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Students festival expands theatrical horizons: Iranian Scholar

By Setareh Behroozi


TEHRAN, April 24 (Mehr News Agency) -- Students' theater festivals negotiate many new concepts, in other than complicated, theoretical grounds which are relevant to immediate social needs, theater scholar Behzad Ghaderi believes.



Ghaderi is an associate professor of English drama of the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Tehran. He has done extensive research on drama, literary theory and cultural studies and also has translated many plays written by renowned playwrights, including Henrik Ibsen, Howard Brenton, Edward Bond and Caryl Churchill.


Tehran will be playing host to 12th International Students Theater Festival, which opens tomorrow.


The research projects, translated works, and articles, which were submitted to this year's festival, have been assessed by Ghaderi. The festival runs until May 2.


The following is Tehran Times' interview with Ghaderi:


Q: How well have academics received this section of the festival and what parts does it include?


A: As you know, the festival comprises many sections responsible for different activities. I am only responsible for reviewing students' research projects, articles and translations. Their translations fall into two categories: articles and scripts for plays.


For a festival of this size and with this range of activities, one could expect a considerable number of works. I think we could have received more research articles and translations of plays, if this event had been more effectively communicated to national and international audiences.


Unfortunately, the research projects (M.A. theses) I am reviewing are all in Persian and I know there are many research projects (M.A. and Ph.D. theses) carried out in other languages every year in Iran but these are absent from this contest. I think we should be more active in such areas, too, nationally and internationally. It demands a bit of courage and audacity, of course.       


Q: To what extent do the participants focus on Theater and theatrics and other practical subjects in their work?


A: I was really impressed by our students' concerns about the issues relevant to our own immediate social needs. I have always had faith in Students' Theater Festivals. They have many new concepts to negotiate both with themselves and with authorities. They have not covered extremely complicated theoretical grounds, which, I think, may be a positive stance. Instead, they have addressed issues such as methods of performance to entertain and teach children afflicted with cancer, for instance. In their choice of scripts play for translations, one may notice their interest in new dramatic forms. Yet even here, they have tried to select plays that are not abstract content-wise, if one ever does believe in such a concept as 'form' and 'content'. I myself don't, anyway.


Q: How much do they approach today's world concerns over theater?


A: The world of Theater has its regional concerns. I mean there is no such thing as universal theater, even when we produce the same text in different regions or languages.           


Q: From what languages were most of the submitted plays translated and how many of them were works by modern world dramatists?


A: One from French, one from Spanish and the rest are from English. I think it will take some time to reach a balance in this regard. Pathologically, this is a cultural weakness among us. We see the world through the eyes of the English-speaking part of the world and it's not good news. Yet, a word of caution: I am not sure if officials managed to inform all students interested or involved in translating drama in sufficient time and via the best possible channels.


Q: What were the themes of submitted dramas: historical, regional or political?


A: I can only say they are dramas; themes are more personal. I guess you mean the subject-matter of the plays. In this case, I think they have chosen plays with existential questions. The good news is that, apart from a few translators, many of them have gone for plays that abound with ambiguity. This is good news, too.


Q: Do you think is there any relationship between academic studies on theater in Iranian universities and the present condition of theater in Iran?


A: To my mind, the present condition of Theater in Iran is not altogether wholesome. This is relatively the same all over the world. With shrinking government subsides and other budget cuts, Theater has been suffering during the last two or three decades worldwide. Our condition is even worse because Theater companies in the rest of the world have somehow tried to survive by finding other resources for their activities.


We have not been able to institute Theater and drama in the minds and hearts of our people. Apart from large municipalities, theater, as a cultural institution for change, is non-existent in Iran. I think we should first labor towards establishing Theater as a cultural institution for change all over Iran; research will, then, be more directed and relevant to each region's needs and priorities.


Q: What happens to theses projects on theater studies? Do only abstracts of such works appear in such festivals?


A: There are lots of things we should do in this area. We should get more of our students involved with research on our own dramatists, directors etc. We should make our playwrights, directors etc. available to the rest of the world. One possible way, I think, is making files on them, a task which may be achieved by concentrating on joint thesis projects carried out by our students studying different languages and Theater principles. Our university publications must invest in this area and work towards an international market for such research. In this field, we need more cooperation among those faculties that run Farsi programs in Theater studies, on the one hand, and those that have programs in the field but in other languages, on the other.


Q:  As we know theater is a social art. Does research conducted on theater fulfill such a task?


A: I am a bit worried about the 'social' aspect of art. I mean, I guess, there is no such thing as anti-/asocial art. Art, that is form-making, is a human attribute and we want to create a vision of ourselves through art. This needs more than one person. Mind you, we may have only one person but that person may communicate with his or her shadow. So research on art means reviewing and re-thinking human potentialities for togetherness, which can break limited perspectives and open up new possibilities. I think research on art itself is an art that socializes. Perhaps we should work harder and invest more in this area.

... Payvand News - 4/23/09 ... --

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