre in a natural process [1]. Although the content of the book is made up of three Ta'ziyas, it is i nteresti ng to note that the ti tl e of the book is Irani an Theatre, which seems to mean that the author regards Ta'ziya as the original Iranian theatre

The book contains the following three Ta'ziyas: (i )

"Fatima-Zahra Goes to a Weddi ng"


"Ya~ia-Ibn-Zakaryyia's Ta' ziya"

(iii) liThe Story of Shir-Afkan"












Takiyya-Daw1 at in estab1 i shi ng and creati ng the art of the theatre that we understand today.

As E.A. Reed writes:

Tazieh initially had 'distressing and religious' content. However, with the new social base provided by Takieh Dow1at, and with adapting a new technical base for acting, many funny and comical movements were incorporated in the Taziehs. In the Tazieh, new emotional criteria were created; a particular place was given to comedy and to making the audience laugh. So much so that the work Tazieh (in the context of religious tragedy) was replaced with 'Shabih'. Tazieh affected Persian poetry and helped to preserve Persian traditional music.

[1] Mayi1 Baktash.

Namayish-i Irani. A_Cp11ection of three Ta'ziya sessions by M. Baktash and F. Ghaffari. Intis harat-i Jashn-i Hunar 1350/1971 p5.

- 123 -

At the beginning of the present century Iranian poetry assumed a dramatic form but, like the Greek drama, and the 'mysteries' of the Mi ddl e Ages, it is the offspri ng of a rel i gi ous ceremony, and the great attraction of the Persian stage is a Moslem passi on p1 ay, even the drama of the empi re bei ng under the control of her conquerors [1]. The monarch did not take criticism lightly under any circumstance and was never prepared to give way to other people's opinions.


from gi vi ng concessi ons, the Shah's response to the opposi ti on to the dictatorial monarchy was the use of force and violence. Even when the Austrian Comte De Montfort, the head of the Tehran security forces, and Kamran Mlrza NaYib-al-Saltana the governor of Tehran, sought Na~· i r-a1-Di n Shah's approval for the foundation of a club by a number of youths, the Shah wrote the passage below on the margin of their letter: Nayib a1-Sa1tana, the youth make a mistake in founding a club. If they go ahead with it I will burn their father. Even the writer of this letter must be punished so that he will not dare to be so cheeky from now on [2].



It is obvious that Nasir-a1-Din Shah was only in favour of reform to . the extent that it would not jeopardise his dictatorial rule.


other words, hi s love of theatre and art was not deep nor in the interest of society and the people.

It can therefore be said that

theatre was shapped out of the social needs in which, like a mirror, social problems were reflected.

This mirror, at times, to a limited

extent reflected critical satire and comedy in Ru-hawii plays.

[1] Elizabeth A. Reed, Persian Literature Ancient and Modern, Chicago, S.C.G. Riggs and Company, 1893, p410. [2] Fara,ydun Adamiyyat, Fikr va Muqaddama-yi Nihiat-i Mashrutiyyat Dar Iran, cited by I. Tabari, Iran Dar on ~ada-yi P;shin, p112.

- 124 -

An important poi nt whi ch has bri efly been menti oned before is the imitation






Shah's period

which, although in a way it enlarged the theatrical field in Iran was, however, based on a shallow understandi ng and thus had only a superficial influence.




Shah's perception of European civilisation, which had

originally been through hearing and then through seeing, was not a deep one.

It was the way of life, i.e. clothes, goods, mannerisms,

house, towns and items capable of catching the eye of an overseas observer whi ch caught hi s attenti on most, rather than the basi s of progress in European society.

Nevertheless, Na~ir-al-Din Shah's actions, despite falling short of radical





over theatrical



though not directly related to representational arts.

The erecti on of memori a1

statues in squares, the assembly of an

encyclopedia called Nama-yi Danishvaran, the translation of certain famous European novels, the introduction of military marches, the alteration of men's and women's court dress, and so on, could have had some influence over the performing arts.



development, paintings.

pai nti ngs leaving







phase known

of as

consi derabl e Qajar-style

It is in this stage that the development of cheerful

p1 ays (Taql i d Namayi shha-Yi Shad) in the Qajar peri od ought to be considered.

- 125 -

Peop1 e close to the Shah and those frequenti ng the court di d not have the courage to criticise or question the monarch, and could not always speak their mind, as is illustrated by the saying of the well-known poet 'Ubayd Zakani' Become a fool or a busker - then can you seek justice from junior and seniors [1]. Clowns and entertaining musicians were in a position to use a freer language to express themselves in the presence of the Shah and still remai n unhanned. -




Shi ra-i




exerci si ng



Nasir-a1-0"in Shah, his close aides, and the other princes. .

He was

allowed unlimited freedom in using both characters and subjects from the king's court in any fonn he wished in order to provide entertainment for the king [2].

In essence the fonnation of light Iranian plays begain with the one Ouring Nasir-a1-01n Shah's reign the

man show acts of Oa1qak bazi.



fonn and content of Oa1qak bazi, with the presence of famous Oa1qaks such as Karim shi ra I i, the foundati ons for the Ru-hawii p1 ays were laid.

It may be relevant to say that during this era, theatre

groups specialising in light play productions were established, the t


most famous of which were Karim Shfra'{'s group and Ismail Bazzaz's group [3].


- [2] H. Nurbakhsh, Karim Shirai, Ope Cit. P.31 [3] H. Guran, OPe cit. p76.

- 126 -

Thi s ki nd of perfonni ng act whi ch at that time took the fonn of Baqga1 bazi for the mai n part, became fully developed and were to become the two fathers of what was fi na11y to become known as the RU-hawii p1 ays.












significant fonn, and it may be reasonable to suggest that the peak of the Ta I ziya Theatre was to remai n in the Takiyya-yi Daw1 at, even though such plays had the potential for creating a national theatre; regrettably, however, this potential was never fully realised and the fonn was stunted in its growth.

Ta ziya had, duri ng its f1 ouri shi ng peri od, surpassed many aspects I






playwrights were



afterwards, so much so that examples can be found even in the works of more modern p1 aywri ghts such as Brecht.

But whereas such fonns

could have developed to become of major theatrical significance, its progress









stagnation. - - THE NEW SCHOOL - The Discussion of Akhundzada and Mirza Agha Tabrizi


in its full er fonn and content found its way to I ran

through the Caucasus.

- 127 -

The fi rst p1 aywri ght for thi s ki nd of theatre was Mi rza Fat,h 'Ali



Akhundzada who sent a few Turki sh dramatic pi eces to Iran through



ad-Din, the son of Fat~ tAli Shah, and these pieces were


translated into Persian and staged for private court audiences [lJ.




.. - -


In Az Saba ta Nima Ya~ya Aryanpur a1 so refers to Akhundzada as the first Iranian playwright in European style.

The first Persian plays

in European style that we can refer to, he says, are those written by








as Akhundzada)


novelist, playwright and scholar, who was by heritage

Persi an. Akhund£ada emerged as a Russi an citi zen after the 1826-28 war between Russi a and Iran, but he cou1 d not forget hi s own home country of Iran. He wrote six plays, all in Azarbayjani Turkish and published in Tif1is in about 1859 A.D. They were translated into Persian by Mirza Ja'far Qarajadagni in 1874 A.D. [2J The names of these si x p1 ays are: "Vazi r Khan-i Lanka ran", "Khers Gha1dur Basen", (Duzd Afkan) "Mard-i Khasis", "Mulla Ibrahim Khalil

- --

Kimiyagar" and "Yusuf Shah".

In hi s Literary Hi story of Persi a

Edward Browne reports three p1 ays whi ch he assumes to have been

- -


written by Mirza Ma1kam Khan, as the first Iranian plays. The writer who is credited with being the first Persian p1 aywri ght of the New School was Pri nce Mal kam Khan. He wrote three plays at an unknown date. Later parts of them were published in Persian in the Tabriz Newspaper, "Ittihad" (Union), in 1326 H.Q. (908 A.D.) [3J. [1] Malik a1 Shu'ara Bahar, Maja11a-yi Payam-i Nuvin, no. 7 p28.

[2] Yay~a Aryanpur, Az Saba ta Nima, op cit. p345. [3] E.G. Browne, Persian Literature in Modern Times, p463.

- 128 -











trans1 ati ons of the p1 ays, Brown wrongly attri butes the p1 ay of Mi"rza-Agha Tabrizi to Ma1kam Khan. English are:

The names of these plays in


The Adventure of Ashraf Khan, Governor of Arabistan


The Methods of Government of Zaman-Khan of Burujird



- -



to Karba1a



some days


Kirmanshah with the Governor Shah Muradmirza [1].

These plays were published in Berlin in 1340 H.Q. (1929 A.D.) under the title of IIA Collection of Three Dramatic Pieces Attributed to Mi rza Mal kam Khan Na~im-a1-Daw1 a II and were pri nted by the Kaviyani press. outside

After the fi rst Persi an newpaper Akhtar (Star) was pri nted Persia,








(1833-1908) , son of Mi rza Va' qub Khan, an Anneni an of Ju1 fa of I sfahan who was Persi an envoy at the court of St. James', founded and put in circulation a newspaper called Qanun (Law) in London in A.H. 1307 (1890 A.D.>.

The newspaper was written by himself.

Va~ya Aryanpur's observations on these plays indicate that the dark, -

horrific and lawless ages of the despotism of


Shah have

been depicted as a comedy through the use of a humorous script which will give rise to laughter among the readers of the present day.

[1] Jamshi d

Mali k

Pur, Adabiyat-i -Namayi shi intisharat-i-~us, 1363/1983. pl85.

- 129 -

Dar 1 ran,

1 ed.

Yet the truth is that those people who experienced the injustices of that time and were yearni ng for freedom and western cu1 ture woul d fi nd the texts of those p1 ays far from tasteful and probably very distressing,





ha ve

bee n•





believes that these three plays are written in an unpolished, everyday language and that they do not observe the rules and technical principles of western theatre such as the unity of place, time etc. [1]. impossi bl e. Khan




Therefore the stagi ng of these pl ays will prove

For instance in the fi rst act of liThe Ru1 e of Zaman house master of court sends an errand boy to fetch










Vartanus'door, speaks to him and they come back talking until they reach the governmental


At thi s poi nt the Governor is

seated in the middle of a garden in the same governmental building and is speaking to Mirza Jahangir.

Yet the conversations show that

these events do not take place in one si ng1 e day but extend over a few days, from Thursday to Saturday. Contrary to the vi ews stated - above, Mi rza Agha I s p1 ays can be staged and the 1ack of uni ty of time and place does not present any obstacles to the performance of the plays.

Moreover it should be noted that in Mirza Agha's time

all pl ays were acted on the basi s of improvi sati on, wi th no stage, curtai n or props.

Therefore the process of fetchi ng Vartanus and

taking him to the governmental offices could not have presented any technical problems, since all these are conveyed by the used of theatrical conventions and thus could be performed on the same basis as the Ru-hawii and Ta'ziya.


[1] Yahya Aryan Pur. op.cit. p360.

- 130 -

The use of these techni ques can be seen in the works of European playwrights such as Brecht. produced as



However, it is certain that these plays


of progressive

thought and



alternative to the cheap court plays which were perfonned for the sole purpose of entertainment.

All of these plays were comedies and

involved very interesting subject matter.

They were an illustration

of soci a1 and pol i ti cal critici sm rather than true entertai nment. An exchange of ideas and correspondence between Mirza Agha and Akhundzada took place with the view of actua1ising this aim.

Akhundz~da and Mirza Agha used to correspond with each other and Mirza Agha was one of the followers of Akhundzada [1]. By writing critiques on the plays of Mirza Agha, Akhundzada helped . him to become familiar with the more developed techniques of play writing in European style.

In a letter to Mirza Agha, Akhundzada

enclosed a copy of his own writings as a critique of Mirza Agha's works and an i nstructi on on the ways in whi ch real ism cou1 d be - - - developed in Eastern plays. He instructs Mirza Agha to work towards the deepening of the content of the play and to take on the spreading of democratic thoughts as a serious duty.

He further

proceeds to poi nt out the strong and the weak poi nts of hi s p1 ays and gives him directions for their improvement. I hope that you will complete, print and publish your writings according to my advice, and thus do a service to your people. I hope you will carryon writing plays of this kind and teach the young and talented writers the technique of dramatic art which is the hi ghest of the European arts, so that they can use thei r imagination and produce plays. [1] H.




135671977 P. 20.

- 131 -



Mirza Agha Tabrizi, Tehran,

Be it that from your efforts thi s new and hi ghest techni que in play writing will find its fame among our people [lJ. The other plays written by Mirza Agha Tabrizi are:

- liThe Love Story of -Agha- Hashim Khalkha1i", ....

"~aj i

Murshi d the

- - -

Mi rza Agha Tabri zi was one of the students who were sent to France in

1260 H.Q.

(1840 A.D.).


interpreters of the European tutors


became one of the

in Dar a1-Funun.


closely with the European tutors at Dar a1-Funun for whom theatre was a part of their culture, could be another reason for him getting to know their technique.

He was very close to the theatrical events

which were happening at Dar a1-Funun.

I l timad-a1-Saltana gives •

infonnation about the Dar a1-Funun theatrical activities in his di ary: For some ni ghts in the co11 ege of Dar a1-Funun it appears that the Minister of Eduction has opened a play-house. The actors who a re European have not been tra i ned to act and dp Jnot know Persian at all; they speak Persian in a parrot manner L3 . -..-





The six plays of Akhundzada were translated into Persian by Mirza Ja'far-i Qarajadaghi.

These plays are:


The Adventures of Mu11a Ibrah~ Khalil the Alchemist


The Thief-catching Bear


The Vi zi er of Lankaran


The Adventure of Mard-i-Khasis


The Adventure of VUka1a-Yi Murafa'a (the advocates)


The Miser [4J


[lJ Ibid, p18 [2J See H. Sal i k. Panj Namayi sh-nama-yi 1357/1978 A.D. [3J Memoirs of




- -

- -


Mi rza Agha Tabri zi. Tabri z

1303 H.Q. p472.

[4J Mirza Fath- ' A1i Akhundz_ad~, Tam~i1a.t, va:yik Dastan translated by Mirza Ja far-l-QaraJadaghl, Intlsharat-lKhwaraimi, 1349/1970 - 132 l

Navabpur writes: There has never been any questi on of the popu1 ari ty (as readi ng matter) won by the Persian translations of the plays of Fath Ali Akhond Zadeh, or Akhundof (1812-1878). As a dramati st in the European mode, he was the pioneer in the whole of Asia [1]. The progressi ve writers of that time were put under much pressure from










These created difficulties in the printing, publishing

and particularly the perfonning of plays and therefore the writers had to fi nd a 1ess obvi ous 1anguage in whi ch to speak to thei r audience, and tell them more symbolically what was happening at that time.

In his letter to Mirza Agha, Akhundzada advised him to alter

hi s p1 ay about Ashraf Khan, the governor of Arabi stan.

He advi sed

him to use a different name for the Governor in his play, not a real name, and to be more careful about the 1anguage used to avert any danger from the government [2].

- - - Mi zra Agha Tabri zi was the fi rst Irani an p1 aywri ght who wrote a fa rce c ri ti ci si ng the regime of the time and showed the corrupti on and soci a1 prob1 ems of the lower c1 ass and the suppressi on of the people.

In conclusion, the works of the playwrights of the new school were the products of the pens of progressive and pol itical1y-orientated writers.

They exemplified the tunnoil amongst the social strata in

their plays and presented them as social satires and comedies.

[1] A.R. Navabpour, op.cit. p88. [2] H. Sa1ik, op.cit p15.

- 133 -

This stands in direct contrast and opposition to the works produced by their contemporaries, which were directed principally to the amusement






audience which


meaningless and directionless comedies of very little artistic value.

In this way the first steps towards play-writing in Persian

under the influence of social and cultural issues in the fonn of comi c pl ays were taken by the 1i kes of Mi rza Agha Tabri zi •


were the fi rst di rect steps towards the evol uti on of wri tten texts for the performance of comic plays in Iran.

Azarbaijani Writers

Among the writers of Azarbaijan who certainly had a large part in the development of the Iranian Theatre and in the Constitutional c U~~'-)r

Revolution of Iran one may name the following:









_ _





These individuals

seriously participated in the constitutional movement with their writings.







constitutionalists, especially those of Azarbaijan.



- -

Haji Baiguf is

known not only as the founder of opera in Azarbaijan and Iran, but can also be regarded as a strong principled writer and freedom-lover. Until 1905 Haji Baiguf concentrated his activities upon writing and after that he turned in earnest to the business of studying and practising in the fields of western and Azarbaijani music.

- 134 -

~aji Baiguf studied in earnest the capacity for change existing

in these two fonns of musi c and he was detenni ned to create a synthesis of theoretical western music with local and national musi cal fonns. The resu1 t of HaSi Bai guf I s efforts was the opera I Lai1; va Majnun ' that was 'staged in 1908. [1] The operas which ~aji

Baiguf wrote and prepared for the stage

consisted of the following: 'Lai1i va Majnun ' (1907), 'Shaikh Sinan ' (1909), 'Rustam va Suhrab ' (1910), 'Shah Abbas va Khurshid Banu ' (1912),


Ugh1 i




'As1i va Karam ' (1912), 'Harun va La11i ' (1915) and 'Kur (1937).

The operas Lai 1i va Maj nun, As1 i va Karam and Sh-ah



Abbas va Khurshid Banu were perfonned in the cities of Tehran, Tabriz and Rasht.[2]

Along with national and historical operas Haji Baiguf also put his hand to comic operas. subjects for criticism.

In these he deal s with everyday matters and He also uses the comic critical style.

operas have been received in most countries including Iran.


In this

field he created works like IZ an va Shauhar ' (husband and wife), 'Mashhadi Ibad ' and 'Arshin Ma1a1an ' .

In the peri od of the consti tuti ona1 revo1 uti on Irani ans had a very strong cultural link with Azarbaijan and likewise Azari writers had an important rol e in the events of the consti tuti on.

In 1920 Jal i 1

Muhammad Qu11zada personally staged one of his own plays by the name • C!5

L;:.. (a .,..

of 't4tlfi:Yha ' (the dead) in Tabriz.

This link was to cause Azari

writers, who followed the styl e of M1 rz~ Fath-Al i Akhundzada after him, to continue this path with works having Iranian themes.

[1] Jamshid


Pur, Adabiyat-i namayish Inqi1ab-i-Mashru~a, 2nd Vol. P.93. [2] Ibid. P. 94.

- 135 -




- In 1899 Nariman Narimanuf wrote the historical p1ay'Nadir Shah ' , in <:.

1907 Abd





Haqqverdiev wrote 'Muryarmnad Shah Qajar l and in 1916

Ja I far Jabbar1 i wrote the p1 ay I Nasi r af-oi n Shah I .


Ja1 i 1


- -

Qu1 i zada (1866-1932) was one of the founders of the

critical realism movement in Azarbaijani literature, a movement that - got underway with the writings of Akhundzada. Mu~ammad Qu1izada had the greatest part of the fonnation of critical and social thinking in the literature of Azarbaijan.

He wrote the play 'Kamancha ' in

1905 and published the newspaper 'Mu11a Nasr a1-0in' in 1906. •


newspaper in fact became the organ of the democrati c Azari wri ters [1 ].

[1] Ibid, P.139

- 136 -









FROM 1905

The Role of Education in the Development of Theatre in Iran

In 1905, a group of well-known Iranian intellectuals gathered for the fi rst time wi th the aim of spreadi g the Dramati cArts, and founded a club called liThe Culture Club".[1]

Their objective was to

free Dramatic Art from the exclusive circles of the aristocratic elite and take it among the people.

Most of the productions by this

group were characterised by political views and criticisms, and were performed










Park, Amin-a1 Daw1a Park, etc.




The founders of this

group were Muhammad 'Ali Furughi, 'Ali Akbar Davar, and Sayy1d-'A1i •

Nasr, •


a1 so known as the founders of I rani an contempory theatre . with







and they




supervision the



Thatre", situated on the second floor of Farus Printers in La1azar Street. [2]

The theatre had a relatively well-equipped hall and was

used for productions inspired by or adapted from European



Rashid Yasami, Adabiyyat-i Murasir-i Iran, 1st ed., Tehran, 1316/1937, P. 27.


Majid Fallah Zadeh, Ope Cit. P.125

- 137 -

pl ays.











enlightenment of the people and was becoming increasingly popular. Thi s encouraged Sayyi d "A1i Nas. r, who had returned to I ran after spending some years abroad, to take up theatrical activities in Iran.

He obrained official pennission from the Vizarat-i Ma(arif

(The Ministry of Culture) to establish the IIComedie Iran" which continued to



ten years.


in 1924,




Zahi r-al-Di ni founded the Comedi e Akhavan; in 1926, Ismail Mi hrtash established the Jami'a-yi





Barbud; Sirus Theatre was founded by





Naki sa



estab 1i shed under the management of Arbib Afl atun Sh-ahrukh, and in - 1931 the Studio Dram-i-Kinnanshahi was founded under the supervision I

of Mir Sayf-al-D1n Kinnanshahi [1]. theatre




requi red.


professional School


The development of Iranian educated




of Theatre; namely the Madrasa-yi

Ti atr-i Shahrdari, was subsequently establ i shed in 1939. I


the establishment of this school, plays were managed and produced by peop 1eli ke di rectors, wri ters, actors and techni ci ans.


there was no systematic method of education in any of these centres to train theatrical personnel, and only the direction of actors and the



the costumes and

scenery were undertaken

experienced people and occasionally by those educated abroad.

by One

such centre whi ch brought about fundamental changes and created a new atmosphere in scenery was Mi r Sayf-al-Di n Ki nnanshahi ' s Studi 0 Dram.

, [1]





Janati Atai, Ope Cit. P 76. 1\

- 138 -

He conc1 uded hi s theatri cal studi es in Moscow and was an expert in design, painting and scenery.

For two years he ran a class in his

studi 0, at whi ch he taught the techni ques of scenery and was the only teacher of the class


The volume of work and his

occupati on as a di rector di d not allow Ki rmanshahi to open other classes.

The first official centre for theatrical studies was the

Shahrdar1 Theatre




started to


under the


supervision of Daryabaigi, who had returned to Iran after four years of studying in Germany.

A contemporary account states:

Five months ago, the establishment of a drama class under the supervi si on of Mr. Da ryaba i gi , who had concluded hi s theatrical studies at a public institution in Germany, was advertised and a place in the Theatre Building (Firdawsi Street) was allocated for its venue. Following the advertisement, 150 educated men and women, eager and talented in the subject, applied for admission and 25 of them who met all the requirements of the course and had the artistic capability, were admitted to the class. In the short time since the commencement of the course, the twenty-five pupils have managed to gain the total satisfaction fo their director and tutor, Mr. Daryabaigi, and are ready to exhibit the level of their talent and artistic capability. A grand theatrical performace and di nner party will therefore be arranged for next month [2]. Amongst Daryabaig1 1 s assistants were Abu al-~asan ~aba for teaching music,







Safavi •


acrobatic training and sports.

The newspaper Itti1a Cit commented on the results of the Drama Class as follows:


Rafi'i Ha1ati, Personal talk with author.


Itti1a'at, 18th October 1935.

- 139 -

It is delightful to see a new movement rising in the theatrical arts. Those who saw last Friday night's perfonnance of the Theatre C1 ass, supervi sed by the di rector of the class, would agree with the writer of these lines that a new movement is born in theatre and thi s art is fast departing from lifeless imitation. The modern style adapted in A1 i Daryabai gi IS p1 ays whi ch were perfonned by the art students of the Theatre Class, caused much hopeful and optimistic reaction. Best of all was the music of the play, which was written in classical Iranian style with new and creative adaptation [1]. Originally, the duration of the course was designated as two years, but no-one graduated in the two and a hal f years runni ng of the course.

Sazman-i Parvarish-i Afkar In



("Organi sati on

organisation of

Mi nd



Deve1 opment")


estab1 i shed.

Afkar Thi s

department was established to direct and develop the collective mind of I rani ans.

One of the di vi si ons of thi s i nsti tute was theatre,

and (Ali Nasr was appointed as the head of this department[2].

In the same year a school of acting was opened with official pennission from the Ministry of Culture.

The college would issue

diploma certificates to its graduates, signed by Man~ur-a1Mu1k (the Prime Minister) and Isma'11 Mir'at (Minister of Culture and the principal of the college).

The college continued to function


Itti1a(at, 18th January 1936.


H. Guran. Ope cit. P.173.

- 140 -




it was founded and managed under the

direction of Sayyid (Ali Nasr, . and after he left Iran for China, Dr . Namda r became head of the co 11 ege.

The budget of the co 11 ege was

provided from a 2% allocation by the Tehran Municipal Council.


college was first situated at 'Ayna1-Daw1a Park north of Sipah Square, and then moved to the street of Saint-Louis School in Lala za r whi ch is now occupi ed by the offi ces of the newspaper Kayhan. After a whi 1e, the co11 ege moved agai n to a house in the Arab residential

area belonging to one of the staff of the Foreign

Ministry called Va1i.

Even that venue did not last long as the

co1l ege was moved to the School of Commerce at the end of Street.


After a short while, the college was once more displaced,

this time to a few rented rooms in Dar a1-Funun, and was finally moved to the home of Dr. I'timad1 in Sarchashma.

Meeti ngs of the Sazman-i Parvari sh-i Afkar were he1 d every Fri day night in Firdaws Park.

Most of the activities of the organisation

were based on speeches and propagnada issues whi ch after a whi 1e became unbearably boring for the people.

Hence, Sayyid fAli Na~r

was asked to organise and perform brief entertaining pieces in between the speeches. the



At that time, Sayyi deAl i Nasr was runni ng • Among






flourished in those days were ~li A~ghar Gannsir1, Majid Mu~sini,



Sadiq Bahrami and Jamshid Shaybani.


In the college, which was run

in the style of European theatre schools, many subjects were taught by the following masters of the relevant arts:

- 141 -

Sayyid 'Ali Na~r: Head of the college, teaching History and Acting.


Dr Mahdi Namdar: Later head of the college, teaching Acting. Mu~i'al-Dawla ~ijazi: Persian Literature.

- - -

Rashid Yasami: Persian Literature. Mush1r Humayun Shahrdar: Theory of Music and Persian Classical Music. q

Isma f1 Mihrtash: The Theory of Music and Persian Classical Music. Javad Marufi: Theory of Music and Persian Classical Music. ....






History of Costume, Stage Design and Make-up.

'Ali Daryabaygi: Acting -


Abdal-Husayn Nushin: Acting . •

Fail Allah Bayig;n: Acting Ozhic Baghdasar1an: Gymnastics and Dancing. Azar Sipahi: Gymnastics and Dancing. Hasan 'Ali Nasr: French Language. -


Dr. (Ali Kan1: English Language Dr. Mahdi Furugh: Voice and Speech. 'Ali Asghar Garmsiri: Study of Theatre and Criticism. [1] ,

The college trained a number of skilful artists and managed to change the direction of Iranian theatre towards progress.

Most of

the leading figures of theatre who are still active today are amongst the gradutes of the college.





H.A. Tabatabai, nagsh-i marakiz-i Amuzish-i Ti'atr-dar Tahavvui va Gustari sh-i Hunar-; Namayi sh dar Iran dar Panjah 5&1-; Shahanshah; -y; Pah1 avi, Mi n; stry of Cu1 ture and Art, Tehran 1976. P. 29.

- 142 -

The fi rst cu1 tura1 and arts organi sati on whi ch operated on a wi de scale was the Department of Fine Arts, which was established in 1950 and functi oned autonomously.

Thi s department was ori gi nal1y under

the old Ministry of Culture which after a few years, in 1964, became the

Mi ni stry


Cu1 ture





thi s


established the Department of Dramatic Arts. At first, both the study of theatre and perfonnance were taught at the Department of Dramatic Arts.

Later, in 1964, the first polytechnic for the study

of theatre, namely the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, was opened by the Ministry of Culture and Arts.

A year later,

in 1965, Tehran

Uni versi ty opened a Dramati c Arts course in the Facul ty of Fi ne Arts.

Alongside the organisations belonging to or dependent on the

government (which followed the University·s theoretical system and regu1 ati ons), teachi ng wi thi n the independent theatri ca 1 groups and organisations had a special role to play in the advancement of the art of theatre. The importance of the 1atter type of teachi ng was that it combined theory and practice, as opposed to the University·s teaching methods which concentrated on theory more than practice. Amongst the theatrical

groups which trained and introduced some

famous arti sts to soci ety, was the Jami a-yi Barbudwhi ch was one of the well-known and active theatrical managed by Isma~i1

centres in

Mihrtash who was skilful


It was

both in music and

si ngi ng, and years of effort by him to combi ne musi c and theatre culminated in the birth of Iranian Opera.

In 1924, Mihrtash had set

up a club which was joined by enthusiasts.

Until 1926, when the

Jamia-yi Barbud was fonned only a hand fu1 of musical plays had been

- 143 -

produced in Iran [1].

This group has produced some interesting operas of national stories such as 'Lay11 and Majnun ' and 'Khusraw and Shirin' with unique and attractive costumes.




Jamia-yi Barbud has mainly worked in the field

of national theatre, and some valuable dramas on national themes, written and supervised by Rafi(i ~a1ati who is amongst the greatest artists of Iran, have been produced by this group[2].

In order to find their actors, the practice of such theatrical groups was to take a certain number of enthusiasts for training, and after the comp1 eti on of the course, some were pi cked to joi n the Those who graduated from such non-governmental institutions


ei ther di d not reci eve any certi fi ca te or, even if they di d, the certificate did not have any official educational value.

In 1942,

for exampl e, the Jami ~-yi Barbud used to hol d its cl asses in Sa (di Street which was its base at the time.

Classes ran over a period of

eight terms and the teaching personnel were: Khan Malik Sasani

History of Theatre.

Rafi' i Hal ati

Stage Design and History of Costume.


':Al f Daryabay gi


Khan Baba Sadri


Muhsin Suhay1

Stage Design and Make-Up.



Janati Atai. Ope Cit.

[1] [2]





P. 74. -


Al f Na~-i ri an, Natari -Bi -Hunar-i -Namayi sh Dar Iran, Namayish, No.9, 2 Period, P. 18.

- 144 -



Dr. Nazir Zadah Kirmani

Persian Literature .

I sma (i1 Mihrtash

Iranian Classical Music.

Mir Hasan Shabahang

Foreign Language.

Those who joined later were: Haik Karakash


Va11 Allah Khakdan

Stage Design and Costume[l].

On reviewing the personalities who were teaching the course, one may

- ( consider the standard of the classes of the 'Jamia-yi Barbud to have been on the same level as that of the faculties of Dramatic Arts. It was such a high level of teaching standards which enabled the institution to produce some of the best artists of Iran.

Nushin's Drama Class In 1935


- -

a1-Husayn Nushi n and hi s wi fe Loretta went to the .

Moscow Festival and from there to Paris from where, after one year, they returned to Iran. Theatre.

In 1944 Nushin established the Farhang

The first play to be presented by this theatre was vol pone

by Ben Jonson, translated and directed by Nushin himself.



Nushin and his group went to the Firdawsi Theatre where they performed The Blue Bird by Maurice Materlinck.

Nushin's method of teaching drama to his students was through actually working on and performing plays.




H.A. Tabatabai, Ope Cit. .

P. 38.

- 145 -

In other words, he






in 1944


started a drama course in the Firdawsi Theatre.

he officially The duration of

this course was one year, the classes being held every evening. Nushin was the only teacher on this course.

Speech and voice

training were very important to him so he always started the course wi th thi s and wi th the book Fann-i Ti I atr whi ch was wri tten by himself and was a basic book for his teaching.

He also used to

teach speech and voi ce through the Shah-nama.

Nush1 n introduced

Stanislavski's methods to Iran, though in general his teaching was through practice. Later in the Sa(di Theatre, which was founded by - - - Amu'i, there was a drama class taught by some of Nushin's ex-colleagues including Mu~alTlTlad {Ali Ja'fari, Mahd1 Amini, ~adiq Shabaviz, Suhayl a).

Nusrat .


Mustafa Usku ' i ..


These were 1ater some of the most acti ve arti sts in the

Iranian theatre.

Nushin's drama classes and his artictic personality had a great impact on the theatre of this period, and his work has had a lasting effect.

Indeed it was a landmark in the history of Iranian theatre.

Anah1ta Open Faculty of Acting One of the independent bodies which made a great contribution to the development of Irani an theatre and from whi ch a great number of contemporary actors an di rectors emerged was the Anah1 ta Theatre in Tehran.

The fi rst peri od of the course in the Anahi ta Theatre

sta rted in 1958.

- 146 -

The di rectors of the Anahi ta Theatre for deve1 opi ng the art of theatre have established a drama course, and they want to get all the enthusi asti c and tal ented youth into the classes. This action of the directors should be greatly we1 corned [l]. This


of the


Theatre with

its facilities

possibilities, which were limited, started to train the artistes.

and A

great number of present day arti stes began in the Anahi ta Theatre Faculty.

Plays such as Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Sixth

Floor, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, Streetcar Named Desi re and many others were shown in Tehran and a1 so toured allover the country.

Generally, Stani sl avsk i



method was used,



which was because the directors Mahin and Mustafa Usku'i were trained and educated in that method in Moscow.

In teaching and

training the students they put more emphasis on the pratica1 side, especially speech and voice, and they would choose the most talented students to perform in professional productions as part of their training.

The Faculty of Dramatic Arts In 1964 a Facu1 ty of Dramati cArts, dependent on the Mi ni stry of Culture and Arts, was established.

This Faculty was an improvement

on and development of the former Open Faculty of Dramatic Art, which was an evening school

[1 ]

The Faculty had five departments: play

Maja11a-yi Pus!-i Tehran, No. 25, Second Year 1957. Cited by H. A. Tabataba'i. Ope Cit. P.57.

- 147 -

writing and dramatic



television and radio,

acting and direction, stage design and scenery. al so was added to the other subjects.

In 1975 puppetry

Thi s was the fi rst hi gher

education faculty to have an educational prograJ1l1led and diploma. The diploma was equivalent to the B.A. degree. The duration of the course was four years full-time,

and students were chosen by

entrance examinstion and interview by the college board.

Thi s facul ty introduced young acti ve graduates to the worl d of the arts and large numbers of them later became highly active in theatre, cinema and television.

Faculty of Theatre, Faculty of Fine Arts In 1965 Tehran Uni verstiy opened the Facul ty of Theatre in the Faculty of Fine Arts. This was the second institute of higher education in theatre in Iran.

The Faculty of Theatre was more

important than the Facul ty of Dramati cArts, wi th better tutors, most of them educated in Europe and America.

University Theatre In 1956 Dr, Frank Davidson, an American, was invited to Iran by the Facul ty of Letters of Tehran Uni versi ty, and _he opened a drama course at the Uni versi ty.

Students were chosen to take the course

a fter pass i ng an entrance exami na ti on. classes






Thi s course consisted of


costume design and

The basic system which he used on the whole course was

- 148 -

Sl ani sl avsk i I S method.

He al so had another drama course in the

Iran-America Society and in addition worked with professional groups in co-operation with Dr. Vala and actors of the Tehran Theatre.


Town (T. Wilder) was directed by him and was performed in the Tehran Theatre.

He also worked with The Little Tehran Theatre, which was

formed by English and American residents in Tehran.

Usually the duration of his courses was very short and was based on practical work.

With his students from the Iran-America Society, he

di rected a performace of Tennesee Wi 11 i am IS The Gl ass Menageri e in Tehran, and 1ater he took it on tour to the 5i pahan Theatre in Isfahan.

In 1957 Professor George Quinby, another American lecturer, came to Iran and establ i shed a theatre course at the Facu1 ty of Letters. The durati on of thi s course was exactly one academi c year.


students studyi ng in the Facul ty of Letters cou1 d attend and the course was considered as four units of their subject.

Among the

areas in whi ch he speci a1 i sed were theory, the hi story of Ameri can theatre, the development of theatre in Ameri ca from the ni neteenth century and analysi s of twenti eth century Ameri can theatre.


Quinby established two individual classes in the Bureau of Fine Arts:

one on playwriting and the other on stage design.

At the end

of the playwriting course he chose seven plays written by the students and gave them to the other students to rehearse.

Later he

chose the three best to be performed in the Farabi Theatre. Among the wri ters who emerged through thi s process and won pri zes were Lufbat Va1a and Khalil Dilmaghani.

- 149 -

Other students of this group who later became famous in the theatre <:



were Jafar Va1i,

Parviz Bahram, Mu~ammad


Hushang la~ifpur, Fahima Rastkar and Jamal Mir,sadiq




Bizhan Mufid,


under the direction of Professor Quinby

performed plays such as Billy Budd by H. Melville, The Second Man by S. Behrman, Cage by lubat Vola, The Golden Carriage by Khalil c

- -

and The End by Jafar Va1i.


these plays were

performed by students of the Faculty of letters.

In 1958 Dr. Belcher, another American, came to Iran and stayed for two years.

He also formed a drama course in the Faculty of Letters

which was also a unit of the subject.

Also, in co-operation with

the l i ttl e Tehran Theatre he produced Anti gone by Anoui 1h, as well as several other plays including The Proposal by Chekhov.

The Impact of the Western School in Iranian Theatre The present i nf1 uence of western ideas in I rani an thea tre really began with the restoration of the Shah in 1953, which brought about the emergence of the Americans on the Iranian theatrical scene. fi rst Amerci an to have an impact was Dr. F. Davi dson who


in 1956,

as seen above, formed a theratre class in the Faculty of Letters at the Unvierstity of Tehran.

He also taught in the Iran-America

Society and worked with various new theatrical groups. product of Stanis1avski's method school

He was a

of acting and produced

various plays in Iran including The Glass Menagerie and Our Town in the Tehran Theatre.

- 150 -

A second American Professor, George Quinby, who arrived in Iran in 1957, played a more important role in introducing western theatre to Iran.

He initiated a theatrical club at the University of Tehran.

Besides his practical work he also lectured on the history and theory of American theatre and fonned two c1 asses in the Fi ne Arts Office, playwriting and stage scenery.

The first western play he produced in Iran was Billy Budd, which fortunately had an all-mal e cast (actresses in Iran at that time were still audience,


The play was received quite well

by the

but criticised by the University authorities as being

"anti -authori ty" [1].

Hi s second producti on, Behnnan' s Second Man,

a hi gh comedy wi th a cast of two men and two women, was recei ved enthusiastically by the audience, but Quinby was obliged by the ._._ authorities to edit later productions to exclude kissing and to remove an actress from the actor's lap to the ann of his chair [2].

Meanwhi 1e hi s 1ectures on Ameri can theatre had proceeded from Unc1 e Tom's Cabin through to contemporary plays, of which those of Eugene O'Neill were the most popular.

Following the showing of Second Man

in Isfahan, he was asked to lecture on O'Neill at Abadan.


thi s he went back to Ameri ca and returned to Iran in 1962 as a Fu1 bri ght 1ecturer.

Shortly he presented Long Day's Journey into

Night by O'Neill, in English, using a cast of American and English actors, alternating with an Iranian cast of his former students in

[1] Jafar Vali, Personal Talk with Author. [2]

Parviz Bahram, Personal Talk with Author

- 151 -

Persian, at the recently completed Iran-America Theatre in Tehran. This was a new and modern building with a theatre reasonably good in lighting and other equipment, most probably the best theatre at that time in Iran.

The pl ay was transl ated by Ma~mud Kiyinush for the

Persian performance.

The Iranian cast were :- Fahima Rastakar,

Parviz Bahram, Hushang Lat1fpur and Kawus Dustdar • . In addtion to Long Days Journey into Night,

Qui nby centred hi s

directing around two other O'Neill autobiographical

plays:- Ah,

Wi 1derness!, for the Uni vers i ty Drama Cl ub for six perfonnances at the New Theatre at the Facul ty of Fi ne Arts, and The Straw, wi th a


cast of young professionals from Dr. Vala's Theatre School, also at the Iran-America Theatre in Tehran.

By staging these three plays in Persian, the director's hope was to leave a clear impression with local audiences of:(a)

the America of O'Neill's boyhood before the First World War and the youth he wished he might have had;


the tragic family circumstances which were to affect his entire career, and


the way in which he rose above his selfish wish for death to become a champion of man's courageous fight against fate.

Quinby had al so tried to encourage young dramatists by offering a seminar on playwriting at the Iran-America Society in Tehran.

It is interesting to note traditional attitudes to theatre and the conditions






- 152 -





In a letter for possible publication in the "OINeill News1etter", a new theatre magazine in Tehran, he describes the prevailing attitude thus:

I suggest the production of "Ye11ow Jack", since American doctors were at the time involved in fighting certain contagious diseases. However, Dr. Siassi, the distinguished head of the School of Letters, doubted that a Persian audience could accept a play dealing with disease as (Being) dramatic"; II •.• for "Long Daysll ••. with identical cut texts, the English versi on ran three hours; the Farsi four hours! Irani an actors love to milk a script for all thatls in it, and lithe theatre chairs from India barely arrived in time for the first perfonnace ll ; IIFor liThe Straw ll I was offered the actress originally in the opposite part in 157, but she had rounded out so lushly (perhaps as a result of becoming a movie star) that she couldnlt playa dying consumptive" [1]. A third American of some importance was Dr. F. S. Belcher who went to Iran in 1958 and stayed for over two years, during which time he estab1ised a theatrical class in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tehran.

This was a fonna1 class and part of the

Departmentls course.

He also produced The Emperor Jones by OlNei11 which was banned, Jean Anoui1h l s Antigone, Anton Chekhovls The Bear and The Hairy Ape, among others.

Most of the plays staged by Davidson, Quinby and Belcher were at ei ther the Iran-Ameri ca Soci ety or the Bri ti sh Embassy; a few were at the Tehran Theatre and the University of Tehran and some were also perfonned in other cities such as Isfahan, Tabriz and Mashhad. Sometimes the actors were Ameri can and Bri ti sh and some of the productions were even in English.


Quinby, Unpublished letter in position of author.

- 153 -

In addition to the direct activities of the American producers mentioned above, in 1957 the Iranian authorities set up a Department of Drama ti c Arts under Dr. Mahdi Furugh, a graduate of London IS R.A.D.A., in the Fine Arts Office (later the Ministry of Culture and Arts).

This departmet set about spreading know1ege of western

theatre in various ways:- by awarding an annual prize for the best Iranian plays and the best translated Western plays; by forming theatrical

classes and groups



(including marionette groups); by




by printing

various theatrical publications. The Department of Dramatic Arts, in co-operation with the Iran-America Society also held a semi-festival for four nights in October 1958, the contents of the programme being music, dance, plays and an art exhibition.

The event was held in

Farhang Hall, Hafiz Street, Tehran and included a mixtrue of American and

Iranian cultural


One of the third night of the ~idiq

programme the one-act play Vultures (Murdah Khurha) by was performed.


The play was presented by the National Dramatic

Group; the cast i nc1 uded the actresses



Kavus i, Hami da and

Chihr-Azad and the actors Nas1riyan and Javanmard [lJ.

On the same ni ght as the one-act p1 ays, Ari a da Capo by Edna St. Vi ncent Mi 11 ay was presented by The Li ttl e Theatre of Tehran under the direction of Sergio de110 Stro10go.

On the third night The Game

of Chess, a one-act play by Kenneth Goodman, translated into Persian by


Mu~ammad An~ari,

was also presented.

This was presented by the

Hasan Shirvani, Fa (a1ratha-yi Hunar1 Dar Panjah Sal Shahanshahi ~yi Pah1avi. Ope Cit. P. 64.

- 154 -

Universtity of Tehran Theatre Group under the direction of Dr. Francis S. Belcher, visiting professor at the University of Tehran, in co-operation with Khalil




Muhammad Ansari,






fri endshi p" ,


first more



The cast of the play





'A1 i (.Ati f1 and
promoting the


i nfi 1trati on of Ameri can

cultural standards into Iranian society in order to bring Iran more strongly into the western sphere of influence after the restoration of the Shah.

In thi s respect it is important to note that the

translators were impelled, during the American-backed Shah's regime, to choose more crypti c p1 aywri ghts such as Ionesco and Beckett, in preference to overtly anti-capitalist writers such as Brecht [lJ. Governmental Theatre In 1957 The National Bureau of Fine Arts was established, an office attached to the government but apparently dependent on the Mi ni stry of Culture.

Later this organisation became one of the important

mi ni stri es under the organi sati on was liThe Mi ni stry of Cu1 ture and Arts".

The main function of this ministry was to preserve and

develop culture and the arts. Bureau


Fi ne



Under the auspices of the National





Dramati c




established, with Dr. Mahdi Furugh, a graduate student of RADA, as principal.

[1] Majid Fallah Zadeh, Ope Cit. P.246

- 155 -

Thi s bureau endeavoured to spread the nati ona1 theatre of Iran and know1 edge of Western theatre throughout the country.

By emp1 oyi ng

intellectual and experienced actors, the directors and writers of thi s bureau tri ed to undenni ne the independent groups whi ch were politically government's




therefore Thi s




opponents 1arge1y




Nevertheless, most of the progressive actors and directors employed by thi s governmental bureau sti 11 endeavoured to spread thei r own social points of view and, using the large facilities of the bureau, were able to communicate directly with the people.

This was

inevitable in spite of the control exercised by the bureau.


bureau made a contract with the private television channel, Sabit T.V., (the first television channel in Iran) to produce regular weekly television programmes for theatre.

The standard of plays and

perfonnances was indeed high, and plays were chosen carefully on the one hand to be relevant to Iranian audiences and, on the otherhand, to




pre-recording system at









T.V. and programmes went out live, so

there was great responsibility on the general director of the bureau in choosing acceptable plays and ensuring that actors would not do any ad-libbing during the performance.

Among the directors and actors there were a few who had graduated in drama in Europe.

These made a great effort to trans1 ate European

plays into Persian and introduce them to Iranian audiences. Most of thesep1ays were performed on the same weekly television prograrmnes, and chosen carefully in respect of 1i bera1 tastes but so as not to fall foul of the censor.

Some of these trans1 at; ons were 1ater

published. - 156 -

Most of the educated di rectors of that time were fasci nated by the "Theatre of the Absurd".

Many modern western p1 ays were trans1 ated

and performed by these groups.

The other activities of the bureau were:


Publishing a fortnightly theatrical magazine.


Founding an open dramatic school for the study of directing, playwriting, acting, stage design, etc.


Arranging touring companies throughout the country.


Awarding an annual prize for the best new Persian play in order to encourage new native writers.[l]

One of the first stage production of the bureau was Strindberg's The Father,

directed by Mahdi- Furugh.


Also Ghosts was performed,

~ami d

Samandaryan, a student graduate who had studi ed

drama in Germany.

Another director who was actively working on

di rected by

modern p1 ays was 'Abbas Maghfuriyan who a1 so graduated in Germany. He translated and directed The Zoo Story by Edward Albee.

This play

was most probably the first western play with just two actors to be performed in Iran and needed considerable daring to begin with. first








cast comprised

Maghfuriyan as Jerry and Parviz Fannizada as Peter.

Later the same

play was performed on stage by the same group, but instead of


( -


Fannizada, the part of Peter was taken by Izzat Intizami, one of .



- --


Khalil Di1magani, Citd. by H. Shirvani. Ope Cit. P.P. 66-67.


- 157 -

the most distinguished actors at that time in Iran.

In a third

production of this play, Iraj Emami played Peter, and in a fourth


production, Jamshid Mashayikhi played the part.

In both of these

productions Maghfuriyan performed the role of Jerry.

For many years

thi s was a very conveni ent p1 ay to put on, fi rst1y because there were no women in the cast, secondly because only two actors were involved, and thirdly because it required very simple scenery, just two benches.

Later The Department of Dramatic Arts was expanded and

became the Faculty of Dramatic Arts.

The First Step Towards a National Theatre The Namayish (Theatre) Magazine, one of the national bureau of Fine Arts I pub1 i cati ons, awarded an annual pri ze for the best new p1 ay. The wi nni ng entri es for the best p1 ays were: Bu1 bu1-i Sargashta by ...

CAl i Na~ i riyan, and Sarbazan-i Javidan by A. Jannati - equal fi rst prize; Kurush Pisar-i-Mandana by Kurus ?a1a~shur - second prize; and Arusakha by Bi zhan Mufi d - thi rd pri ze [1].

Among these p1 ays by

far the best and most lasting was Bu1bu1-i Sargashta, which was the first pub1ised in Namayish 10 Vol. 1, and first performed in Tehran in the winter of 1958 by the National Arts Troupe in the Farabi Theatre.

It later played fifteen nights in the SUf1111er of 1959 in

the Jami (a-yi Barbad Theatre.

It was also performed in Isfahan,

Shi raz, Abadan and the oi 1-produci ng areas, under the auspi ces of the National Bureau of Fine Arts.


Maja11a-yi Namayish, 2 Period, No.9 1336/1957.

- 158 -

In addition it played four nights at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre as the Iranian representative at the Theatre of Nations Festival in Paris in April 1960.

It was also performed at the 25th of Shahrivar

Theatre in Tehran in 1966. The Story: Once upon a time there was man who had a young son and a daughter. One day the man took a wi fe.

Now the chil dren had a step-mother

called Baba's wife.

The man was a thorn-pi cker and one day he and hi s son wanted to go to the fields to pick thorns. wager between yourselves.

Baba's wife said, "You should make a

Whoever picks the most thorns must cut of

the head of the other".

The father and son agreed. to -pi ck thorns.

They depa rted for the fi e1ds and began

By chance, the son picked more thorns than the


When it came to wrap up thei r pil es, the son sai d to his





IIBaba dear,

I am thi rsty" •


Go to the spring and quench your thirst".

replied the When hi s son

left to get a drink, the father took a mound of thorns from the boy's piles, and placed them on his own.

After they wrapped up

thei r pi 1es, the father sai d. "Let' s wei gh our loads and see who pi cked the most". was heavier".

They wei ghed the thorns and the father's porti on

He grabbed his son, threw him down and cut off his


- 159 -

He went home wi th hi s son's head and gave it to hi s wi fe and said, "Take thi sand fi x it for di nner" .

Biba' s wi fe took the boy's head,

placed in a pot and lit a fire under it so that it would cook.


noontime when the girl returned from Mu11a Baji's house she said to Baba's wife, "I am hungry".

Baba's wife replied, "Fine. Go help

yourself to the Abgusht in the pot and come eat with your mother".

When the 1i ttl e gi r1 1i fted the 1i d of the pot she recogni sed her brother's forelock stewing in the boil ing water.

She struck her

forehead twice and exclaimed "Oh woe is me! Woe is me! I have lost my brother II •

She softly closed the 1i d on the pot an ran in tears to Mu11a to tell her what had happened. Abgusht.


Mulla Bajf said, "Do not touch the

After they have eaten it go and coll ect your brother IS


Wash them in rosewater and bury them in the corner of the

ga rden.

P1 ant a rosebush over the exact spot and on the ni ght of

the seventh Thursday go and water the bush with rosewater".

The little girl went and did all that she was told and waited for the ni ght of the seventh Thursday.

On the ni ght of the seventh

Thursday, she noticed a nightingale perched on a branch in the rose bush.

The nightingale was singing this song:

- 160 -

I am a wandering nightingale, From beyond the mountains and across the dale. By my cowardly father I was killed, For dinner by my whoring mother swilled. My kind-hearted sister Seven times by bones with rosewater washed And under a flowering tree she buried me. Now I am a nightingale. Whish ••. whish ••• !

He then flew away.

The nightingale flew off to a needle-seller's

shop, alighted on the ground next to the wares and began to sing. I am a wandering nightingale, From beyond the mountains and across the dale. By my cowardly father I was killed, For dinner by my whoring mother swilled. My kind-hearted sister Seven times my bones with rosewater washed And under a f10werig tree she buried me. Now I am a nightingale. Whish ..• whish ..• !

The needle-seller said, "What, what are singing? me".

The nightingale replied, "Very well.

I will sing it again".

Sing it again for

If you close your eyes,

When the storekeeper closed his eyes, the

nightingale swiftly grabbed a claw full of needles and flew away.

Next he fl ew to the roof of Baba s wi fee I


- 161 -

He perched on the roof and

I am a wandering nightingale, From beyond the mountains and across the dale By my cowardly father I was killed, For dinner by my whoring mother swilled. My kind-hearted sister Seven times my bones with rosewater washed And under a flowering tree she buried me. Now I am a nightingale. Whish ..• whish .•• !

When his song was finished, Baba's wife raised her head and said , "What,


are you


nightingale replied, liVery well.







If you close your eyes and open

your mouth I will sing it again".









her mouth,

nightingale dropped the needles into her mouth and flew away. he f1 ew to the candy-maker' s shop and sang the same song.

the Next

when he

had finished, the candy-maker said, "What, what are you singing? Sing it again for me".

The nightingale replied, liVery well.

close your eyes, I will sing it again".

if you

When the candy-maker closed

his eyes, the nightingale grabbed a claw full of sweets and flew away.

Next he flew to his sister's spinning wheel, alighted, an sang his song.

- 162 -

I am a wandering nightingale, From beyond the mountains and across the date By my cowardly father I was killed, For dinner by my whoring mother swilled. My kind-hearted sister Seven times my bones with rosewater washed And under a flowering tree she buried me. Now I am a nightingale. Whish •.• whish ••• ! When his song had finished, his sister said, "What, what are you singing? Sing it again for me". well.

The nightingale replied, liVery

If you close your eyes and open your mouth, I will sing it


His sister did just that and the nightingale dropped the

sweets into her mouth and flew away [1].

In 1964 after the estab1ishement of the Ministry of Culture and Art, the art of theatre came under the control of a new organi sati on called the Bureau of Theatre.

This new bureau tried to attract

other independent theatre groups by emp1 oyi ng the 1eader of the group,

thereby scatteri ng the group or attachi ng it to the bureau

in order to have direct control of its activity. strategy







As part of this


progressi ve

ex-members of Nushin Theatre who had his own theatre group, Ja(farf at the Kasra Theatre; after thi s the Kasra Theatre was closed down and, thus one of the most important bases for theatre of protest was sil enced.

[1 ]




Ali Nasiriyan, Bu1bu1-i-Sargashta, 1354/1975: P. P. 17-~ - 163 -




The Bureau of Theatre was actually the same as the Bureau of Dramatic Art but under new management and new direction, which was even more illiberal and restrictive.

The first important event

organised by this new bureau, after it rap1aced the Bureau of Dramatic Art, was the Iranian Theatre Festival. festival


Iranian traditional

This was the first

and contemporary theatre.


festival took place in 1965 at the 25th Shahrivar Theatre, a new building, reasonably equipped and specially built for the Ministry of Culture and Art.

The theatre was built in the centre of Tehran

in the south part of the Park-i-Shahr.

Among the productions at the festival was [1] Amir Ars1an by Parviz Kardan, a play based on an Iranian folk story, directed by


Nasi riyan. •

The p1 ay was one of the early p1 ays wri tten in the

rU-hawii sty1 e and perfonned a1 so in the same manner.

Among the

actors and actresses the most important were (Izzat Inti~ami, (Ali Nasiriyan, Mahin Sahabi, Ja(far Va11 and Fakhri Khurvash. . . ~

Of the other p1 ays at the festi va 1 the one probably most acc1 aimed by the people and the critics alike was The Stick-wielders of Varazf1 by Dr. Ghu1am Husayn Saridf (non-de-p1ume: Gawhar Murad), , one

of the most progressive dissident writers of








of modern





Parv1z Kardan, 1336/1957.

Amir Arsa1an.

- 164 -

Intisharat-i-Pad{d, Tehran,

It was directed by Jaffar Vali, and the main roles were acted by I.


Inti~ami, J. Vali, A. Na~iriyan, J. Mashayikhi, M. Dawlat-abadi. P. Fannizada an M. Kishavarz.


- - was written and directed by The Third play, Kaliska-yi Tala'i, •

Khalil Dilmaghani.

M. Kishavarz, J. Mashayikhi and F. Ta'idi were

the main actor and actresses in the play.


The fourth play was Bihtarin Baba-yi Dunya by G. H. Sa(idf, directed by 1. Inti~ami with rAli Na~friyan, J. MaShaYi~f and J. Vall. )-

The fifth play was Pahlavan Akbar Mimirad by Bahram Bayzai, directed by 'Abbas Javanmard.

The actors in this play were Dawlatabadf,

Javanmard, Fannizada and Bakhshi.

The 1ast pl ay Kurush Pi sar-i Mandana by K. ~al a~shur, di rected by Rukn-al Din Khusravi.[l] There was al so a programme presented under the di recti on of Parvi-z Sayyad called "Iranian Collection", a collection of popular and traditional



plays and also traditional theatrical forms.


an extract from Rustam and Suhrab,

Shahnama, was performed by M. naqqals of Iran.

In the

from the

(Al f Shah, one of the most famous

The second Naqqal was Murshid Burzu who performed

an extract from the Iskandar Nama, another Persian epic.





Other performers at the festival were Ibrahim Musavi, Parda-Dari.



[1] H. Shirvani, Op Cit, P. 70. - 165 -

,Ta'iiya, a puppet show was performed by the Akbar Sarshar Troupe, in which one of the most experienced and famous actors of improvisatory theatre of Iran~ ~ab~h A11ih Mahiri acted the main role of Siyah.

As a first result of this festival

many young, talented act~rs,

wri ters and di rectors were introduced to the art-1 ovi ng pub1 ; c and were encouraged to further their careers.

Most of these people were

later to become the main nucleus of Iranian national theatre.


still, as a result of the development of cinema and television, some of these 1eft the theatre for these more 1 ucrati ve and presti gi ous spheres.

At the festival, and in state-supported theatre in general

at the time, most of the audi ence was from the educated mi ddl e classes, as a result of the direction of social and political trends after the coup d'etat which had destroyed the emerging awareness of the working classes.

In the commercial theatre which was based in

La1azar Street in Tehran, the policy of the owners, backed by the government, was to di vert the worki ng c1 asses to entertai nment for entertainment ' s



political pretensions. the very






Before the coup d'etat this area had been

heart of the theatre of protest (just as in pre-Nazi

Gennany the ni ght c1 ubs and cabaret had been the focus for strong political

and social

satire - as shown by the early career of

Berto1 t Brecht).

At thi s time the Bureau of Theatre became one of the major bodi es presenting theatre and,



country was under the control of the bureau.

- 166 -

activity throughout the It employed student






uni versi ti es


di spersed


throughout the country to form theatre groups in all the other major towns, naturally under the control of the bureau.

This policy was

obvi ously to further strengthen the pol i ti cal and soci al control of the Bureau over theatre in Iran as a whole.

Another policy of the

Bureau was to try to gather all writers as members of the Bureau by paying them 5,000 Tomans (£300) for each play written, provided that it









astutely formed a censorship council without any great trouble. After the performance of plays like liThe stick-wielders of Varazil" which had had a great impact on the public, of the implications of which the authorities were fully aware, as a safeguard the Bureau deci ded to form a counci 1 for readi ng pl ays and to pass them for showing, or reject them.

Five important figures who were members of

the Bureau were on the council - (Ali Na~iriyan, 'Izzat Inti~ami, Dawud Rash1 di



Abbas Javanmard, who resi gned in 1977, and

Zhanti, the di rector of the Bureau.

r Azimat

After the deci si on of thi s

council, which considered all aspects of the plays, there was a SAVAK colonel who made the final decision as to whether a play was overtly political or against the interests of the government. was obviously political

If it

and openly anti-government, the council

would not, of course, pass it to the SAVAK representative to read. It was not that the counci 1 i tsel f was necessari ly pro-censorshi p, but in order to protect their own position they were obliged to take this course of action.

Fully realising the limitations of the

censorshi p

woul d






pl ay



consul tati on wi th the wri ter, adapt it as necessary before pass i ng it on to the higher authority, i.e. the SAVAK colonel.

- 167 -

From the

Bureau's point of view it was preferable to have active theatrical people on the concil who could more easily understand and appreciate the symbolic nature of much "political" drama. fi rst step of the censorshi p.

This was only the

Even if a pl ay, havi ng been read and

passed by the council, had been stamped with the council's "approved emblem", it did not receive the final approval for public showing until a perfonnance of it had, in fact, been viewed by the council when the pl ay had been fully rehearsed and prepared for producti on. Thi s prevented any surrepti ti ous al terati ons or i nserti ons by the writer or director after the council's original membership of the council was not constant. (-



For a short time


Muhammad tAli Jafari and Jafar Va1i also were inactive members of • the counci 1 .

Thi s was to gi ve an impressi on of democrati c and

liberal views to the council. The aim of the government was to destroy the soci a1 theatre of the time and to end pol i ti cal agi tati on. The poi nt is that these artists were attracted to the governmental theatre because of its professionalism, and they were the most talented artists from our society. But we should not unfairly forget thei r good qual i ti es just because they worked for the governmental theatre [1]. Governmental Groups The governmental theatre could be divided into two divisions, one the Department of Theatre attached to the Mi ni stry of Cu1 ture and Art, and the other, those groups and theatres who were financed and established by the National Iranian Television.


Of the latter the

Mahmud Dawlafabadi, Nigahi bi-Siupanj Sa1-i Ti 'atr-i-Mubariz, Nashr-i Burna, Tehran 1979, P. 124.

- 168 -

main groups were Ti'atr-i-Shahr (The City Theatre), the most modern type of theatre at the time, with a complex of three theatres.


idea was to build something like the National Theatre in London, to support groups 1ike Kargah-i -Namayi sh (The Theatre Workshop).


groups in the Department of Theatre were:


Guruh-i-Hunar-i-Mil1f, (National Art Group).

Directors of this

gourp were 'Abbas Javanmard and his wife Nu~rat Partuv1. 2.



(Peop1e ' s Group) whose directors were


Na~iriyan and 'Izzat Allah Intizam1 . •


Guruh-i Shahr (The City Group).

Directors wer Jaffar Vali and

Muhammad 'Ali Ja'fari. 4.

Guruh-i Mitra (The Mitra Group) whose directors were Khalil Di1maqani and Rukn al-D1n Khusravi [1].

There were above seventy professional actors and actresses who were permanently employed by the Department of Theatre. divided






They were


independent actors and actresses as guests in their productions.


H. Shirvani, Ope Cit.

P.P. 71-72.

- 169 -



After the successful coup d I etat of 1953 the Shah and hi s rul i ng establishment


determined to consolidate his power. He installed General Zahi di and General Bakhtiyar as Prime Minister and Mil i tary Governor of Tehran respectively, with General Hi dayat as Chief of General Staff. Most of the other coup leaders were placed in key positions.

Financially the Shah was backed by the United

States of America, while receiving technical assistance from the Israeli








Inte11 i gence (1 ).

In 1957 he formed a new secret pol ice force, the Organi sati on of National Security and Information (Sazman-i Savak).


va Amniyyat or

Martial law, the mi1itiary tribunals, and the 1931 decree

banning all kinds of collectivist ideology, were used by the Shah and his military government to block any progressive activities. These 1aws were not only used to crush the Tudeh Party and the National


acti vi ti es.









These 1aws were so drawn up as to become a strong

weapon against all opposition.


Ervand Abrahamian, Iran Between University Press, 1982, P. 419.

- 170 -




From 1953 to 1957, the poets and short-story writers along with the essayists coul~ publish fewer works in the open, having to resort to allegorles and metaphors in order to escape the increased censorship and the Secret Police. The combination of the CIA, Bri ti sh Intell i gence Servi ce, and the powerful families led by General Zahedi, swept aside the Mossadeq reforms, crushed the opposition through purges, trials and imprisonment, and in 1957, established the Savak (security organisation), principally to control the press and creative writers[l J. Gradually having achieved enough power to exert pressure, Savak expanded its network, becoming more active in society, setting up an array of controlled trade unions and scrutinising anyone working in uni vers i ti es and the ci vil servi ce.

They tri ed to take control of

cultural activities such as the publication of newspapers, novels, poetry and plays, while also placing restrictions on all gatherings and meeti ngs.

They even announced that all pub 1i c gatheri ngs held

outdoors must not exceed three people and that otherwise they would be risking arrest.

All wedding and birthday parties needed special

permission from the local police station.

However, notwithstanding

the extreme restrictions against progressive art, poets, writers and di rectors di d not cease thei r acti vi ti es and indeed found new and creative means of avoiding the harsh censorship. Among the several outstandi ng poets of thi s peri od, i ncl udi ng Ahmad Shamlu, Nadir Nadirpur, Nima Yushij and Mahdi Akhavan-Sal es was Siyavush Kasrai who in 1957 summed up the 1egacy of August 1953 and the subsequent confl i cts wi th the regime: It was one day A dark and distasteful day Our fortunes blackened by Our oppressors Our enemy prevailed over our life .•..

[lJ The Li ttl e Bl ack Fi sh and Other Stori es by Samad Behrangi, Trans' ated by Mary and Eri c Hoog' and, Three Conti nents Press, Washington DC, P. 106.

- 171 -

And in those days, the significance of bravery Was buried and Life itself had meaning only in the arrow. The work of a hundred thousand swords only had significance[1 ]. The Government was


to give some leeway to alternative

artistic activities as a means of venting aggressive oppositon. Thus, just as they had imported American military advisors, they also brought in cultural advisors from America.

The Irani an-USA Cu1 tura1 Soci ety and the Bri ti sh Embassy became the venue for staging plays which the American advisors directed. Tehran Uni versi ty, whi ch had a 1imi ted number of hall s, was a1 so used occasionally as a place for staging such plays. Some of the productions were in English and most of the actors were the staff of either the British or American Embassies.

As these activities

became more expensive plays were taken to cities such as Tabriz, Mashhad and Isfahan.

These were the first artistic events to take

place since the 1953 coup d'etat,

since artistic and cultural

activities had ceased for over two years.

The other arts in Iran

suffered as bad1 y as the theatre in thi s peri od and it was perhaps only poetry which proved to be impossible to suppress compete1y.



one of Persia's outstanding poets,

published a


collection of poetry in 1957, entitled Hava-Yi Taza (Fresh Air, dati ng from between 1947 and 1956.

Among hi s poems of 1953 he



The Little Ba1ck Fish and Other Stories, Ope Cit. P. 107.

- 172 -

Fog has covered the desert fully, The lights of the hamlet are hidden, A warm surge is in the desert's blood, The desert is exhausted, Utter no word, It is out of breath, In the warm delirium of fog, Sweat is pouring from its joints slow1y[1]. In this poem entitled 'Fog', Sham1u pictures the whole atmosphere of the 1953 coup d etat in symbol i c 1anguage. I

Two years before the

coup, Sham1u ' s poems show a difference in his use of language since they are full of hope. From the scar on Aba'i's heart, Girls of the plain, Girls in expectation, Girls of narrow hopes, In the (immense) vast plain, Among you, who - say it! Among you who is polishing Aba'i's weapon for the day of revenge [2] Nima Yushi j, the father of new Persi an poetry, was an acti ve poet during the 1941-1953 period.

Thi famous poem below, Ah, Adamha (0,

Men), was a warning to the people of Iran about the tragic incidents of 1953.

o Men,

who sit along the shore and laugh, Someone is drowning in the sea, Someone continues to wave his arms and legs, About the roaring, sombre, and poderous sea. Someone calls to you from the water, His arms tiring from the fight with the ponderous waves, His mouth open, his legs wide with terror [3].

There was more build-up of suspicion against writers who actively

N.I.L. Publishers, 1974, 4th Ed. P.


Ahmad Sham1a, Hava-y; Taza, 51 •


Aba ' 1 is the name of a revolutionary Turkman Leader

[3] Nima Yushij, Zindig1 va Asar-i-u. 1334/1968. P. 178.

- 173 -




Safi Ali Shah, Tehran, •

criticised socio-po1itica1 and economic issues.

Among these writers

was ~amad Bihrang1, a teacher from Azarbaijan who wrote mostly children's stories, concentrating on poverty and the effects of socio-economic problems. Thus in 1973 all of Behrangi's writing, with the exception of the story of 'The Little Black Fish', were officially banned by the branch of the security in charge of censorship[lJ. There were several banned.


reasons why The Little Black Fish was not

book was

sponsored and

published by the


Parvari sh-i Fi kri -yi Kudakan va Nowjavanan (The Insti tute for the Inte11 ectua1 Development of Chi 1dren and Young Adu1 ts), and it a1 so won prizes in several international festivals, which forced the government to try to keep a liberal face by allowing its publication.

Bihrangi's death in 1968 was untimely. Aras

in Azarbaijan,

suspi ci ous.


He was found in the River

the circumstances of his death were

It seems fai r1y c1 ear that hi s death was due to hi s

activities as a teacher and writer.

Ghu1am ~usayn Sa~idi, psychiatrist, playwright, author and political activist and perhaps the most outstanding figure in Iranian theatre, was ~amad Bihrangi's closest friend and like him a native of Azerbaijan.

Between the years 1957 and 1969

both creative writing and social issues. activity



suppressed in 1946.







was active in

He began his political

of Azarbaijan,



In 1947 his interest in creative writing reached

M. and E. Hoogland, Ope Cit.


- 174 -

a turning point with the publication of his stories in two Persian language





which were

founded and run by the Tudeh Party.

After the suppressi on of the D. P. A. and 1ater of the Tudeh party, Sa"idi, still was active until the coup d'etat of August 1953, in front organisations of the Tudeh party.

A few days after the coup,

Sa.ei di was arrested but was soon rel eased.

One of hi s early works

as a playwright was published in 1961, the three act play Kalata-Yi Gul[l]. and

Later the same year he wrote Bamha va zir-i Bamha[2J (Roofs








- - -






constitutional revolution, and La1-Baziha, [3J a few short plays for acting without words (pantomime). From 1967 to 1969, Samad Behrangi, Gho1am Husayn Sa'edi, Jalal A1-Ahmad, M. Azarm, Khosrow Go1esorkhi, and Fereydon Tonakabani took the lead in the revolutionary current of contempory Iranian literature. Each paid for such activism in terms of execution or imprisonment [4J. Any 1i berati on or progressi ve movement was suppressed by the army, police and Savak. any charge.

The opposition were arrested and tortured without

Even if a play or story had the approval of the

authori ti es to be pub1 i shed and di stri buted or put on the stage, still the writer or director of a play could be at risk.


[1] Kalata yi Gu1, Tehran. 1340/1961. (.





Bamha va zir-i Bamha, panj~ama y1sh az Intlab-i-Mashru~~at. Ashr afi, Tehran, 1345/1966. ~


G.H. Sa'idi, Lal Baziha.


The Little Black Fish' and other stories.






Chap-i-Payam, Tehran, 1353/1974.

- 175 -

P. 110.

This usually happened when the establishment was made aware of the content of the work after the reaction of people towards it.

This happened in the case of the writter Feridun Tonakaboni who was arrested by Savak after the publication of his •Yaddasht-ha-ye Shahr-e Sho1 ugh' (Memori es of a Ci ty in Tunnoi 1', 1969) , even though thi s book had ~revi ous1y been approved by the censorshi p whi ch was none other than Savak itse1 f [1]. After the Shah' s Whi te Revo 1uti on and 1and refonn in 1964, Sa ( i di wrote











In the same year, this play was directed by Jarfar va1i.

It was maybe one of the best producti ons in contemporary Irani an theatre, with a fine cast of the most distinguished actors, such as


Intizami, .


Nasi. riyan,

Mashayi khi ,

Fanni iada,

Daw1 atabadi ,


Kishavarz. Choob Bedasthay-e Varazi1 has strong pol itica1 overtones. It criticises foreign powers who come in the name of help and aid but, in practice, exploit and plunder the country's resources while the natives starve [3]. The

play looks at the



problem of third world countries in a The







vi 11 age of Varazi 1, ina tradi ti ona1 peasant communi ty, whose fanns have been devastated by a horde of wild boar.

[1 ]

Reza Navabpour: •State Heroes and Revo1 uti onary Characters in Some of the Modern Fiction of Iran'. Bulletin of the British Association of Orientaists 1979-80. new Series, Volume 11.


G.R. Sa'idi, 1344/1965.


G.R. Sabri-Tabrizi, Gho1am Hoseyn Sa'edi, A voice for the Poor, Index on Censorship 4, 1986, P. 12.


Chub bih dastha-yi

Ma~mud Kiyanush,





Tehran: Murvarid,

_ _


Bar-rasi-yi Shir va Nasr-i Farsi-yi M uasir. Tehran, Raz, 1344/1976. P. 128. - 176 -

In the face of thei r di ffi cul ty and the hardshi ps i nf1 i cted by the wild boar they are helpless and have no weapons with which to defend themsel ves except sti cks and drums.

In an attempt to sol ve the

probl ems, they deci de to employ hunters to defend the rest of the farms from the boar.

This idea comes after they send people to the

neighbouring village to discuss the problem with them.

They employ

an Anneni an hunter, whom they call Monsi eur, who is happy to hunt the boar for food.

He brings two hunters with him to the village and asks the peasants to provide them with food and accommodation.

The hunters are well

fed and treated with typical peasant hospitality.

They kill the

boar and it seems that their mission is completed, but they show no sign of intending to leave.

The villagers realise that their first

problem has been solved and that now they face another much greater probl em.

Thei r fi rst approach to the hunters fai 1s, so they go to

Monsieur and ask him to do something about his hunters. He suggests hiring two more hunters to free them from the first ones.

They feed

the second party of hunters, who also decide to stay and do not do anythi ng about the fi rst party of hunters. hunters face each other for a fi ght.

Later both sets of

They all turn towards the

villagers and point their guns towards them.




The Stick Wielders of Varazil is one of the best plays that Sa(idi has written.

In it he has used powerful symbols in a realistic form.

- 177 -

The alternating use of symbolism and realism was due to the censorshi p of the time, and these two forms combi ne in such a way for playwrights to get round the restrictions of censorship was to use symbolism.

Thus, strict censorship was a powerful factor in the

growth of the Iranian symbolist tradition, not only in the theatre, but in other literary forms such as poetry.

Thi s was true to such

an extent that a playwright could address his audience using symbols that woul d be immedi ately fami 1i ar to them.

Very few pl aywri ghts

managed to achieve a balance in their use of realism and symbolism, and the result was often confusing.

Generally speaking,

fulfils the role of the responsible playwright.


He understood what

was happeni ng in hi s country and uses thi s styl e to make people aware of the pol itica1 situation.



In Chub bih Dastha-Yi Varazi1,

Sakidi shouts to the people through one of his characters: Ahoy Varazilis! Night came •••• too late. S-af.idf's characters in this play represent people in traditional roles in Iranian society, such as the fanatical Muslim and the village represents the country as a whole.

The main message of the

play is that people should think and act for themselves in order to determi ne thei r own fate, rather than dependi ng on others who may turn out to be unworthy.

One cri ti ci sm that cou1 d be made about

this play is that it does not take account of the role of women and young people in society, since all the characters are male.


Chub bi

Dastha-yi Varaz1l was written durinng a period of transformation and social upheaval in Iran, when many farmers moved to the towns to find work and left their families in the villages.

- 178 -

The economi c prob1 ems faced by women and the responsi bi 1i ty they bore cari ng for chi 1dren often put them ina worse si tuati on than the men, yet these aspects are not touched on in Sa cid1's play.


of the reasons for thi s may have been the di ffi cu1 ty of fi ndi ng actresses

at the



other words,

plays without female

characters were less of a problem.









procedures for tightening up the mechanism of the censor, and censorship became harsher.

The government propaganda became more

sophisticated and more crude [1].

On 11th April 1968, the Iranian Writers' and Artists' Association (Kanun-i Ni visandi gan-va Hunarmandan-i Iran) was estab1 i shed.


main aim of this Association was to struggle against censorship and suppressi on.

The Associ ati on was estab1 i shed by a 1arge number of

wri ters and poets, theatre actors and di rectors and pai nters.


authori ti es refused to recogni se the Associ ati on, where upon the



Kanun issued a declaration of intent and wrote a letter to the Prime Minister.

It was determined to protect writers'

interests and freedom of thought. 1.

and artists'

Their specific demands were:

A request for the official

registration of the Writers'

Association of Iran and, as its legal right, officially to be allowed to carryon its activities in freedom.


Farzaneh Pirouz, A Critical Assessment of G. H. Sa'idi's Pre-revolutionary writings. Oxford University. M [itt. Thesis, 1984.

- 179 -


Every obstacle to the estab1 ishment of a place or a club for the gathering of members of the Association in Tehran and the Provinces to be removed.



provision be made for publishing a Journal of the






unimpeded distribution

throughout the country. The letter was signed by ninety-eight writers and artists. The authorities refused to recognise the association and resorted to a variety of administrative measures to silence it [1]

Most of the active members of the Kanun suffered, for example Sa'idiwho was severely beaten by the secret police and, in 1968, was dismissed from the hospital where he was practising by order of Savak.

In 1967 Sa f i d; wrote 'A-Yi bi -Ku'-ah a-yi ba-Ku'-ah (Short A,

Long A) [2].

In this play he looks at people's ignorance, using

symbolic language.

It is about a socitey which has been too

occupied with its own petty troubles to listen to those who know what is going on [3].

The play takes place in a newly-emerging

shabby neighbourhood outside Tehran.

Public services such as street




The act begins when the people are disturbed in their


police protection etc.

have not reached the

Ibid, P. 25.



[2] G. H. Sa" i di - 'A-yi -bi -Ku1 ah A-yi ba-Ku1 ah, 5th Ed. Agah,), 1357/1978. [3]

Reza Navabpour, Ope Cit.

P. 280.

- 180 -


sleep and frightened by an old man who raises the alarm, claiming to have seen a thi ef in an unoccupi ed house. He bri ngs the enti re locality out into the street.

At the end of the fi rst scene, a poor 01 d woman comes out of the house, surprising the people, and the danger turns out not to be serious. The second scene begins with the hushed entry of a gang of armed thieves into the unoccupied house.

But this time the people,

who have been informed once again by the old man and his neighbour, who have seen the thi eves, do not pay attenti on and they pay for their mistake. A group of thieves, who have been hiding and waiting for the right moment, come out and burgle their homes.

The thieves

represent the western powers, who are ravaging the country. But the emphasis is on the peop1e ' s passivity, which makes them an easy prey for the thieves.

It is their reluctance to act together,

their preference not to see, their determination to ostracise those who reveal unpleasant truths that ultimately account for the tragedy that has befallen them [1].


Farzaneh Pirouz, Ope Cit. P. 43.

- 181 -

Sa r i d1



main message is that peopl e shoul d have a commi tment and

responsibility to society and act against exploitation in any form, otherwise their ignorance makes them easily exploitable.

In 1968, Sa'idi wrote Dikta (Dictation). symbolism that has censorship.

The play is an example of

been written under the influence of heavy

Sa'idi regards society as a classroom and he makes the -

people sit an exam. In Dikta Iranian society is accurately portrayed in an age of suffocating restrictions, and Savak's methods of Success can be ensured

interrogation are represented in the play.

only when there is absolute commitment and belief in the dictates of the authorities and hope is the only way to salvation. To hope is to believe. Success comes with closed eyes and ears. They play takes place in a classroom, representing an interrogation room.

The headmaster makes a speech explaining the rules of the


In this play, Saiidi does not use complicated language

and his symbols are by and large familiar and easily recognisable. The assistant headmaster is in reality a Savak interrogator and advisor,





system of

encouragement and threats.

- 182 -




Wi th regard to the obedi ent and submi ss i ve student we profess respec~, and in regard to the disobedient, obstinate and rebe1110us student we have a deep loathing that cannot be conceal ed at all. But in spi te of thi s we attempt to put such a student on the right track and not reject him[l]. The student refuses to abi de by these ru1 es.

The exami ners arri ve,

and a last warning is given to the student.

Teacher Headmaster

To hope is to believe.


Student Teacher

To hope is to believe. That's right, it's true. To hope is to believe, that is it. No, to hope is not to believe.


Why don't you listen? Listen carefully. To hope .••. is to believe.


No it isn't!


Yes it is. Yes it is. [2]

For Sa' i di, the good and obedi ent student is one of those weak, compromising and submissive people who submit to and precisely carry out what is dictated.


'Dikta' was directed by D. Rashidi in 1968 and it was performed in the twenty-fifth of Shahrivar Theatre.

The play was very successful

and aroused a great deal of interest.

The 'Age of Suffocati on' is one of the most producti ve peri ods in the history of Persian literature.

Starting with Hidayat, the


following are amongst the writers of the age of suffocation: Chubak,


Ja1a1 A1-i Ahmad, Danishvar, saridi, Gu1shiri, Ahmad Mahmud, Mahmud .


Dikta va Zaviya, Tehran, 1348.1969.




P. 20.

- 183 -

P.P. 12/13.

- -




Daw1 atabadi, Gu1 i Taraqqi and others. period witnessed a great blossoming.

In modern poetry too thi s In either case the writer or

artist is able to escape from the invisible veils and use his powers of thought.

When thought and reflection are employed, interesting

symbol s come about[1].

In the age of suffocati on and the only

playwright who escaped from the invisible veils was Siridi.


employed symbols and indeed worked harder than other playwrights and faced danger.



In 1971 Sa r i di wrote Jani shin (The Successor).


Jani shi n Sa I'i di looks at the prob1 em of the death agony of the I

Centre of the Exi sti ng Power


and the efforts of the creatures in

the periphery of the power to gain the succession.

The successors,

the three characters of the play, the pretenders to the succession, are witnesses of the death agony of the absolute power, and describe the scenes of being present at the point of death to themselves and to




The appearance of the centre of power is


claimants themselves,





appearance of the

ridiculous, awkward and meaningless.


have only one thing in common, hunger for power and the excessive desire to obtain the seat of authority.

And in order to achieve

this they, like the power on the brink of certain doom, do not possess any weapon other than deceitful and empty works and promises whi ch wi 11 never be fu1 fi 11 ed.

The purpose behi nd the shower of

words whi ch flow from the mouths of these three characters duri ng the whole length of the play is not that it will


culminate in a clear and simple expression, but will carry some


A1ifba. P. 152.

Pa-Yi ~uhbat-i Simin Danishvar,

- 184 -



obvious meaning.



Janishin is a social play and deals with personal and psychological matters[l ].

The pl ay has three characters present over the coffi n

of a despot who is dying.

The deposed govenor has been tied up in a

wardrobe in hi s coffi n and the new 1eaders are argui ng amongst themselves about who should be his successor.

The people are in the

courtyard waiting for decision of the new leaders, but the latter are unsuitable and incapable of leadership and their words and actions are repetitive and cliched. things and make odd assertions.

The claimants say strange

They threaten one another and while

so engaged the deposed governor creeps out of a corner of the wardrobe carrying a machine gun.

He goes onto the balcony and pulls

the trigger and the claimants creep into the wardrobe.

Janishin is

a criticism of revolutions which have no strict plans.

It is

undoubtedly an allegory of the 1953 coup. The p1 ay, sati ri cal and sui tab1y coded though it is, puts its message across perfectly clearly. The confusion and egocentric opportuni sm of the se1 f-appoi nted 1eaders of the peop1 e opens the door to the monster of a military coup. The dictatorship has, at a particular historic moment, been weakened but is not completely dead [2]. Janishin was not given a permit for distribution, and did not appear on










performance of Janishin was directed by the present author in London in 1979.


G. H. Sa'idi, Janishin, Tehran: N.I.L., 1349/1970


Farzaneh Pirouz, Ope cit.

P. 47

- 185 -

The play 'Mah-i rAsal' (honeymoon) was written by Sa'idi in 1974 but was not pennitted to be published until 1978" In his later works Sa'idi moves from the satirical criticism of individuals such as the mulla, the doctor and the policeman to satire of the entire social system, where the sense of law and soci a1. rel ati o.nshi p has taken a ri gi d and perni ci ous form. Educatlon conslsts of passive obedience and memorising of what is di ctated by the ru1 i ng interests. Law consi sts of puni shment or the protecti on of those who have, agai nst those who have not. Politics and freedom are based on abstract philosophy or, rather are a game in which a few men of self-interest take part. Freedom is the freedom of the jungle. Sa'edi's satire of the educational system, passive intellectuals, abstract philosophers, law, politics and the mass media is illustrated in his plays 'Dicteh-va Zavieh' (1969), 'Ma Namishenavim' (1970) and 'Cheshm Dar Barabar-e-Cheshm' (1971) [1]. _



Chasm dar barabar-I) -Chasm (An Eye for an Eye) was one of the )..


sati rical


which Sa' i di


to experiment with


rU-hawii styl e.

The sultan and his executioner want to meet out justice by blinding an eye.

They do not care how they are going to do it or who their

victims will be.

Meanwhile a thief who has been blinded while on a

robbery, goes to the sultan to plead for justice.

He blames the old

woman who is the owner of the house where the robbery was carri ed out. On that night he accidentally bumped into a large needle which was hangi ng from the wall.

The 01 d woman accused the grocer for

selling the needle to her.

The grocer in turn blamed the blacksmith

who had made the needl e.

The bl acksmi th advi ses the su1 tan and

makes him understand that they should blind the sultan's master-


G. R. Sabri-Tabrizi, Social Values in Modern Persian Literature. Bulletin of the British Association of Orienta1ists. New Series, Volume 8, 1976, P. 15

- 186 -

hunter, who always closes one eye while shooting.

The master-hunter


recommends the nay player who closes both eyes while playing. In the


end it is a nay player who is the victim. Sa'id1 criticises injustice quite openly without using symbolic language.

The other

important plays which were written by Sa f id1 are: Panj Namay1sh Nama




(Five -





- -




from the constitutional

(The House of En1ightenment)[1],

Bihtarin Baba-yi-Dunya (The Best Daddy in the Wor1d)[2], Parvar Bandan (The Animal Fattening Farm 1969).

Amongst these plays Parvar

Bandan is the most important. Parvar Bandan[3] condems the enslaving organi sati on of the system for the manner in whi ch it destroys and sign of se1f-determination[4].



Parvar Bandan was di rected by M.

Ja'fari in 1969.

Sa ti d; was arrested several times on charges connected wi th hi s writings.

The last time was in May 1974 when he was sentenced to 3

years imprisonment. However, in early 1975 he was released, owing to internal and external pressure.

Sa Ili di was forced to renounce hi s

former opposition and discuss the country's rapid progress in front of the television cameras.

The programme was never shown [5]



G. H. Sa1di, Khana-yi Rawshani, Tehran Ashrafi, 1347/1968.


G. H. Sa1di, Bihtarin Baba-yi-Dunya, Tehran. N.I.L. 1345/1966.


G. H. sa~di, Parvar Bandan, Tehran. N.I.L. 1348/1969.


Farzaneh Pirouz, Ope Cit.

P. 38.


Farzaneh Pirouz, Ope Cit.

P. 17.

- 187 -

but he stated (i n Kayhan, 19th June 1975) that he wou1 d wri te for the success of the Shah IS whi te revo1 uti on in future, a1 though he never fulfilled any such promise.Saf:id1 left Iran for the United States where he gave 1ectures denounci ng the Shah s regime. I




he jointed the leading poet Sham1u in London where they published a weekly newspaper, 'Iranshahr ' .

After the fall of the Shah, Sa~idi

gave enthusiastic support to the revolution.

He later became

disillusioned with it and went into hiding for nearly a year before he was able to go abroad in May 1982.

He died in exile in Paris on

23rd November 1985.

Among the authors whom the Savak imprisoned during the years

- - - R. Barahani, - - Sa'id 1970-1976 were Sa 'i di, Bi hazi-n, Daw1atabadi, -


Su1 ~anpur, Tunukabun1, M. Aza nn, Hushang Gu1 shi ri, Mu~si n Val fani r

and 'Ali Shar1 ati.

The Impact of the Theatre of the Abusrd on Iranian Theatre

The i nf1 uence of Absurd theatre began wi th the trans1 ati ng of the absurd plays into Persian on a large scale.

Plays by Samuel

Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Arthur Adamov, Jean Genet, Max Frisch, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee and Fernando Arraba1, were translated and most of their important plays were perfonned. Obviously the instrument by which the drug of the theatre of the Absurd is injected into the peop1e ' s minds are theatrical institutions and festivals which are under the direct surveillance of the government [1]. [1]

Majid Fallah Zadeh, Ope Cit. P. 254.

- 188 -

The most active institutions and festival s were Jashn-i Hunar, the Shiraz Festival of Arts in Shiraz (1967-1977).

This festival was

founded by N.I.R.T., emphasising the cultural life and promoting traditional and centemporary theatre.

Most of the plays were chosen

from among the absurd and modern p1 ays, and usually forei gn groups and di rectors were i nvi ted to perfonn them at great expense, whi 1e Tehran, Iran's biggest city with a population of eight million, had only two good theatres.

The Art festi va 1s spent 1arge amounts of

money to invite theatrical, musical, and dance groups from allover the world.

Famous artists such as Peter Brook, Robert Wilson, Jerzy

Grotowski, Shuj i Terayama, Peter Schumann, Andre Gregory, etc [1], were invited to the Festival.

At the same time progressive,

independent, Iranian theatrical groups had great trouble obtaining funding and facilities for their porductions.

Many of them gave up

and left the theatre altogether.

Theatre workshop, Kargah-i-Namayish, was founded and promoted by the Festival to put on its own theatre productions.

The Shahr theatre

(City Theatre) was also built by N.I.R.T. In 1971.

The aim of

Kargah-i-Namayish was to experiment with new theatrical


Another institution which collaborated very closely with the City Theatre and the Theatre Workshop was the Iranian-USA Society.


three theatrical organisations were providing facilities for the absurd p1 ays.


Farrokh Gaffary, Evolution of Rituals and Theatre in Iran, Iranian Studies, Autumn 1984. P. 380.

- 189 -

P1 ays from the theatre of the Absurd 1ike The Chai rs (Ionesco), Antigone(Anoui1h) , End Game (Beckett), The Typist and The Tiger (Shisga1)








1965-1968.In 1967, the Arts Festival awarded a prize for the best Persian play.

Amongst the winning plays the First Prize went to


Nu~rat Allah Navidi, for his magnificent play Sag1 dar Kharmanja (A

Dog in the Harvest P1 ace) and Second Pri ze to ,. Abbas Na':l bandiyan


- dar Sangvara ha-Yi for Puzhuhishi-yi Zharf va Suturg va Nuvin Dawra-ye B1st-u Panjum-i Zam1n Shinasi va ya Chahar-dahum, Bistum va


Ghayrih, Farqi Namikunad (A Modern, Profound and Important Research into the Fossils of the 25th Geological Era, or 14th, 20th etc. it makes no difference).

It is clear from the nonsensical title of the

play that the writer has been under the influence of the theatre of the Absurd, without having any theatrical knowledge or background. However, the winning play,

'A Dog in the Harvest Place' was a

progressive play influenced by social realism.

It did not appear on

stage in any of the institutes of N.I.R.T. and was staged for the fi rst time in 1973 by an enti rely di fferent group and organi sati on whi ch was not interested in perfonni ng Absurd p1 ays.

The p1 ay was


di rected by 'Abbas Javanmard wi th Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi 11 i (Nati ona1 Art



- shi--yi ' Puzhuhi

Zha rf'


di rected

Ovanesian and performed at the Shiraz Festival.



The play, like

other Absurd plays, received wide publicity.

Unlike Navidi, Na'lbandiyan became the most promising figure in contemporary





government-run media and progressive critics.

- 190 -



The p1 ay was perfonned in di fferent ci ti es and shown on tel evi si on and was presented at i nternati ona 1 festi va 1s as a good example of Iranian modern theatre. The characters are consequently face1 ess and the plot ignores human and social realities. Nevertheless, this play was perfonned in several cities, and later was a1 so filmed and shown on tel evi si on at a time when real i sti c drama had ceased to enjoy official patronage and was being obstructed by the authorities in various ways [1]. Neverthe1 ess, Na '1 bandiyan s work was at once i denti fi ed wi th the I

theatre of the

Absurd although

he did

not have any previous

experi ence of wri ti ng p1 ays for theatre of the Absurd and he was short of philosophical knowledge of that kind of theatre.

From 1968 until

1971, Absurd plays such as Waiting for Godot

- Baghal (The (Beckett), Hercules and the Augean Stables, Chub-i Zir Crutches) (A play by Bahman

Fursi, a Persian playwright), A Modern,

Profound and Important Research •••. , Death Watch, Stri p-Tease, Act Without Words, Come and Go, another similar work by Nal'lbandiyan, Sanda1i-ra Kinar Panjara Bigu~arim ..• and many other Absurd and supposedly Absurd plays were perfonned in the Theatre Workshop.

This kind of theatrical activity was promoted by the authorities to ensure ignorance of real i sti c theatre.

Fonn 1971 to 1976, Ci ty

Theatre was one of the most acti ve theatres of thi s ki nd. Most of those plays were translated into Persian and even those plays which were written by Iranian writers, either working for the Theatre Workshop or the City Theatre, were weak imitations of the Theatre of the Absurd.


Navabpour, A study of Recent Persian Prose Fiction with Special Reference to the Social Background. Ope Cit. P. 241.

- 191 -

'Abbas Na'lbandiyan is a good example of this kind of playwright. The other playwright who first started his work in realistic and narrative style was Isma~i1 Khalaj, who wrote and directed a few plays for the Theatre Workshop.



Among his plays the most important

is Gu1 duna Khanum.

Thi sis a narrati ve of sorts, set ina di rty ,

rundown tea-house.

Three men, Apmad-agha, the tea house owner and


a grumpy,

lazy onion pedd1ar,

loneliness and being parted from their wives.


point been married to someone called Gu1duna.

share the misery of All three have at one They are all hoping

that one day they will be united with their wives. -

given name also happens to be Gu1duna.

The prostitute's

Her presence, however, adds

nothing but more misery to the miserable atmosphere of the tea-house and the group gathered in it.

Gul duna Khanum was one of the fi ve

plays by Kha1aj.

These plays were all performed in Theatre Workshop

from 1970-1971.

Amongst the other organ;'sations and institutions

who also paid attention to the western school were the Theatre Department

of the

Ministry of Arts and Culture,

the Theatre

Department of the University of Tehran, The Faculty of Dramatic Arts and Kanun-i-Parvarishi-Fikri -yi-Kudakan-va-Nawjavanan (The Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults). The Faculty of Dramatic Arts and the Theatre Department of the University of Tehran, which was founded in 1966, both have irregular theatrical activities. This irregularity mainly orgi nates from censorshi p. Many producti ons of the two educational institutions, because they do not correspond with the policy of the western school, are banned and hereby cause a lot of unrest. 'St. Joan of the Stockyards' by Brecht is the latest and the worst example. The play was due to be staged at The Faculty of Dramatic Arts in February 1978. The production was banned and consequently, becaue of the students' protest, the Faculty was closed for several weeks.

- 192 -

Moreover, the di rector who was a 1ecturer in the Facul ty, and who is one of the best Iranian directors, Ruknu1-din Khosravi, was dismissed. Without Carter's human rights noises, many students would have been beaten up and thrown into prison [lJ. To follow up the idea of promoting experimental theatre, the Theatre Department of the Mi ni stry of Cu1 ture and Arts founded a small theatre in the Theatre Department's buil di ng for showing experimental plays named Khana-yi-Namayish (The Show House ).


Theatre Department spread its activities in th country and had many branches in the provi nces. At the begining the aim of the department was to spread know1 edge of Theatre in the country, but later it acted as a censorial body [2].

The Theatre Department, in

collaboration with the N.I.R.T. Theatre Unit, organised an annual festival

to promote the theatre in the provinces.

The Theatre

Festival of the Provinces began in 1976, but did not last more than two years as it did not continue after the Islamic Revolution.


plays were

commi ttee.

selected from


theatre groups

by a

The p1 ays shou1 d be wri tten by an Irani an pl aywri ght.

These groups were not affected by western cu1 ture yet and most of their subjects had traditional roots.

[1] Majid Fallah Zadeh, Ope Cit. [2]


P. 266.

P. 267.

- 193 -




Festival of Popular Tradition

The Commi ttee of Arts Festi val of Shi raz a1 so had another festi val in 1975 emphasi si ng cu1 ture and tradi ti on.

The Festi val whose aim

was to develop the traditional

theatre and rituals took place

annually from 1975 to 1978 in


Iranian improvisatory

theatre and other forms of theatre related to popular tradition were perfonned










Theatri cal troupes from allover the country came to the festi val and perfonned different stories, all based on ru-hawii and tag1 i d. The Festival gave an opportunity to both comic and tragic theatre in


Iran, and ta'ziya and ru-hawzi and other types of popular shows such as Parda Khwani, Shahr-i Farang, Nagqa1i, Puppet Theatre, Folk Dance,




(acrobatics), the


and ~Ashigi from Azerbaijan were artists,





opportunity to show their skills, which were threatened by the effect of mass communi cati ons, and they hoped that these occasi ons would help to promote the recognition and possibly presentation of a living tradition.

Festival of Tus, 1975-1978

From 1976 another annual

festival was organised by N.I.R.T. to

celebrate the achievements of the greatest men in Persian literature - in particular, those who originated from Khorasan.

- 194 -

The festival

was setup in Mashhad and Tus, the two major towns in the province of Khorasan.

The fi rst festi va 1 concentrated mai n1y on the works of

Khorasan's most famous son, Firdawsi of Tus.

Scholars from allover

the wor1 d di scussed the i ntri caci es of the Shahnama and simil ar works









inspired by some of the episodes in the national epic, and at the same time athletes from Khorasan and the Caspian littoral displayed their skills in the traditional martial arts, which have survived from the days of Firdawsi and even earlier. Festival



Another feature of the


story-telling sessions or Nagqa1i,

performed by a


Nagga1 or Shahnama-khwan.

The Impact of Theatrical Activities of the Marxist-Socialist School on the Development of Iranian Theatre

The cultural activity of the Marxist-Socialist school, especially in the theatre, begi ns wi th the formati on of the Tudeh Party of Iran. The Tudeh Party emerged after the abdi cati on of Reza Shah and the release of the 'less dangerous' political prisoners[l].

In 1937 twenty-seven members out of the fifty-three Marxists who had been impri so ned formed the H}zb-i nida-yi fra~ (The Party of the Iranian Masses). The Tudeh Party, besides its political activity,


Ervand Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, Ope Cit. 281.

- 195 -


gave a special place to cultural activities.

The Tudeh Party was soon able to succeed in using culture and art, particularly theatre, as a vehicle to its full extent.

Most of the

leading intellectuals and artists either became members or gave sympathy to the Tudeh Party Tudeh influence among intellectuals, expecially writers, was even more impressive. In addition to prominent writers such as Bozorg Alavi, Noshin, Tava1loli, Parvizi, al-Ahmed, Aram, and Golestan, who were active in the organisaton, numerous other well-known writers sympathised with the party, particularly in the period before 1947. They included Nima Yushej (Ali Esfandiyari ), the father of modern Persi an poetry; Bahar, the veteran democrat and 1i vi ng symbol of cl assi cal poetry; and Sadeq Hedayat, generally considered the leading figure of modern Persian literature[l]. The Tudeh Party also won the sympathy of many talented younger authors as well as lesser-known older intellectuals. They included




Chubak, the author of a collection of short stories entitled

Khayma-yi Shab Bazi (The Puppet Show); Bihazin (Mat)mud I'timadzada), a fonner naval offi cer, who had transl ated Shakespeares' s Othello and combined Hemingway's realism with Balzac's social criticism in a co11 ecti on of short stori es enti t1 ed Bi su-yi Mardum (Towards the ('-

People); Said Nafisi, a highly regarded professor of literature, trans1 ator of French, and hi stori an of the Arab conquest of I ran; Muhammad Afrashta, the editor of a popular satirical paper named Chilingar (Locksmith), and talented poet who, despite retaining the classical fonn, dealt with everyday issues and revolutionary ideas;

A~mad Shamlu (Bamd~d), the leading disciple of Nima Yush1j; Mu~ammad

M~in, a professor of literature and prolific writer on Iranian


Ervand Abrahamian, Ope Cit.

P. 334.

- 196 -



history, Nadir Nadirpur and



Among these arti sts and wri ters the man who took responsi bi 1i ty for the Tudeh Party's theatrical activities was (; Abd -


a1-~usayn N~shin.

Nushin's artistic personality became apparent, particularly in the


period of Firdawsi's Hazara (thousandth anniversary celebrations).





wor1 d's

ori ental i sts

vi si ted Tehran

duri ng

thi s

During that period, Nushin, with the aid of the composer

Minbashian, staged three pieces from Firdawsi's Shahnama, namely




Rustam and Tahmina, Za1 and Rudaba and Rustam and Kaygubad.


himself played the role of Rustam in the first and third pieces. Loretta, who later married Nushin, was working with him. success




pro-government intellectual


unfavourab1 e reacti on

Nushin's among

circles of Reza Shah's time.

the They


di sapproved of Nushi n' s opposi ti on to the ru1 i ng system and tri ed hard, with little success, to intorduce other actors in order to outshine him.

Nushin met Taqi



who was publishing the

magazine Dunya[2J, and thi s aquaintance let Nushin to the fie1 d of politics and he became involved in political activities.

after the

arrest of the fi fty-three, Nushi n took up the i nvi tati on to the Festi va 1 of Sovi et Theatre and, together wi th Loretta and Khayrkhwah, went to Moscow.


There he met Stanis1avski and learned


Ervand Abrahamian, Ope Cit.

P. 334-335.


Ervand Abrahamian, Ope Cit.

P. 314.

- 197 -

from his school.

After returning to Iran, Nushin engaged in various




Shakespeare's plays.






He, together with intellectuals such as ?adiq

Hidayat, Fazl-alfah Muhtad; (~ub~i), Nima Yushij and others, began to work for the Majalla-yi Musigi (Musical Magazine).

The magazine

was published under the supervision of the composer, Minbashian, in 1939.

Nushin, together with some other actors, founded the School

of Dramatic Arts in Tehran in 1939, but later he criticised the administration of the school and reduced his activities therein. After September 1941 he broadened hi s acti vi ty in soci al, arti sti c and 1i tera ry fi e 1ds.

Together wi th fri ends freed from pri son or



returned from exile, Nushin participated in the founding of the Tudeh party.

In 1942, he was el ected a member of the Central

Connnittee of T.P.I. and remained in this position untn his death. The party encouraged artistic and literary activities in which Nushin and other intellectual artists were quite active.

By staging

in the party's club short sketches, declamations of revolutionary - - poems, such as those of Abu 'l-Qasim Lahuti, a seri es of programmes enti tl ed "Qui et, I am Tal ki ng to You" and di recti ng the p1 ay The Three Thieves, the Party for the first time contributed to the social and political education of the working class ad revolutionary intellectuals.




Husayn .


Hasan •

Khashi(.. and the peop1 e I s poet, Afrashta, created an attracti ve and interesting school of revolutionary and artistic thought.

In 1944,

as the result of the development of theatre in Iran, the first real - theatrical group, called Farhang, was established by Nushin and his colleagues, Loretta, H.



H. Khashi" S. Shab-aviz, J.

Riyahi, T. Mihrzad, N. Karimi, M. UskU ' 1, J. Ja'far1, S. Bahrami and

- 198 -


T. Kahnama' i [1 ].

Thi s group performed Topaze and Vol pone; other

producti ons by Farhang Theatre were The Merchant of Veni ce, The Three








of Moliere's

Tartuffe) and Vazirkhan-i Lankaran by Akhundzada.

In the period in which Nushin was contributing to the development of the theatre in the country, the Iranian traditional theatre which belonged to the Feudal Society was in the process of deterioration. The superfi ci a1 and moderate moderni sati on of Reza Shah speeded up this process. - -




Dramatic arts, such as Shabih


Tag1 i d,


Ru-hawii, ...

-, Taziya, Bagga1 . Marlka giri and

K~wni, v




Nagga1i, Sokhanvari, and Haji Firui, were not as popular as before. ,.

After the revolutions powerful impulses appeared in the spiritual life, in which steps towards the imitation of western theatrical and dramatic arts were taken, and categories and expressions of this art such as scripts, scenery, make-up, actors, stage, screen, tragedy, comedy, etc. penetrated into the language The political parties of the time which were publicising for the party, made arrangements within their organisations to attract writers, actors and artists to work with Nushin. The support gi ven by party members and some other peop1 e strengthened the newly-born Farhang Theatre and then Fi rdawsi so that it became qui te famous ina short time, and domi nated the theatrical community between 1943 and 1947[2]. In 1945 Nushin left the theatre and the Farhang Theatre changed its

- Theatre. name to Pars

In 1947, with the aid of va~iqi and




[1] A. Jannati (Ata'i, Bunyad, -i Namayish Dar Iran, P. 78. [2]

A. Jannati (A~a'i, Ope Cit.

P. 82

- 199 -



Nushi n founded the Fi rdaws i Theatre in the La 1aza r.

The theatre

began its activity by producing An Inspector Calls by Priestley. -


Due to the i nsi stent attempts of Nushi n and hi s coll eagues in the theatre, there was created a 1eap forward in Irani an theatre that changed the rest and increased competition. was so pal able that all

This qualitative change


those who were competing with Nushin,

acknowledged it[l].

Some bel i eved that the i nf1 uence of the party p1 ayed a great ro1 e here, but what is certai n is that the party wou1 d advocate any social movement in the direction of progress, and theatre was one of them.

The success of Nushin and his theatrical group was due to its

content and its standard which embodied a dynamic, popular and striving theatre.

There is no doubt that the combination of artistic and social activities by Nushin and his colleagues attracted the support of the progressi ve and worki ng c1 ass movement in Iran and increased the propagati on of hi s vi ews.

But the cause shou1 d be sought in the

rich content of the work produced by this group; the high quality of the plays,

their progressive social content, skilful direction,

decoration, expression and all excellent.

these things which make a play

And all this was due to the artisitic and political



personality of Nushin.


From a Private Conversation with L.P. Elwell-Sutton.

- 200 -




P1 ays by Nushi nand Khayr-Khwah were perfonned on an international scale. The only weakness on the stage was the lack of co-ordination among the actors; each actor played perfectly on his own and if they could have solved this problem, everything would have been excellent [1]. c-


In 1947 Nushi n pub1 i shed hi s most important soci a1 drama, call ed


Khurus-i Gorky




The play was written under the influence of

works and was never perfonned.

When the the Government

declared the Tudeh Party illegal, that arrest and detention of the leader and active members followed.

Nushin was also detained.

The Ferdowsi theatre fell, like a ripe fruit, into the hands of the rightist theatrical men, Dr. Namdar (Head of the School of Acting) and A. Dehgan (an MP and supervisor of Tehran Theatre) [2]. During his detention, with his help from prison and under the supervision of Loretta, his wife, the Sa(d1 Theatre was founded. -


_ . c:

thi s theatre, hi s fri ends and students 1ike Khayr Khwah, Khash I, Shabav1z, Riyah1, . Ja(fari, Mihrzad and others took part.

The Sifdi

Theatre a1 so achi eved fame in 1951 after stagi ng Lady Wi ndennere IS Fan directed by Loretta. several

Nushin managed to escape form prison with

key members of the Tudeh Party, and lived in hiding,

occasi ona 11y gi vi ng i nstructi on from there to hi s wi fe and other colleagues.

In November 1951, pol ice banned the perfonnance of La Robe Rouge (The play written by Eugene Brieuz, 1858-1932,). theatre and caused extensive damage to it [3].


Police raided the

The actors and the

From a Private Conversation with L.P. Elwell-Sutton.

[2] Majid Fallah Zadeh, Ope Cit.

P. 184.

[3] Majid Fallah Zadeh, P. 185.

- 201 -

di rectors took refuge in the Maj 1i s and went on hunger stri keel J. As a resul t there took pl ace in Tehran a strong protest by the people and



against the police commissioner,



Nushin was the first Iranian artist to write a book on acting; it was published in 1952.

- - was written The book, Fann-i Hunar-Pishagi,

by Nushin while he was in prison.

It conentrated on the teaching of

theatre, and in it refl ected hi s ri ch experience as an actor and di rector.

Among the other pl ays staged by the Sa'd1 Theatre were Gasl i ght by Patrick Hami 1ton (1904-1952), Best Sell ers by Edouard Bourdet, and Montserrat









new1y-ari sen hopes co11 apsed when Musaddi q was overthrown by the coup[2].

Nushin fled the country and settled in the Soviet Union.

While in

exi1 e he worked on the Shahnama and produced a dictionary of thi s work.

During his exile he could not continue to work in the theatre

but concentrated on the literary field and wrote short stories and novels like Khan va Digaran, Lala, etc.


From a Private Conversation with M. ja'fari.


Majid Fallah Zadeh, Ope Cit.

P. 186.

- 202 -

For the Iranian theatre and its development, the years 1943 to 1953 si gni fi ed the begi nni ng of a very important era in two different theatrical fields; one in the field of the scenic representation of a play, and the other in the field of a Marxist dramatic 1iterature[lJ.

- -

Nushin, as the first Iranian director who staged occidental plays in their original form, had a great impact on Iranian dramatic art and its development. He encouraged Iranian writers to try their hand at writing plays and translating good European plays.

Nushin himself

translated plays by Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Gorki and Sartre.

- -

Nushin's other theatrical

activities were his collaboration in

publishing a theatre magazine and in the Actor's Union.

The Actors'

Union was banned after the coup, and the threatre magazine also did not continue to be published.

Marxist-Socialist theatre activities continued after the coup with the translation of Marxist playwrights such as Brecht.

From 1962

unti 1 1967, most of Brecht's wri ti ngs were trans1 ated.

Among them

the most famous ones which affected the soci a1 i st school movement were: The Exception and the Rule, translated by Bihazin, He Who Said Yes, He Who Said No, translated by Dr. M. Rahimi and performed in 1969 by Guruh-i



directed by A.

Javanmard [2],

Ga1i1eo, Mother Courage and Her Children, A Man's a Man, The Good Person of Szechuan, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Herr Punti1a and his Man Matti, Round Head and Pointed Head and The Mother.

[lJ Majid Falla Zadeh, Ope Cit. [2J

Other plays

P. 186.

Hamid Shu '-a If, Namayish va Fi1mnama Dar Iran, Tehran, Hennin Co. 1976

- 203 -

translated were: An Enemy of the People, The House of Sernarda Alba, A Vi ew from the Sri dge and Acci dent in Vi chy. were




university theatrical



Most of these p1 ays





There is no doubt that producing

plays of the Marxist-Socialist school was very difficult under the conditions of the time, but with the development of the political movement it was inevitable.

Contemporary Iranian P1aywights

The first

important play which perhaps marks the beginning of Irani an




Su1 bu1-i


(Wanderi ng

Nightingale) by (Ali Na~iriyan[1], who was one of the main members of





Mi 11 i

(Nati ona1

influenced by Iranian traditional





theatre, particularly ru-hawii.

He wrote qui te a few p1 ays in thi s sty1 e and was one of the best


actors, bei ng famous for acti ng Siyah.


Na~i riyan

concentrated on

producing plays, most of which were written by himself. wrote

Af' i -yi




tradi ti ona 1


Malrika-giri. (The Jackal




re1 ated





In 1957 he

inspired as



naqga 1i


Among Nasiriyanls important plays are Lana-Yi Shugha1 . Lair)[2].


[1 ]

'Ali Nasiriyan, Su1b1-i Publishers, 2nd E. 1975.'



cAl i Nasi . r'iyan, Lana-yi Shugha1, Tehran, 2nd Ed.

- 204 -



N. I. C., 1974.



His production of Bunghah-i-theatra1 (The Theatre Company) presented first at the fesitva1 of arts in Shiraz in 1974, is a straight scripted version of a comic improvisatory performance. popular at its original Hero)[2],


- Kacha1 Pahl avan

showing [1J.

It was (The Bal d

Theatral (The Theatre CompanyYand Siyah (Black


- -

Na~iriyan was director of the Guruh-i Mardum (People's


Group), Part of the Department of Theatre in the Ministry of Culture.


Bahram Bayza'i





directors of Iran.


leading playwrights,




His work is influenced by ritual and traditional

elements of eastern theatre, although his philosophical veiw is not clear in his works. Bei za i is still wanderi ng among vari ous phi 1osophi cal concepts and as a resul t hi s work suffers from a sort of phi 1osophi cal ana rchi sm[3].

- Akbar His first success came after writing his famous play Pahlavan Mimirad

He also wrote Hashtumin

(Akbar the Wrestler Dies}[4].

Safar-i Si ndbad (The Ei ght Voyage of Si ndbad) and has experimented with these three plays for puppet theatre.



Also he has written one

of the best books on Iranian theatre, Namayish Dar Iran.

[1] William 0 Beeman, Ope Cit. [2]

P. 373.

'Ali Na~iriyan, Pah1avan Kachal, Sukhan Magazine, 15th Period, No.5, 1965.

[3] Majid Fallah Zadeh, Ope Cit. -

.- I •

[4] Bahram Bayza 1, Publishers, 1965.


Pahl avan

P. 273. Akbar

- 205 -



Sa' i d

Akbar Radi




Marxist-Socialist School



is Akbar





He has written many

successful plays, all of them dealing with social problems. works are purely realistic and do not employ any symbols. is influenced by Chekhov and Ibsen[l].



His style

Amongst his important plays


are Uful, Irsiyya-yi Irani (Irani an Legacy), Az pusht-i Shi-shaha1

(From Behind the Windows), Sayyadan (Fishennen) and Marg Dar Pa fz (Death in Autumn).


Bizhan Mufid


Mufid became known as a talented playwright and director with his very famous play Shahr-i Qissa (The City of Tales).


social satire in a kind of rhythmic prose.

The play is a

It fleetingly explores

problems such as poverty, lack of human compassion, social injustice which breeds a deep-rooted mistrust, woman and love and other psychological, sociological and moral issues that exist in human relationships.

The City of Tales is based on a children's story.

The central plot, a black comedy, unfolds as the inhabitants of the city of tales exercise their devious intrigues on the elephant, who is a naive and ignorant newcomer to the city.

They each try to sell

him something, and when he refuses the inhabitants of the city try





'Ali Sipan1u, Nivisandigan-i Pishraw-i Iran, Kitab-i Zaman, Tehran, 1361/1982, P. 231.

- 206 -

to persuade him to part with his tusks which they know are of great value.

When the elephant refuses to sell his tusks, they take his

tusks and plant them on his head and cut off his trunk.


the inhabitants of the city of tales pressurise the elephant into declaring his identity.

By the end of the play the elephant has

lost all his money and, most important of all, his true identity. The play's characters are all animals representing humans; thus as the fox is a mull a, the parrot is a poet, the donkey a woodturner etc.

The form of the play is an interesting collage of folkloric stories, protagonist and music and thus yields a highly original play which coul d come very close to the hearts of the Irani an peopl e. Mufi d wrote a few other plays in the same style which did not have the same success as this one. He also wrote a comedy based on ru-hawii style, which was one of the most successful works of its kind at the time, Jan Ni§ar (Devoted) [1].


Mufid died in exile in the USA in

1985 after escaping from Iran.



Nusrat Allah Navidi






'Marxist-Socialist School' is Navidi.




Unfortunately, because of

B1zhan Mufid, Jan Ni~ar, N.I.R.T. Publication, 1973

- 207 -



disagreement with pro-establishment intellectuals, Navidi's work has not been pub1 i shed at all.

Neverthe1 ess he became known and began

his artistic activities as a playwright by winning first prize at the Shiraz Art Festival for the best play of the year ('A Dog in the Harvest P1 ace I).

Thi s p1 ay was never produced by thi s organi sati on

as they were opposed to realistic and sociological plays.


they were not able to ignore the quality of his work.


other reason

that Navidi


not been established as a

playwright is that his plays were not published.

From 1966 to 1973

his play 'A Dog in the Harvest P1ace ' was not produced, and it was di rected for the fi rst time by


Abbas Javanmard wi th an enti rely

different group to the N.I.R.T. establishment.

Many of his other

plays were then banned by the censorship or did not reach the stage owing to lack of financial backing.

I have chosen and translated 'A

Dog in the Harvest Place ' as an example of contemporary Iranian drama [1 ].



Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi11i (The National Arts Group)

In the years 1954-55 during the period of suffocation, when artists had no hope and there was a deathly silence in the world of politics and art in Iran, all brought about by the coup d'etat of 1953, there existed no bright spot in the state of Iranian theatre.


See Appendix.

- 208 -










Hunari stan-i

Hunarpishagi (Acting College) came together in order to find a new goal and path in the field of drama.

This group's movement and the

fruit of their steady application was not at the time evident, but in later years it came to form a distinct point of reference in the hi story of Irani an theatre. These young peopl e met in the house of an old man called Shahin Sarkisiyan who loved the theatre and had a perfect knowledge of a number of foreign languages. They translated the theoretical writi ngs of great western writers such as Gaston Batie, Charles Dulon, and Max Rheinhardt, and discussed and examined carefully various methods of performance. Thus, they kept up to date with the latest advances in western theatrical perfonnace.

This academic learning was experimented with in various plays. However the trans1 ati on of the bul k of My Life in the Arts by Stani sl avski and Notes on Sovi et Actors by Cherkasov, and a1 so of the



di al ogues


Stani sl avski ,

Nemrovi ch-

Danchenko and Chekhov, which fonned part of the necessary basis for the transfonnati on of a worn-out theatre and for the creati on of a progressive drama,

completely changed the way of thinking and

inspiration of the members of the group.

The success of the

progressive thought of these three people, which had opened up new hori zons for theatri cal workers in Russi a and the wor1 d, u1 timate1y put an end to all the doubt and bewi1dennent of this group and gave them a defi ni te goal.

Thi s was the fi rst era of 1asti ng research

aimed at finding a path and a high goal in modern theatre.

- 209 -










Stani sl avski that the p1 ays Mi ss Ju1 i e by Stri ndberg, and All my Sons by Arthur Miller were experimentally produced.After a year an a ha1f ' s work and experiment of various kinds, some thought that the work had fi ni shed, but another group fe1 t that, by empl oyi ng the subjecti ve sty1 e and at the same time usi ng a semi -awareness of foreign


(with all

their dramatic potential),

it was not

possi bl e to attai n everythi ng that was desi red. As a group they sought to rely upon the experiences of the Moscow Arts Theartre, on the basi s of both thei r own feel i ngs and thei r experi ences of that year and a half or so with the National Arts Group.

This group felt

that such a subj ecti ve system was the basi c path to a nati ona 1 theatre,

since they

had found

in practice that the problems,

troubles, contradictions and variations of every land as a rule, (though not always), are grown from the society of that country. With










necessarily went its own way and split off from the main group [1]. The second, stronger group began the difficult task of bringing out plays and performing them according to the new style of performace. It was as a result of the coming together and the continued research of thi s group that fi nally in the year 1957 the Guruh-i Hunar-i Milli (The National Arts Group) was formed.

First (Abbas Javanmard

began the operation with the drawing up and production of two one-act plays called Muha11il (The Mediator) and Murda-khurha (The necrophagous Ones) adapted from two stories by Sadiq Hidayat, the celebrated Iranian writer.


Personal interview with Bahman Fursi.

- 210 -

After a few months of rehearsal and experiment the work was ready. Maja11a-yi Sukhan, one of the most highly esteemed Iranian journals concerning literature and the arts, invited the Guruh-i Hunar-Milli to perfonn its fi rst producti on at the anni versa ry festi va 1 of the magazi nee





itse1 fin

These young artists





to produce their modest

offering before the leading artists, writers and critics taking part in the festival. to work.

With very few or almost no resources the group set

They took thei r own equi pment to the Uni versi ty hall

(ta1ar) and with great difficulty decorated the bare stage of the universtiy amphitheatre. Then with a dire lack of resources, they presented thei r fi rst experimental p1 ay to the audi ence.

After the

perfonnace they found that with that groundwork they had comp1 eted, their modest production had an appreciative reception and that a1 together they had made a good start.

Thi s success was important

to the members of the group and those involved in the production for two reasons.

On the one hand, it gave the young arti sts of the

group hope and encouragement for the future, and on the other it presented other workers in new Theatre with a c1 ear and approved target.

Without delay the play Af"f-yi ta1a'i (The Golden Snake),

written and produced by ready.

'A1 f Nasi . riyan,

was rehearsed and got

In May 1957 all three plays, representing the group's first

full programme of drama, were perfonned in the Fa rabi Hall of the university of Tehran. This perfonnace had a special significance for the artists of the group because the insertion of the brochure of the group's poi nts of vi ew on theory an practi ce under the ti tl e 'Only a national drama can answer the needs of our limited theatre', drew the group into an idea10gica1 debate.

- 211 -

This could have had very

disturbing and unpredictable consequences.

Fortunately however, the

prograrmne was warmly reveived by both artists and critics, and proved to be a further cause for sati sfaction on the part of the group [1].

Thi s programme was performed on stage in the Iran-France Insti tute late in May 1975 and at the invitation of the Oil Company, in the towns of Abadan and Masjid-i Su1aiman the same year. The reception of the above plays of the Guruh-i Hunar-i Milli-

strongly encouraged them to repeat thei r performance in Tehran. Following


performances Doctor Va1a,

the owner of three

theatres, the Tehran, the Nasr and the A1burz in La1azar invited them to stage the above p1 ays in one of hi s theatres.

As a resul t

of thi s i nvi tati on the group was faced wi th its fi rst professi ona 1 experience in a location free of intellectuals, or rather comprised of ordinary people, and once again made a success of it.

The group

did not continue its work in La1azar, because of the danger of slipping



trap of cormnercia1


in the Lalazar

ambience; for all producers and actors, even if they were possessed of sufficient theatrical knowledge and sense, after a period spent producing quick and popular works could be in danger of losing their artistic potential.


Personal interview with cAbbas Javanmard, Director of Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi1li.

- 212 -

The following are amongst those who were involved at this time and took part inthe formation of the Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi111: Women: Raqiyya Chi hra -Azad; 'Ismat Safavi;




Akhtar f Abbasi.

A~mad Barat1


I sma '11 Oavar Farr; Jamshid Layi q '



'Abbas Javanmard, 'Ali Na~i riyan - actors producers. Shahin Sarki siyan overall


director of the group.

In 1959, the play Bu1bu1-i Sargashta (The Wandering Nightingale) written by "Ali Nasiriyan won first prize for playwrights in the • journal Namayi'sh, and ~Abbas Javanmard prepared it for the stage with the co-operation in production of



This play was

fi rst performed in 1958 in the Farabi Hall at the Namayi sh journal festival, and then again in 1959 in the towns of Isfahan, Shiraz, Abadan, Masjed-i Su1aiman and Gachsaran.

The successful performance

of Bu1bu1-i Sargashta in the provinces persuaded the group to stage the p1 ay for fi fteen days duri ng June of that year at the Barbad Society, and this became the second experience of performing in the centre of popu1 a r theatre and amongst ordi na ry people.

Ouri ng the

period of the production of Bu1bu1-i Sargashta new people joined the group, such as Muhammad Nuri, Parvin Arasta, Ahmad Nurbakhsh and •

Manuchhr Anva r. A

In 1960 the Internati ona 1 Festi val of Theatre in



Paris invited the Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi11i to participate actively in the festival, the first time an Iranian group had ever performed in an international festival.

It performed the play for four evenings,

from the 8th to 11th April, on the stage of the Sarah Bernhardt

- 213 -


Bulbul-i Sargashta met with a good reception and general

approval at the hands of the French newspapers and critics.


success of the play was a very valuable bonus for the young members of the Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi1li and those working in the new Iranian theatre.

It encouraged the writers and workers who were i nvo1 ved




in writing and

continue their work. and director,

performing national



Bahram Bayia'1, the well-known Iranian writer

turned to writing for the theatre and began his

experiments after seeing Bulbu1-i Sargashta [lJ.

To all intents and purposes, the group's work came to an end after their trip to Paris and participation in the festival. Hunar-i Mi 11 i broke up from wi thi n.

The Guruh-i

Thi s occurred probably because

of the continued run of success, personal pride and the development of inclinations at variance with the original, central line of the group.

The vari ous members of the group were abl e to work together for a time in order to advance pri vate moti ves and opi ni ons but thi s was not suffi ci ent to keep together the basi s e1 ements of a young and newly founded group that had only recently achi eved stabi 1i ty.


Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi 11 i col1 apsed at thi s time, but the bel i efs and aims of the vast majority of the group's workers, namely the wish to create a national theatre, did not disappear.


Private conversation of the author with Bahram Bayia'i~

- 214 -

The foundation of private television in Iran, 'Channel 3 1, in 1962 drew


arti sts





perfonnance of tel evi si on drama, rather than enthusiasm. Dramatic



Mi 11 i



a move made out of necessi ty

In this same year, in the Office for

~Abbas Javanmard laid the foundations

for the

creation of six different television drama groups, and the artists of the Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi 11 i automati cally found themse1 ves at the centre of this large-scale piece of co-operation.

This ceaseless,

busy activity also had the following benefits in spite of all the troubles encountered: 1.



of scattered artists in one unit of

production. 2.

The creation of continuous work and activity.


The propagati on of the idea of creati ng a nati ona1 theatre among artists and audience.

The television programmes and the renewed activity of the group once


agai n brought the arti sts of the Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi 11 i together. The group perfonned a play by



Partui, first on the television

and then on stage at the Sipahan Theatre in Isfahan.

The success of

the plays A1unak (The Hut) by Kurush ~a1a~shur and GhurUb dar D1yar-i Gharib (Dusk in a Strange Land) by Bahram Bayza1i, directed by (Abbas Javanmard, excited in the members of the group the desire to return to the stage.

In 1962, due to the efforts of {Abbas Javanmard and the co-operation of nearly all the fonner artists, the group officially began a new period of existence.

Apart from the television programmes, the

- 215 -

group drew up a continuous programme for the stage and, relying upon its past experience, formed itself into an organisation once again. In order to safeguard its organi sati on and aims it compil ed a new constitution.

At this time, in order to complete its numbers, the

group arranged si x-monthly courses of instruction for young peop1 e, and in all three such courses were completed.

About fifteen people

joined the second Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi11i after completing this course.

The number of acti ve members in the group increased and thi s had a reciprocal

effect in lightening the production and organisation

responsibilities of (Abbas Javanmard.

First, Bizhan Mufid, who had

worked wi th the group before and had been intimately i nvo1 ved wi th the first nucleic group, Mi 11 i.

returned to join the Guruh-i Hunar-i

He conducted very useful experimental work in the fi e1 d of

improvi sed theatre.

Next, Bahram Bayia ' i-, who by that time had

become a well-known writer, turned to directing, and for the first time directed two works by himself called M1ras (The Inheritance) and iiyafat (The Party). Other writers such as Akbar Radi, "A1 i Hatami and Nasi r Shahi npar also began useful work in co-operati on r

with the Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi11i.

The result of these activities was

the successful performance of p1 ays on tel evi si on and on the stage which may be taken to represent as a whole the period of blossoming in the history of the group's activities.


In 1965 the international festival once again invited the Guruh-i Hunar-i Millf to take part in the seventh international festival of theatre in Paris.

The group participated with three plays, GhurUb



dar Diyar-i Ghar1b written by Bahram Bayia'i, A1unak by Kurush

- 216 -


Safahshur and a second pl ay by Bayza' i, Qi ssa-yi Mah-i Pi nhan (The .




Secret Moon).


pl ays,

di rected by


Javanmard, wre successfully performed in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre between the 2nd and 5th of June.

The techni que of producti on of

Ghurub dar Oiyar-i Gharib and Qissa-yi Mah-i Pinhan, which were played by the actors in the style of traditional Iranian puppets, or rather the actors played the role of puppets on strings, was itself very tricky and difficult.

These plays were also later performed in

the Shiraz Arts Festival.

After returning from Paris the group performed Pahlavan Akbar Mimi rad wri tten by Bayii' i- and di rected by r'Abbas Javanmard at the Festival of Iranian Plays in Tehran. Shahrivar Hall for three nights.

This play was staged in the 25

In 1973 the group took part inthe

- dar Second Festi val of Thi rd Worl d Theatre wi th the pl ays Ghurub Oiyar-i Ghar1b and Qissa-yi Mah-i Pinhan: these two plays were staged in the Shahr Theatre in Tehran for four nights.

It was at that time that the group undertook various pieces of research and experiment into indigenous styles.

Amongst these

experiments were the performances of Shahr-i Aftab Mahtab (The City of Sunlight Moonlight)


"A1 f Hatami •

and di rected by


Javanmard and Sultan Mar (King Snake) written and directed by Bahram Bayi;' i.


in order to amalgamate the style of traditional


theatre, ta'ziya and rU-hawi1, with the techniques of epic theatre, especially Brechtian style, he chose two works, one by Brecht and

- 217 -



the other by ~ Ali ~atami.

By exchangi ng the perfonnance styl es of

these plays he began a significant and creative new concept.


this experiment Javanmard turned with his associates to the concept of alienation in the subjective style.

The results of this could be

seen in the plays Firfiraha (Tops) by Bahman Farzana, and Tamarzuha by Nu~rat All ah Navl di •

In thi s experiment Javanmard aimed to

demonstrate that it was also possible to make use of the alienation style and epic theatre in the subjective style, and thus he acquired another way of inspiring and imparting ideas.

Along with the above experiments, the activities of the group expanded further, in particular to include the perfonnance of the following plays in various experimental styles: Qissa-yi Tilism-; Harir va Mahig1r (The Story of the Silken Amulet and the Fishennan)


wri tten by tfat"amf and The One Who Says Yes Then Says No by Brecht . . These two plays, directed by 'Abbas Javanmard, were staged with an exchange of the production styles of epic theatre and traditional Iranian theatre. (King


The following plays were also staged: Sultan Mar




and directed by

experiment in the field of takht-;




Raspud1 written by

Javahir1 and directed by Bizhan Mufid, an experiemnt in the field of improvisation; directed by









Javanmard, experiments in the field of alienation

in subjective work.

In order to maintain continued experimental work and also to help young group, the Guruh-i Hunar-i Mill; founded a small theatre called Khana-Yi Namayish in the building belonging to the theatre

- 218 -

office of the Ministry of Art and Culture.

In this centre, apart

fonn research into theatrical matters, new groups from Tehran and the provinces found the opportunity to perform their plays before an audience, taking advantage of free facilities and help from all sides.

The most important works performed at the centre consist of

the following:- Escorial by Michel Ou Culdroud, directed by Mustafa


Oal i, perfonned by the Guruh-i Baiigaran-i Azad (The Free Actors Group); Summer by Ramon Weingarten, directed by Riza Karam Rifalf, perfonned by the Guruh-i Ouvvum-i Hunar-i Milli (The Second National Arts Group); Sayyid K~~im by Ustad Mu~ammad, directed by himself and perfonned by the Guruh-i tilatrli Oigar (The Other Theatre Group) and Namayish-i Rayl (The Rail Play) written by Oawlatabadi, directed - by Riza Mu~ammad and perforemd by the Guruh-i Azad-i tilatr-i Qazvin (The Free Theatre Group of Qazvin).

Ouri ng the second cycl e of acti vi ti es on the part of the Guruh-i Hunar-i Mi 11 i, over fifty peopl e were engaged and constantly busy both morni ng and afternoon in the fi rst and second groups.







designated for the stage and television.



previ ously

Amongst these artists were

some who also engaged in ci nema work, such as Bayza Ii, Mi rl aw~i , Nawzari, Zhaykan and Mahjub, who created significant works in the Iranian cinema.

- - --



After the performance of Tamarzuha, written by Navidi, in the 25 Shahr1var hall, permission for which had only been obtained with great difficulty, nearly all the proposed plays of the group, even after preparatory rehearsals, became subject to censorship.

- 219 -


the pl ays that were censored were Master Punt;' a and hi s Servant ..,




(Sindbad's Eight Journey).






Precisely the same fate befell plays and

scenarios for television serials, such as Mardi az Ounya (A Man from the

Worl d),

Pahl avan-i







Ahu Khanum ( Ahu Khanum's Husband), by 'Ali Muhammad


In response to the political and social conditions of

Iran, the activities of the Guruh-i Hunar- Mil11 and the atmosphere in which they worked became more restricted daily.

The political climate of the time meant that government employees and artists, expecially arts groups, had to go along with the political goals of the government.



The Guruh-i Hunar-i Milli was

one of these, since it necessarily found itself in this situation of account of its affiliation to the Ministry of Art and Culture during the second period of its activity; but still it had sensibly avoided thi s sort of thi ng due to the personal pol i ti cs and resi gnati on of J'Abbas Javanmard.

A year an a half's struggle by the group with

government theatre officials ended without any useful result.


that poi nt, f-Abbas Javanmard reti red from runni ng the theatre al so


and the Guruh-i Hunar-i Milli as a whole ceased to function.

The Ja 4 fari Group Muhammad \: Al i Ja' fari, one of Nushfn' s students, fonned a theatri cal This group was based in Lalazar, Tehran's theatrical centre group. at the time. Ja(far1 was joined by Nush1n's wife, Loretta, and some

- 220 -

of Nushin's old friends, such as



They presented Lady

Windermere's Fan, Montserrat and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof . ....



Later Ja fari, Loretta, Karimi, Bahram and Turan Mi hrzad formed a I

Kasra Theatre was in Shahri ii Street

group in The Kasra Theatre.

and formerly a cabaret theatre.

The theatre was rented by Dr. Vala,

with a subsidy from the Department of Fine Art.

Plays like A View

from the Bri dge and Lady Windermere s Fan were di rected by Bahram I

and Ja'fari.

For the opening of A View from the Bridge, the theatre

invited Arthur Miller, but this invitation was frustrated by Savak, Kasra- Theatre and

who did not let the theatre invite Miller[l]. groups


censorshi p.








After emp 1oyi ng Ja I fa ri and a few other actors and

actresses, the Department of Theatre attached to the Mi ni stry of Culture and Art dissolved the Kasra Theatre and it became a cinema. Mu~ammad ~ Ali Ja'fari, a leading actor, director and unionist, died

in 1986 after


years impri sonment by the Is1 ami c government for

his pro-Tudeh Party stance and activity in the theatre union.

Ti'atr-i Anahita (The Anahita Theatre) The Anahi ta Theatre and Drama School was founded in 1958 by Mu~~afi and Mahin Usku'i, who had returned from Moscow where they had studied acting and directing.

From the very beginning a large


[1] Private conversation of the author with Parviz Bahram, director of A View from the Bridge.

- 221 -

number of experienced artists and also of young people interested in the arts and in learning theatrical skills were attracted to this - - -theatrical group. The Anahita Theatre began amid financial difficulties and without a government budget. - - - When fi rst fonned the Anahita Arts Soci ety had the name Dustda ran-i Anahi ta I (Centre for the Fri ends of Anahi ta).






gatheri ng




Kanun-i It was

previ ously


mentioned, and its purpose was to enable intellectuals to help the newly founded Anahita Theatre [1].

The Anahita Theatre was an

important happening for art-lovers. This theatre not only filled the vacum arising from the lack of any scholarly or non-popular theatre, but also inspired hope in art-lovers. togeter and fonned the centre.

A group of intellectuals came

They took swift and effective steps

towards preparing and providing equipment and an auditorium [2].




The following were amongst the friends of the Anahita Centre: Al-i




Siyavush Kasra'i,






Itamadzada (Bih-Azin),


4Ali Mahmud, Dr. ZIzzat Allah Humay~nfarr, Muhanmad Faqih, Hushang . . 1arge number of the country I s renowned arti sts and i nte1l ectual s. Amongst the well-known arti sts who joi ned the group were



A11;h Intizami, Jatfar v;li, Parviz Bahram, 'Ali Na~iriyan and a ~

large number of others.


H. shi rvani , Fa 'al iyatha-yi -Hunar1. Dar Panjah Sal-i Shahanshahi Pah1avt, Tehran, Ministry of Culture and Art,


Muhannnad 'All Mahmid; 'Nigahi bi si-u Panj Sal-i tl atr-i Mubariz, Dar Rijz-i Jahanf-yi Ta'atr', Chap-i Mun"1r, 1979. P. 16.


P. 68-69.


- 222 -



Taki ng into account what was feasi bl e, KU-Yi Yusuf Aba-d was chosen as a si te for the theatre, whi ch was not at the time in the centre of the city,





and Anahita opened with the play Othello translated by

Bih-Azin on the evening of 18th March 1958. Othello was perhaps one of the longest-running of Anahita's plays, and ran for 185 nights.



The perfonners in thi s p1 ay were Mu~~afa Usk~ui-, Mahin Uskui, Parvi z Bahram, Mahdi Fath1, . Ja' far Val i, Muhanmad (A1 i Ki shavarz, V;l f - - ta- Arts Shi randami and vari ous other of the arti sts of the -Anahi Centre.

Later on, these artists became some of the best-known names

in the theatre of Iran.

Possi b1y those who had lost hope in the theatre after the bi tter experience of the 1953 coup were able to find a new hope as a result of the very agreeable fonnation of the Anahita Theatre.

Very soon

intellectuals gradually drew close to the Anahita and helped in thei r




proposal s


transa1 ti on



co-operati on.

The rusu1t of this co-operation was the staging of plays such as A Doll's House by Ibsen and The Sixth Floor by Alfred Jarry.


works such a A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams and The Little Foxes by Lilian Hellman were very soon staged [1].


- - - -Maja1la-yi Anahita, Hunar va Sinima, 1961, No.5.

- 223 -


The production of these plays was so admirable that it represented a serious blow to the superficial theatre of the day, and as a result people came to realise fully what theatre was all about and which art from they shoul d opt for.

In The Li ttl e Foxes, the cha racters

of the play were broken up in such a way that the spiritual aspects of real 1 i fe were conjured up and the audi ence commpl etely forgot the existence of the theatre and the stage; the audience found itself believing in the characters as if they were acting out real life and at the same time felt that the play was talking about problems existing in their own socitey and country.

One of the most important developments to take pl ace in Irani an theatre, and one which occurred in the Anahita Theatre, was the creation of scientific and analytical exercises and rehearsals.


a rule these were run with the participation of a number of the best poets, writers and sociologists and began with a profound analysis of the plays.

Amongst the other steps taken by the Anahita was the

inauguration of a theatrical tour to various parts of the country; all the pl ays that were perfonned in Tehran were at other times of the year taken to the country's larger cities and perfonned there too.

This also had a meritorious effect in raising the level of

awareness of the audience, although sometimes as a result of a play being somewhat heavy the audience grew tired and the play was not well received.

But this in itself created comparisons and those who

were interested could chose what they wished to see.


services to cul ture al so had an effect on the methods of other groups

and those who were interested in raising the people's level

of culture were forced to abandon superficial work and turn to plays

- 224 -

that talked about the people and society.

Another of An~hit~'s

activities which was not of long duration was the producing of television programmes,

and these again speak eloquently of the

group's progressive aims.

Plays such as White Nights (Dostoevsky),

Wol ves and Lambs (Ostrovsky), The Bear (Chekhov) and a number of other similar plays were shown on television.

In 1961, the group

rehearsed Altona (J-P Sartre) which was apparently banned.

In 1962

the Majal1a-yi Anahita, a monthly journal of art and cinema, began to be publ i shed and

thi s represented a great step forward in the

direction of builidng up and propagating the methods of Iranian theatre.

This journal included a translation of the history of the

theatre and the principles of the art of cinema directing, and also serious research into the arts as well as publishing plays and 1i tera ry works [1].

The role and importance of the Anahita Theatre and its drama school can al so be real i sed from the fact that it can perhaps be regarded as the first mahfil

(circle) or mizun (maison) in the European


One of the defi nite purposes of the organi sation of thi s

drama school, apart from that of training actors and carrying out activity on the stage, was to create a maktab or school in the sense of a western arts of theatre school, and as to function as a centre for artistic and literary thought and effort.

The need was to bring

together actors, playwrights, writers and intellectuals so that they


Anahita, Mahnama-yi Firdawsf, No.5, Second Period, P. 14-29.

- 225 -

coul d work together on the basi s of a devoti on to the cause of el evati ng art, 1 i terature and cul ture; so they coul d as far as was possible initiate organised and responsible efforts and come up with ideas designed to bring the art of Iranian theatre into harmony with the rich, prestigious and ancient art, literature and poetry of Iran.

The publication of the journal Anahita represented not only means of documenting these admirable artistic endeavours but also formed the organ of the community at large representing contemporary art, literature and culture in Iran.

In spite of all the limitations and

the 1ack of means that at that time necessari ly unsettl ed and so often halted such publications, a conspicious attempt was made to contain within its limited format the art of world theatre with all its present day breadth and importance.

An energeti c and very

highly executed depiction of the contrmporary theatre was one of the valuable aims of the journal Anah1ta.

The Anahi ta theatre can wi th out a doubt be regarded as one of the most important aspects of the history of contemporary Iranian theatre.

The i nfl uence of thi s group on the communi ty representi ng

Iranian theatre and art is well known. - -

Furthermore, the dispersal


of individuals who studied in the Anahita and then, retaining that set of atti tudes, became acti ve in other groups has a si gni fi cant I

effect in the process of development of the Iranian theatre.

In 1961, after accepting a subsidy from the Ministry of Culture and Arts, Anah1ta was gradually absorbed by the Ministry.

- 226 -

The breadth and diversity of the fields of artistic cultural literary and social endeavour on the part of t'he -Anahlt~ The~tre and Dram~ Schoo} was bo~h i.mpressi ve and worthy of pralseo__ The meetlngs WhlCh were lnstltuted and seriously kept up by Anafii til, and w~i ch met every so often, te sti fy to the start of a cultural 11fe that was both creative and democratic and which augured well for the dail y inc reasi ng and uni ty of the energeti c members, representi ng as they di d the perfecti on of artistic society. These meetings on the one hand consisted of more or 1ess well-known representati ves of the school s of traditional and classic Iranian art alongside the active 1eaders of contemporary theatre and on the other of sociologists, thinkers, writers and poets[l]. The theatre and drama school of Anahi ta carri ed out many steps towards advancing Iranian theatre.

But what may be regarded as the

weakness of this arts centre was its lack of encouragement of people - - ta- had to produce thei r own nati ona 1 and i ndi genous theatre. -Anahi concentrated its efforts on introducing knowledge of valuable works from around the worl d and of Stani sl avski I s method.

Thi s was a

useful task, but the art of the nation and indigenous theatre was in decline and needed the help of experienced and skilled artists. Throughout its artistic activities before the Islamic revolution. the Anahi ta theatre di d not stage even one I rani an play.

Thi s was

the reason why the students of art and the actors who were brought up in this group did not realise the critical point that in the end Iran itself also needed its own playwrights, and they expended most of their energies on translating and performing foreign plays.


they encouraged Irani an wri ters thi s woul d have afforded tal ented people the opportunity of acquiring a sound knowledge of the theatre


MuhalTl11ad \Afi Mahmid - from private notes drawn up for the author.

- 227 -

and made them fully aware of the correct methods of producti on, which would have had a beneficial effect upon writing in Iran.


following may be mentioned as amongst those who, after leaving Anahita, became some of the most active members of the Iranian theatre: Parvi z Bahram, Mahdi Vali Shirandami, Sirus Ibrahimzada, Ma~mud Dawlatabad1, Iraj Imam1, Nasi r Rahmani ni zhad,


Sa' i d Sul ~anpur, Shukuh Najmabadi , Mahin Shi habi, Ri




Muhammad { Ali Kishavari and a number of other students of the . Anahita who played on various stages of Iranian theatre[l]

The period of activity of the Anahita Theatre, like all other free and independent theatres, was not long, owing to financial problems and the government s stri ct censorshi p of the theatre. I

But those

few years of continued and unremitting activity by the Anahita had a profound i nf1 uence upon the formati on of ·rea 1i st theatre in Iran. Furthermore a number of the artists from this theatre later founded the Guruh-i Anjuman-i Ti'atr-i Iran (The Iranian Theatre Association Group) which can be regarded as the contemporary theatre group which has put up the most resistance to censorship and government pressure.


- -. Nigahi bi Si-u-Panj Sa1-i Ti'atr-i Mubariz.

- 228 -

Ope Cit.

P. 118.

- Anjuman-i-Ti'atr-i Iran (The Iranian Theatre Association)

In 1968 Sa'id Sul~anpur and Na~ir Ra~maninizhad together with a few other actors, most of them from the Anahita Theatre, fonned a new group called Anjuman-i-Ti'atr-i fran.

The group had no financial

support and started with the financial aid of its members.


first artists who fonned the group were: Sacid Sultanpur, Nasir .

' .

Rahmani ni zhad, Mahdi Fat~f, Ma~mud Oaw1 atabadi, Iraj Imami, Bi hzad ~



other enthuiastic




production was

Accident in Vichy by Arthur Miller, which was very successful at the time.




Marxist-Socialist School








and as a result of this most of the

artistic organisations were opposed to it, especially the Department of Theatre where they recei ved scripts for censorshi p.

The other

estab 1i shments such as N. 1. R. T. di d not agree to show any of thei r pl ays.

Even when they di d agree to produce the p1 ay Traktor (The

Tractor) by Navi di, after a few months of rehearsal s they postponed it after seeing the perfonnance.

The result was obvious after the

play was seen by the committee, they did not approve the production of the play. title


In 1969, the Censorship forced the group to change the


Aryanpur and

This play was translated by Amir

directed by Saffd Su1tanpur.


(teachers) written by Muhsin . Ya1fani[1]

The play Amuzgaran was banned

~ (-


H. Shlai.

Namayishnama va Fi1mnama Dar Iran.


- 229 -


P. 17.

after a few nights performance and most of the actors were arrested and impri soned, among them Sa ~ fd Su1 ~anpur, Na~i r Ra~manini zhad,

Ma~ud Su1~anpur, Mu~sin

Ya1fani and many others, for writing and

performi ng anti -government p1 ays.

The recei ved sentences of 2-11

years. The group started its activity after the Islamic revolution - - for a short-lived period, staging Agha Kargar-i




(Abbas Agha Works in the Iran National Car Company) by

Sa ({d Su1 ~anpur.

Su1 ~anpur was executed by the I sl ami c government

for his leftist activities on 21st June 1981.

Amongst the other independent theatre groups who di d not conti nue their activities for the same reasons mentioned before were, Guruh-i ,.",'- - -Ti I atr-i Zaman, founded by Mahi n Uskui after she 1eft Anahi ta and - -'was seperated from Mu~~afa Uskui and Guruh-i Ti atri Si vum (Thi rd


Theatre Group) founded by Va1i Shirandami, one of the leading actors who also left Anah1ta Theatre.

The group had only one production in

1970, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.


The other theatre


groups were: Guruh-i Ti atr-i Zi nda (The Live Theatre Group) founded by Farhad Majd~badi and Gur~h-i Kuch, founded by Bihzad Farahani.

The government and its cultural establishment was strongly opposed to


theatres and therefore most of the


theatrical groups had 1itt1 e chance of conti nui ng as they faced financial difficulties and severe censorship.


H. Guran. Ope Cit.


- 230 -

CONCLUSION The traditional

(and Modern) theatre of Iran evolved to from various

theatri cal forms and dramati c performances the roots of these forms go back to 2500 years ago, and have come together from di fferent re1 i gi ons and ritual


These customs and rituals, which had a strong

i nf1 uence on the peop1 e, were not affected by changes of governments or rulers.








entertainment as well as lamentation and mourning.



Certain facts confirm

the existence of play houses, jugglers, dramatic dancers, etc, in the pre-Islamic period.

The Magohponia festival and the annual performances

of mourni ng and 1amentati on entai 1ed many theatri a1 forms whi ch were in origin dramatic. The Magophonia is suggested as having been a base for the c

appearance and creati on of Taziya.

Story tell i ng, whi ch is regarded as a

prime form of theatre, developed throughout Irani an hi story; the art of story telling or nagqa1i is the oldest dramatic form of art in Iran and dates back to anc i ent Iran.

The natural process of thi s dramati c form {




evolved within most of the theatrical forms - Taziya, Ru-hawzi, Marika giri Shahr-i-Farang.

These sources prove that Iran had traditions of

dance, musi c, clown and puppet shows whi ch dates back to the Sassani d era.

Although these Arts came under attack from the Islamic rulers after

thei r vi ctory, thei r suppresi on was short-1 i ved.

Wi th the passage of

time, Persian art and Persian culture, independent of the festivals which by

the Arab



regarded as paganistic,

survived and grew in

Story telling, by changing the subject of narrators, managed to

survive and even grew in its theatrical form, Nagga1i by using religious stories, and continued to develop and became more dramatic and popular.

- 231 -

In the Safavi d era comi c theatre took shape and farce developed first as a one-man show in courts and then with the establishment of coffee houses evolved in private parties and was performed for the public.









Khayama-Shab-Bazi, Da 1gak-Bazi, Sukhan varf and Mari ka gi ri, and gradually some of these types of plays were presented as comic plays.

The Persian Comedy developed and reached its peak in the

Qajar era.

The Safavid period also confined poetry and literature

to religious subject matter and that gave more weight to the content of Taziya and other dramati carts rel ated to rel i gi on, such as Sukhan








flourished under the patronage of the Qajar kings, particularly

- - when it reached its highest peak and was well Nasir al-Din-Shah, received and actively supported by the publ ic. <...

- . -

theatre, Taziya and Ru-hawzi,

are purely Iranian in origin and

should be regarded as a traditional tragic in nature.

These two forms of

Iranian theatre, comic and

The first steps towards occidental theatre were

taken wi th the transl ati ons of Akhundzada from the Azari 1anguage into Persian and by the writing of the first plays in Persian by Mi rza Agha Tabri zi •

Al though Akhundzada and Mi ria Agha Tabri z{

wrote modern plays at their time.

Their style as far as time and <:

movement Ru-hawii.


concerned was

Thus we







of Taziya


that we had a complete text for

performing Ru-hawzi for the first time, written by Mira-Agha Tabr1zi •

(Baggal Bazi Dar Huiur).


Later both T~ziya and Ru-hawii attracted

some of the contemporary playwrights and theatre directors and became sources of experiment for some contemporary writers who were in search of a means of combining the traditional theatre and modern

- 232 -







Ali Na~iriyan in his Afi-yi Ta1ai is inspired by the

patterns and gestures of the traditional elements, Nagga1i, and , Ma ri ka gi ri; in hi s Siyah, Pah1 avan Kacha 1, and Bungah-i Ti' atra 1 , he

tries Ru-hawii style successfully. Other writers have made .- similar experiments. Thus Bayzai has writen Sultan Mar in RU-hawii ')

sty1 e, and bri ngs 01 d tradi ti ons together wi th the modern e1 ements _ Ii r 5 Ie;onto the same stage. P. Kardan wrote Amir A=r- Salam, the famous folk VI..-








Safidi wrote


Barabar-i - Chashm in RU-hawii style. The modern movement belonging . to the Marxist branch of theatrical activities began with Nushin and this movement was Anjuman-i








theatre, theatrical




by Anahita theatre,

Both Taziya and Ru-hawzi were given a special place in

The Shi raz Festi val.

Thi s was due to a contradi ctory phenomenon

which took place in the Shah's period. On the one hand there was greed



ri ches

cu1 mi nati ng,








encouraged revival


sometimes, the to the


in hand,


corrupti on there was






contradiction affected theatre more than any other art.



In Jashn i-

Hunar alone there were Ta~iya, Ru-hawii, Naqqa1 i, Shamayi l-gardani,


etc and on the other hand such plays as

'Abbas Na1bandiyan ' s

Puzhuhi sh-i Zharf-u Suturg Dar... The other two Festi val s organi sed by N. I.R. T. concentrated on popular tradition and traditional art. At the same time popu1 ar theatres in La1 azar were survi vi ng by changi ng

thei r



theatri cal







search for a Secular theatre with traditional

elements incorporated into a modern fonn has been the main aim of most of the new wave playwrights in Iran. - 233 -

They all

have acquired drama techniques from western playwrights.

Since they

had no techniques of their own, one can easily observe the influence of European dramatic techniques on most contemporary Iranian Drama.

The efforts of Iranian playwrights and some theatrical groups to achieve an indigenous theatre have been maintained with great enthusiasm.

Despite all

their efforts and struggles to achieve

their aims, however, their success has not been great.

This is due

to several reasons, the first of which is that religious authorities < have always been against all forms of dramatic art, even the Taziya.

In addition, Iranian playwrights, especially contemporary writers have always been under the pressure of heavy censorship.

This has



been totally agai nst the nature of Ru-hawzi, a free form of theatre with no text and therefore no restriction. to ease the process of formalities,

To avoid censorship and

the theatre directors and

producers resorted to transl ated texts more than to I rani an plays. Although there was a superficial attempt by official authorities to encourage cu1 tura 1 acti vi ty and revi ve the nati ona 1 heri tage, the result








festi val s, rather than bei ng deep-rooted in the soci ety.

Thus all

the limited efforts of the contemporary theatre culminated in little result,










short-lived period of theatrical activity followed the 1979 Islamic revol uti on, it was soon suppressed. Irani an theatre today conti nues only due to the activities of a few individuals.

- 234 -


- 235 -


by N Navidi

Night Watchman Heydar Robabeh Dervi sh 1 t 2 t 3. Mossayeb Children Bakhtiar

- 236 -



(Stage: Harvest place, a heap of straw, some wheat. The stage is dark, It is night, a ray of 1i ght movi ng slowly from the 1eft of the stage lights the wheat, then creeping up the straw-heap moves round it and fi na1ly stops over the heap. There is silence in the harvest place but the barking of the dogs in the village adjacent to the harvest place is heard.

The barking is

accompani ed by the voi ce of a ni ght watchman who is roving the village). Night Watchman

(Hums the beginning of a song). (There, on a heap of straw, under a shabby black cover, a man is asleep.

Gradually he

wakes up, then pushes the cover aside, raises hi s head and looks about him.

Carefully he

shakes the straw from hi s head and face. looks about him.


Carefully once more and

making sure there is nobody around, he gets up cauti ous1y and si ts by the straw heap.


he gets up and, keeping low, looks around him, agai n.

there is nobody there.

gri ns happi 1y. and


material. places,

Sati sfi ed, he

He has a hard, sunbu rnt face

shabby His

outfit shirt


hairs on his chest).

- 237 -


is is

of torn


locally-made in





That is good, there is nobody

here... (Hurri dely he di gs a hol e admi dst the straw heap). Night Watchman

(Singing). (Heydar. startled, gets up on his knees, looks about


fri ghtenedly



hurri edly

starts removing the straws again). Heydar


A•••• h••.. a that is better ••.. That's better.

But no!

( smil i ngly).

It's not big enough!

(He makes the hole in the heap a bit larger and then, sati sfied but hastily gets up and starts walking on tiptoe.

From the other side of the

heap, he pulls out a large, open can and shakes out the straw whi ch is i nsi de it.

The can

makes a metallic noise, startling Heydar.


looks about him and thi s time passes the can more carefully from one hand to the other as he goes towards the wheat). Heydar

In the name of Almighty God .... (He kneels down and fills the can carefully. He is disturbed by the noise the can makes ••••

When the can is full, he picks it up and

carries it carefully to the hole in the straw heap.

Once again,

he looks about him and

returns to fill the can again.

(Up to now, the

light ray follows Heydar with every move he makes) •

- 238 -



(Stage is the place.

same as before,

There is no sign of disturbance in the

straw or the wheat pi 1e. from

the harvest





Voi ces are heard harvest


Heydar is si tti ng by a pi 1e of beaten wheat crop, si evi ng it.

A chi 1d wi th shabby, torn

clothing, a dirty face and wiry hair full of straw bits, is holding a bunch of desert thorn with which he is clumsily sweeping the harvest place.

Robabeh, Heydar's wife, is beating a

pi 1e of wheat in front of her wi th a wooden flail,

separating the wheat from the straw

(chaff). A child not older than 3 or 4 years is sitting by Robabeh on the ground and sobbing). Robabeh



What am I to do wi th the chi 1dren thi s (Poi nti ng at the wheat).


Thi sis all

we have, and it will be gone in an hour like a piece of sacrificial lamb! Heydar

Have a little patience, woman!

If I am in

charge, I know what to ...• Robabeh

(Shrugging her shoulders).

I don't know, you

have ei ther found a treasure, or el se you Ire planning to steal something. Heydar

No, woman.

I have neither found a treasure

-nor am I goi ng to steal. bi t.

Just be patient a

(The chil dis sobbi ng turns into sudden

cryi ng).

- 239 -






What does she want, woman?


Shut up, damn you!

How should I know, the greedy thing.


wants water-melon. Heydar

Well, give her a few handfuls of wheat to eat.


As if there's so much of it that we can afford to buy water-melons!

(She keeps beating the

crop with the wooden flail

as if beating

somebody) Heydar


(Stopping what he is doing).

Come .... come.

will give you some wheat ...• come.


(The child

comes forwa rd and holds her shi rt wi th her hands.

Heydar puts 3 or 4 handful s of wheat

in her ski rt and the chil d goes away happi ly. The other children look at her with envy). Heydar


Don't eat it all yourself, give some to your borthers ,


ri ght?

starts to run, drunken walk. Robabeh





then the run changes to a

She goes off stage).

I wish God would take you away to relieve me of the burden....

Don't fall into the straw.

Don't let anybody cheat you....


The beloved God gi ves you and me nothi ng but chil dreno' Heydar


0ne every daye'

be thankful

and complain less.

provides for his creatures.

- 240 -

One every day.' He


(Pointing at the wheat). provided for us.

This is what he has

The moment they come it will

be gone. Heydar

Be thankful, everything will be all right.


How, and where will it come from?

(A Dervish

walking through the harvest place is chanting). Dervi sh


(Chanti ng in prai se of the Prophet Mohamnad and his successor Ali, heard from the vicinity of the scene). Greeti ngs to Mohamnad and hi s followers.



Greetings to Mohammad and his

(Whispering). followers.


(With anger). much



Look at him! does

Look at him!

he want?..


He must be

Not everybody with a turban on his

head is .•.• (Dervish's voice is heard as he comes closer). Dervish's voice

(Chanting verses again, followed by whispers of greeting to Mohammad and his followers).

Dervish (2)





chanting verses


praise of the Almighty's kindness and virtue). Robabeh


Look at the way they have barged in here. Some of them are so healthy and strong that you COUldn't cut their necks with an axe. They have become an added burden in addition to our own suffering.

- 241 -

(Heydar is thoughtful).


Hello, there! harvest!

God give you strength.


(Starts reading verses again).



at the Dervish angrily

keeps beating the wheat as if she is striking the Dervish on the head.

Dervish pays no

attention and goes on). Dervish

(Chanting verses in praise of Ali.


gets up). Dervish

Oh, Almighty, fulfil their needs, bless their harvest.

My holy ancestor Fatameh will bless

your fortune,

so that it is not wasted on

doctors or taken away by tyrants.


goes to the wheat pile). Heydar

Here you are, come.

(Dervi sh goes closer and

opens up hi s 1arge bag which a1 ready contai ns 12-15 kilos of wheat.

Heydar pours handfuls

of wheat into his bag. Robabeh is looking angrily





bag and her

husband's hand which is filling up the bag with wheat). Robabeh

He has taken enough, man!

He wouldn't be

satisfied if you give him all of it.

It's a

good job that you've got so little to give! Dervish (2)

(Nodding his head). away!


Charity keeps misfortune

(Nodding his head).

(Pushing the Dervish).

- 242 -

Go away, go on.

Dervish (2)

(Puts the bag hurridely on his back and starts walking).


•• •



mv goo d man. 'J

May God

save you from this woman! Robabeh


(Shaking her fist furiously).

Oh · . . oh . .. same h

on lazy lay-abouts. Heydar

(Reproachfully). woman!


What has come over you today

You snap at people like a dog.

Yes, yes, but I have become like a dog. Isn't that true?

This fat so-and-so comes and takes

my children's bread and butter away! Heydar

What do you thi nk he can do!

Go away and

steal? Robabeh

He can work.



He is not disabled. Work!

(Laughing bitterely).

you know of any?


If you do, give it to your

husband so that your children are not always hungry. Robabeh

Because there ; s no work, shoul d he come and take my children's bread away from them?


Well, woman, he also has a wife and children.


Oh, so he has a family too!

You should feel

sorry for your own children who are here and do not even have a piece of bread to eat. Heydar




everythi ng out.

charitable. (Laughi ng).

He wi 11


Thi s year wi 11

pass as qui ckly as a wi nk, and next yea r we shall have a bigger harvest. Robabeh


Keep hoping for the impossible.

Every year has been worse than the one before.

- 243 -

Ever since I came to your house you have kept hoping for next year, just like my father.


a1 so made many unfu1 fi 11 ed promi ses until my mother died with her hopes shattered. Dervish (3)

(Chanting verses). Robabeh







fri ghtened1y) • Heydar

What are you gOing to do, woman?




it to me!

(Shaking the

flail in her hand). Heydar Robabeh

Don't be stupid. :

Do you





I thi nk not!




Tomorrow my chi 1dren

wi 11 ask for thei r dai 1y bread... and where wi 11 you be?

Tomorrow when the harvest has

been collected, you will leave us and go away and wi 11 come back next spri ng as poor as before. more.

Tomorrow my (Nervously).

chi 1dren



Do you know, man!

I am

quite serious about this, even if I have to kill .•.• Heydar

I tell you be quiet, don't create such a nasty scene.

Dervi sh (3)

(Approaching from the other side and chanting verses, reciting the martyrdom of Hossain).


Oho ...• Gho1am-e-A1i. closer...


if you dare come

(Shaking the flail

The Dervi sh enters.


In hi s hands there is a

tapestry depicting scenes from Hossain's

- 244 -

rna rty rdom) . Dervi sh (3)

(Starts chanting half-way across the stage). Come and look.

Thi sis where Hossai n met hi s

martyrdom at Karbala, the fallen one with the slashed head is Ali Akbar, son of Hossain, the apple of the eye of Fatemeh,

daughter of

Zahra ••. (Going on and on).Oh. Almighty, for the sake of Ali Akbar, son of Hossain, bless their lives and business.

Oh ..•• Almighty,

for the sake of Fatameh's broken heart ... We have been blessed and it wonlt be necessary


for you to beg.

Go on, get away.

(Dis tu rbed ) .





(Stopping what he was doing).


A proper bitch!

Think what you like. I won't let you give away


one single grain of wheat. stands straight).

(Laughing bitterely).

Dervish (3)

(Chanting while retreating).


(Making faces).

(She gets up an

Just see if you can!




In the name of God!

That ..• that ... that ... we must

give ..• We must not give ..• I won't give.


God should also know that I won't give any, go on, go on, get lost. Dervi sh (3)

(Shaking his head, shrugging his shoulders and It is up to you.


like, don't if you don't. Heydar

Give if you

(Going away).

(Hurriedly) .

Oho, you Alils devotee.


Oho, wait a second.

- 245 -



Let him get lost.


You will be punished for this.



It can't be anything worse that we are already faced with!


God have mercy on you! you to stop it.


That is enough, I tell

(Coming forward).

I told you I won't give a single one to anybody.

(Runs towards the Dervish, beating

him with the flail).

Go on, go on, get lost,

I tell you, get lost. (Running







mistaken, do you think everything will be all ri ght if we don It gi ve thi s poor man a few handfuls of wheat? What do you think, a few handfuls to this one,


a few handfuls to that one and a few to some others. Heydar


How much does that amount to?

Not more than 6

Kilos. 6 Kilos might seem nothing to you.


Last year

during your absence I fed them for a week with just 6 Kil os. Heydar Robabeh


I tell you to go. I won It, I won It.

(To Dervi sh).

Get lost ....

(Heydar takes her hands and pulls her towards the side of the stage). Heydar

Woman, go .•.• go .•..

- 246 -


I won It.

(She pull s her hands away and runs

towards the Dervish, but •.. ) (Mossayeb's voice from outside)



Oh what has come over you? What is going on? (Suddenly


Aha .•• Man!



As God is my witness.

silence). If you give

even one grain of wheat to them I will rip my stomach open. Get

(To Dervish).



Go .•• go •.• !


You! Get lost.



(Mossayed comes in.

astoni shed? He is a fat

man, dressed like Heydar, but his clothes are much newer.

He has got some sacks in one

hand, and a leather-covered notebook and a pen in the other). Ha, ..• ha ..• what







Why don't you stop your wife?

{Fed up}.



I don't know what I shall do,

Mi ster Mossayeb, she is getti ng 1ike a bi tch and keeps snapping at people.

{He pushes his

wife and shoves her aside}. (Throwing a few sacks in a corner). Uncle


Heydar, God bless your crops. Robabeh Mossayeb


Go on.

Tell me what will they survive on?

That is enough, that's enough. much, my si ster! created them!

Don't worry so

Do you thi nk it I S you who

He who created them wi 11 al so

provide for them.

- 247 -

Do you think that if it were (pointing at the wheat) not for these few handful s of wheat, somethi ng woul d happen them?

Woul d they di e?

No, if it were like that, there would not be a living soul on earth. Heydar

You tell her Mossayeb, it is my fault that the crop is not good?

She has dri ven me crazy

with her constant nagging. Mossayeb

My good man, the land is so hard that even the cows pull ing the ploughs blame one another. All right, come forward.

Gholam-e-Ali, come,

I will give you a share. (Going forward, avoiding Robabeh).

Dervish (3)

God bless

you. Robabeh Heydar


Oh, don't try to catch fish in muddy water! (More



before) .

hope God will shut you up.

Oho ... oho ... I

We are indebted to

Mister Mossayeb. Robabeh

Yes, I know! I know!

That is why he has come

with so many sacks.

(Mossayeb puts handful

after handful

of wheat carelessly into the

Dervish's bag). Robabeh

(Goes forward).

Oho, oho ... whom do you think

those belong to?

(Mossayeb ignores her and

puts in a few more handfuls. keeps

thanki ng


prayi ng

The Dervish for


Mossayed, after finishing what he has started, gets up and rubs his hands calmly).

- 248 -


Oh, do you think I am the Dervish that you can beat me up?

Dervish (3)


(Puts hi s. bag on hi s back and sta rts goi ng off) • Mister Mossayeb, when •••



Di dn I t

I tell you they were catchi ng fi sh in

muddy water.

(She runs towards the Dervish).

Empty your bag, do on, empty it, go on.


pulls the bag from his hands). Heydar

(Runs forward, hi ts Robabeh I s hands and pull s the Dervi sh away from her).

0 God damn your

father, woman. Dervi sh


(Runni ng off the stage hurri edly , sayi ng Ah, Ah and shaking his head). The elder child looks with envy at his brother eati ng water-melon an moves gradually towards him. (Poi nti ng at Mossayeb I s sacks).


Let me see,

what ••• (Laughing).



Obviously, to collect your

debts. Robabeh


All we owe you ••• Yes?





other thi ngs. mine.






The goods in the shop are not

They belong to others.

They also want

every penny lowe them ••• and ••• Robabeh


Don't you see that we don't have anything this year?

- 249 -

Mossayeb Robabeh



Mossayeb Heydar

Yes! What do you mean by all this?


Woman, you never thought of that when you and your chi 1dren were fed at the expense of hi s shop day and night!


My chil dren and 11

What about you?

If you

tea and tobacco were late, you would have yelled ad raised hell. Heydar


(Making faces).

Look Mister Mossayeb, don't pay

any attention to her, brother, today .... Robabeh

Yes, I am acting like a bitch today.


el der chi 1d has got close to the younger one, wheedling and begging for a bite but the younger one is retreating step by step towards Robabeh and shaking his head). Robabeh

(Pointing at the children).

Look at them,

always hungry, always dreaming of fruit.


what am I saying, it's not you who's in pain, it's my heart which is turning inside out, that (pointing at Heydar) who is their father has a heart like an ox's, and you Mister Mossayeb, and your atti tude is known, if not only my children but the whole world died of hunger,



care ...



concerned about your own stomach and those of your children.

- 250 -


What about the days and nights you were fed by my shop, it was all right then?!


Nobody forced you to .


Nobody forced me to? You are right,

I see, serves me ri ght!

shouldn't have given you


anything but as I have, I am now gOing to take it back. Robabeh Mossayeb Robabeh

Who is going to give it to you?


Who is going to? You bet, my chil dren are to di e because you lent us a bit?


What do you think? You are exaggerating.


Just ignore her.

Now, tell me kow much we owe

you. Mossayeb

(Opens hi s account book and turns the pages. The older child, dying to have a bite of the watermelon, goes to his mother).


( Impati ently) .




attention is fully directed to Mossayeb who is searching in his account book). Robabeh

(To the child).

Leave me alone, damn you.


The total of your debts is let me see, 5483.5 Rials.



(Horrified). both

hands) .



(Clasping her head with God.


Thi sis all we have!



(To Heydar).

What are you going to settle the debts with? With these few grains?

- 251 -



Well, as much as the wheat can

account for. Robabeh




toba,cco. tea.







I'm always telling you to drink less

What are you going to do now?

I am not

giving a single grain away even to my father. Mossayeb



Well brother, are you going to

clear my accounts? decide? Heydar Robabeh

Is it for your wife to

Is she ..••

When I am here, I make the decisions.




I am nobody.


(The younger chi 1d



gi ve


el der

brother a bi te of the water-melon, provi ded that the elder one has a bite whilst the younger one is hol di ng the water-melon in hi s hands.

But as the older one's teeth get into

the water-melon, he holds both his brother's hands



3 or

fruitless struggle,

4 bits.



the younger one starts

shouting loudly, lets go of the water-melon on the ground and runs off the stage). Heydar

Oh you greedy thing!

(Runs after the elder

chi 1d and throws one of hi s shoes after him). If you ever come back •... Robabeh

(Runs to the chil d, picks up the water-melon from the ground and cl eans the dust off wi th her shirt). doesn't

Come, take it, it doesn't matter,




water-melon into his hands).

- 252 -




Here you are, eat it, damn you. hell for me....

You have made

If I didn't have you, I would

have none of this misery. Mossayeb

Well, are we going to settle the account?



Of course.

(Puts his hands on

hi s eyes). Mossayeb

Be quick then!


(Qui etly).

Let me .•.. (Gesturi ng wi th hi s

head and hands, indicates that he means to get rid of Robabeh). Robabeh

(Puts the cryi ng chil d down).

You bet!



not going to move from here! Mossayeb


(Impati ently).

Well, Madame Robabeh, what do

you say I should do then? Madame! ...• I am no Madame!


is Madame!

It's your wife who

Who, God save her, is announced

wherever she goes. Mossayeb


What am I supposed to call you then?



Even "Robabeh" is too much for someone in my position!



mi serabl e,



destitute! Mossayeb


All right!





Your ancestors are destitute!

What do you want me to do?

Mossayeb Robabeh


How shoul d I know, do whatever you want.


is between you and ..•. {poi nti ng to Heyda r} . Neither God nor the Prophet want you to become the murderer of my children.

- 253 -



What .•.. ? (Getting



Woman •... woman .•.. don't


anythi ng to force me to show my ugly si de in front of these people. Do







Do you know, my man?

tired of this life.



I am sick and

I can't bear to see the

suffering of the children any more. Heydar

In the name of the Almighty! •..•


(Putti ng one hand on the other, sorrowfully). This is the way poor me earns a living!


the others and give it to these people to eat.

And this is the way they pay their bends


(Angri ly,


You heathens,

feedi ng your chi 1dren?



am I responsible for From the begi nni ng of

the Autumn, you start buying on credit, well, then, you should also be thinking of paying back ..•. do you think it is all free? Robabeh


(Pretending to be cool and calm).

I don't

understand a single word of all this.

My life

depends on every single grain of wheat here. (To Heydar).


This is another way of cheating

people. Heydar


I tell you to stop thi s nasty behavi our .... The children will doesn t I


not die of hunger.


- 254 -





di e .. · .

I am not going to cheat anybody ..•. l will honour my debts. Mossayeb

(Angri ly). nobody


asked you

shouldn't to,




(Shaking with

anger) • Heydar

Give it to him, for Almighty's sake!


make this poor man suffer any more! Robabeh


Am I telling lies?

children going to eat tomorrow?

What are the (She goes

forward, holds Mossayeb's ann and forces him to sit down;

she herself sits in front of

Mister Mossayeb, you are my brother


too, sit down, sit down so that I can open mY heart to you, you tell me Mister, you tell me ..•• Mossayeb



(Surpri sed).

I tell you?

Yes Mister.

You tell me, what I can do with

the chil dren thi s year if you take the wheat away?

This is all we have, we have God in the

sky and this on earth.

In the name of God, we

have no hope anywhere else. Aha, that's better •.•. that's the way to behave.

Heydar Mossayeb


All right, my sister, what do yOU want me to do?

The few Ri al s I have are not mi ne, they

belong to other people. Robabeh

(Begging). the


give them away, be charitable for of your children,

children die of hunger.

- 255 -

don't let mY


What, you're telling me to write off your debts?




no •••• Okay,

wait a minute.

What will

happen if the chil dren and I di e of hunger, will God be happy? Mossayeb

No, my sister, no, my dear, what do you mean?


Will it make God happy, will he reward you?


(Gets up).

I have my problems too.

Do you

thi nk it is my own money, so that I can just forget about what you owe me?

You have not

been to the town so you can't appreci ate what kinds of beasts I have to deal with if I'm two days 1ate wi th the payment. They won't even return my greeting. I '11

prob1 ems. (To

yours. brother.

I have also thousands of



nothi ng


Hurry up,

Hurry up and pay up.


wi th



I have work to

do. Robabeh


(Strechi ng out her hands to Mossayeb). heathen,



Don't you have any children of your







(Mossayeb picks up hi s sacks and goes

towards the wheat pile). Mossayeb


(To Heydar).



(Goes and takes the sacks from Mossayeb).

Come on, fill them up, come on.

will help you.


(Both of them sit by the pile

and hurriedly pour the wheat into the sacks.

- 256 -

Robabeh stands there for a whi 1e and looks at them with a puzzled and helpless expression on her face,

then starts walking with sudden

deci si on). Robabeh


(She runs to Mossayeb and, before he

realises what she is doing, she takes the bottom of hi s sack, pull sit up and empti es the wheat back into the pile, then goes to Heydar and does the same thing. front of their astonished eye,

Next, in she throws

herself on the pile and starts sobbing and crying) • Robabeh

I won't let you, won't let you, won't let you.

My 1i fe depends on every si ngl e one of

these grains. Mossayeb

In the name of God!


Just look at the shrew....

God in hi s worl d

of light, has made a bitch as my companion. Robabeh

Yes, I am a bitch.

I am a bitch with four

puppies who are crying with hunger.



Does that

satisfy you?

If you dare touch me ..•.

(To Heydar).

This is all because you are too


If she were my wi fe I woul d have taught

her such a lesson that she'd bark for the rest of her 1i fe! Heydar

Don't force me to break your a nns and 1egs, woman!


No, she is not going to give in!

- 257 -


(Pushing Robabeh). You dirty slut, go away. (Kicking Robabeh.


Mossayeb nods approvingly).

Now I know that you are in it together, want to ki 11 my chi 1dren wi th hunger. here, I will show you. wai t!

(Starts walking).

you Wai t You

Do you thi nk I will 1et my chi 1dren

starve to death? Mossayeb

Do what the hell you want to.

I wouldn't

waste time up here if I was frightened of your threats. Robabeh's voice

Wai t there, I wi 11 be back thi s very mi nute. (From outsi de).


Oh, God save us from a cracked wall, a wild day and a quarrelsome woman.



Oh, God, she is going to make more trouble. Hurry up, fill the sacks qui ckly before she


gets back. Heydar


(Si tti ng

(hurriedly). down


Hurry up, hurry up.


turni ng


1ooki ng at the p1 ace where Robabeh went out; he gets busy filling the sacks). (Pointing at the pile).


This won't settle

your debts. Heydar


This is all there is, you expect me to go and borrow?


But there's so much straw and so little wheat.


Mister Mossayeb. year.

Nobody is as poor as me this

God be my witness, I have not paid the

rent, I have no seeds to p1 ant and no bread. This is all I have.

- 258 -



Be honest!


Are you suggeting that I hidden some?


Lame Ramazan had half the amount of straw and

That's all the wheat you have?

twice as much wheat as this. Heydar

Thank you very much!

Mister Mossayeb, one

whole year I have had to work like a dog, and now I have to listen to such talk. Mossayeb

Well, there's so much straw and so little wheat!


Then you are suggesting I have stolen it? That's funny, stealing ones's own belongings.










something to it! Bakhti ar


(A bent old man with a white beard, coming in from the other side of the stage). You (laughing), what has come over you today? I don't know, ask him and his wife.


I have

taken care of them for a whole year, and now it is time for them to pay up, they are making a nasty scene. Bakhtiar


God give you strength, and bless your crops. Welcome, Uncle Bakhtiar.


How should I know?

Thi sis how God wants thi ngs to be for poor me. Mossayeb


(Laughs bi tterl y).

(Filling the sacks). it my fault?

Well Uncle Bakhtiar, is

If I don't give them credit,

they start begging, and if I do ..... .

- 259 -


Look Mossayeb,

nobody wants to cheat,

times are bad ..•.. (shows hi s pal m).

but Come

and pick a hair from here. Heydar

Who wants to be accused? •.. where Robabeh went out). she



(Pointing to

Do you thi nk that

like a bitch without good

reason? ••. She and her children will have to starve for a whole year. So what?


If you canlt afford it, donlt eat!

•.• Go on, fill it up .•. why are you waiting? Look Mossayeb, for the sake of your children.


(Turni ng to Bakhti ar and maki ng faces at him to elicit his support and intervention). What can I say?


with them. Mossayeb


You can still be kind to them.

What? (Begging).


Well Mossayeb, come to tenns

Look here, Uncle Mossayeb, God be

my witness, I'll go to Abadan, 1111 go, maybe if I'm lucky I'll go to Kuwait. Bakhtiar


Mister Mossayeb.

Somehow, ... I mean, come to

tenns with them as far as you can. Mossayeb

(Nervously). me to do?

What! ••• What are you telling Forget what is owed to me, is that



God forbid!

You won't lose a thing, I will

send it to you from Kuwait.

- 260 -


ah yes! you

Money grows on trees in Kuwait.


chi 1dren.

mean What

it, silly

send tal k!

some You


If you r



kidding man. Heydar


You know Uncle Bakhtiar, I swear

to God what I say is not for my own sake, it for his sake. (Looking).


There she is, she's coming. So She's coming back!

you afrai d of?

What are

Do you thi nk she can escape

paying her debts by putting on this silly act? I tell you to come to tenns wi th them, don't


step on the bitch's tail, a hungry stomach can commit murder! Mossayeb


Let her do what the hell she 1ikes ... she won't get anywhere with this silly show of parading a few sick, helpless children.



God, what are these people to do?

(Laughing sarcastically).

They say each will

be given his daily bread!

Daily bread .••

dai ly bread! Mossayeb

(Getting up nervously and looking at Dervish as if seeking somebody, then suddenly turns to one side and shouts). aho

Alimorads voice: Mossayeb

a ...

aho •.• Alimorad •..


h • • • o •••

Bring the donkey in and carry these four loads to the shop.

- 261 -


(From outside).

You just try and take them!

(She comes in wi th two of her sons and three small gi rl sin from of her. in her hand.

She has a kni fe

The chil dren are fri ghtened to

death, as is shown by the expressions on their small,



Go forward!

(She pushes

them). Go forward! They ••• look at them, they are hungry ••• hungry, they want bread.





(screaming and crying). bread


come and answer them.


Bread ••.

They want bread.


Answer them and then

take the wheat. Why shoul d I


answer them •••

that ••• My God •••

God shoul d do

a hundred thousand 1ike

them di e every day in the worl d and nobody cares. (Breathing hard). I won't let you. I won't let


them die. (Shows a knife). Mossayeb


Let us see!


You shall! (Pushing the children forward).


Here you are •••

(To Bakhtiar). You tell me,

what can I do? (With sarcasm).


Be proud of her ••• be proud

of her. She is to be proud of! Bakhtiar


(Nodding and laughing bitterly). say to them?

- 262 -

What can I



What can you say?

Starvi ng your chi 1dren to

death and giving what you haveto this fat man so he can become fatter still! Bakhti ar

(Laughs). God held us.


Am I telling lies?


Now I am a fat man!

Now it is my turn.

shall teach you a


1esson to remember. (Turns asi de and yell s).

Oho. Robabeh

(Shouting in the same direction) ... Oho ... if you put one foot here, Ali morad, I wi 11 tear your guts out.


No you won't!


Oh won't I (She pushes the chi 1dren forward). Go






•.. ,



(Chi 1dren cast a fri ghtened look

at Robabeh and Mossayeb). Heydar

Damn your father, woman!

You should fear God

and be less disrespectful. Robabeh


Respect ••• respect •.. you wretched man, you can be respectful on an empty stomach, we are respectful when we've got enough to eat. the children).

Go forward,

go forward.

(To We

only di e once. You sit here, (she sits one of the children on a sack), and you sit here (sitting another one on another sack), and you too (si ttng every chi 1d on a sack and she herself ho 1di ng the kni f, stands in thei r mi dst). Now try to take the wheat!

- 263 -


Well, I di d tell you that a hungry stomach could kill.


Come to terms with them? I swear to God that I shall be paid to the last penny they owe me!


Do it then! Do it, what are you waiting for? (One of the children gets up, and move away). Sit down, sit down, you!


Oho (Shouting).


Oh yes, he will come right now!

Al imorad Mossayeb



(From outside). count me out brother! So that is the way it is? You have a dog loose here.



goes and picks

up a

half-empty sack). Robabeh

(Holding the arm of one of the children, goes forward and puts the knife to the child's stomach).

Will you put it down?

I am talking

to you, will you put it down or not! (Mossayeb keeps staring). Heydar

(Runs forward and forces the chil dis arm out of Robabeh's grip and pushes the child aside) Damn your father and mother, woman! Damn your I

ancestors, woman. Robabeh

(Runs to another chi 1d who runs away, then to another one.

She catches one of the children

and puts the kni fe to hi s stomach).

Put is

down, do you hear me, put it down! Mossayeb:

Damn your father if you don't kill them! ... lid like to see how you do it!

- 264 -

Dervish's sons

(Entering chanting). (They are all

astonished and stare as the

Dervish's son enters the scene). Robabeh

What ..• (Dervish's son, holding a small axe with a wooden handle, a metal pail and a large cloth bag, enters, innnediately puts the paid down and starts chanti ng and stri ki ng a small bundle of chains on his back).

Dervish's son







martyrs from members of their family). Robabeh

What? You here again?


I tell you!

(Runni ng after the Dervi sh' s son, who doesn't know what has been going on). Bakhtiar

(Nodding). God Almighty, a hundred sins and one repentance!





nods to him).



understand it! You tol d her ..• You yoursel f to1 d her to act 1ike thi s ... You made her behave like the bitch she is! Heydar

(Astoni shed).


I tol d her to act 1ike thi s

so that I needn't pay my debts?

So you are

saying that I taught her all thes!

Wait then,

I wi 11 ki 11 her to sati sfy you and put your mind





out in the


direction that Robabeh ran after Dervish's son. by

Imnediate1y Robabeh's screams, followed the


sound The

of blows being struck,


screaming children run forward

- 265 -

where their mother is heard.

While running,

one of them kicks the sack and the wheat falls out allover the place). Heydar's voice

You di rtly sl ut! You shrew of a woman! You have put me to shame!


(Satisfied). That's it! shoul d be!

That is the way it

The bitch has got used to such (While talking, he sits

shameful behaviour.

down and puts the wheat spi 1t on the ground back into the bag). Bakhtiar

(Looking at Mossayeb angrily).

What's that

supposed to mean? (Gets up). You too, what are you doing? Getting as ass out of the mud? might as well kill and Robabeh.



(Goes toward Heydar

Heydar is hitting Robabeh.


has stopped talking). Heydar's voice




Can you

open your mouth

anymore? Now you can't behave like a bitch and snap at people.

(Bakhtiar and Heydar come back with








shaking allover and his lips are covered with sal i va). Bakhtiar

You fool!

Is that the way to beat a woman?

Why, have you gone crazy? heathen.

(To Mossayeb).


What do you want from these people?

Why do you wish innocent blood to be spilt?

- 266 -



What are you tal ki ng about ... ?


tell me not to co11 ect what they owe me Anyone who want to get back what he is owed would have to spill blood! Bakhtiar

I di d tell you that a hungry stomach has no moral


A hungry





don t

bloodshed. Mossayeb


(Sew; ng





understand the argument. penny I lent.



I want back every

(Robabeh, with bloody head and

face, dust allover and dishevelled, creeps onto the stage with sobbing children following her) • Mossayeb

(With surprise) What?

She has come to life

again? Heydar

What do you say I shoul d do wi th her?

Can I

cut her head off? (Robabeh nods, meani ng yes he


coul d.

Robabeh dumbfounded. few steps.


Bakhtiar look


Robabeh creeps forward a

Sits down; her tears, mingled with

dust, have turned muddy. Robabeh

(Sobbing). God.

You can.

Yes you can.

I swear to

(Pointing at the two of them). For God's

sake put an end to my misery.

Kill me so that

I am released from all these

I can't bear to

see my children hungry.

Come, come and put my

eyes out .•• come and tear my bleeding heart out




- 267 -






anymore; come, for God's sake, come, come. (Sobbing,






Heydar turns his face to wipe his tears. Bakhtiar







Mossayeb with anger). Mossayeb







(Lifting his head and looking up). God, take her away. Take her away.

(After stari ng at

Robabeh for a while). God Almighty, now they will accuse me of profanity •.• Heydar

No, no Mi ster Mossayeb, no ( sobbi ng), don It you worry,

this is what the Almighty has

wanted for this helpless creature and me. (Looking up). Oh, God Almighty, is it right


that a man should labour for a year and then live like this? Mossayeb


No, brother, this is no way to run a business, this is no life.

If I ever collect the Rials

which people owe me, I swear on the graves of my ancestors I will never run a shop again. Robabeh

Mister Mossayeb!

I swear to God, that those

few grai ns of wheat are all we have and you want




shou1dn ' t say that

chi1 dren?



you are also ri ght.

But what am I to do with

(Cryi ng bi tter1y). the


(Cry; ng).

(Layi ng





I swear by thi s God's gift that even at harvest time we don't take much home.

wheat) •

- 268 -

That's my chi 1dren IS share and this is my own.






(Cryi ng

hard). And • •• and ••. you Mossayeb

(Oi sturbed).

Well, what do you tell me to do?

All right, come. (Let go of the sacks).


weill do as you say, give as much as you want to ••• come


(Facing Bakhtiar).

But you be

our wi tness Uncl e Bakhti ar, from thi s moment there won't be a penny on credit, not a penny, so don't come to the shop begging. Robabeh





whatever I can give? (Laughs).




Al right, no

credit, not a penny credit, not a penny.


grant you along 1i fe just so long as my children have their bread, just enough bread to keep us from starvi ng to death, that is better, better, God grant you a long life, a long life. your. crying

God keep your children healthy for

God give you integrity. •••

(Laughing and

weakly gets up on her knees and

goes to Mossayeb).

Come, let me kiss your

hands. Come so that I may ki ss your foot, come and let me have all your miseries, come ... come. (Mossayeb retreats as Robabeh gets closer to him) •

(Curtai n drops)

- 269 -


(The scene is the same as before, the ha rvest p1 ace.

Hal f of the wheat has been taken by


Robabeh is sweepi ng up the wheat.




Mossayeb as



fu rthe r away) Heydar


(Satisfied). now.





God willing, we've got rid of that one.

But between ourselves, if you were not here, Mossayeb wouldn't leave and let us get off so lightly.

(Without notiCing Robabeh who is








(Pointing to the wheat), we'll spread these for seeds.




Those for seeds?


from the wolf to be gotten by the lion? Oh ... no ••• that is impossible unless you kill me. (Gets up).

I don't care about seeds.


are for my children's bread. Heydar


Well, woman, that (Pointing at

the straw heap) is for the children's bread. Robabeh Heydar



Give that to your ancestors!

(Laughing hilariously). ancestors! about?

Give that to your

What do you think I am talking

No woman, look ..• (He goes towards

the straw, but cowers back before he get to it •••

cauti ous1y).

But woman, you must not tell

nobody •.• right?!

- 270 -


(Curiously). Right! .•.


(Gets closer to the heap and looks carefully about him).


(He sits down and removes

the top 1ayer of the straw).

Look. .. look,

this is for the bread! .•. Robabeh Heydar

(Happily shocked)


Robabeh Heydar

Hush ..• yes woman. When did you hide it, is there much?


Robabeh Heydar


Yes, there is.

One night ..•

Why didn't you tell me?


(Covering up the wheat cautiously).


(get up) well, if I had told you, we wouldn't have any wheat to use as seeds. (Laughs) You shou1 d be burned for the beati ng you gave


me! (Goes to Robabeh).


Come, it doesn't matter.

Doesn't matter, for the children's sake, come, instead ••• Robabeh


(Retreats) •

No man,

watching us •.. no.



- 271 -

no man.

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