Bahram Beyzaie is one of Iran's most acclaimed filmmakers, playwrights, and scholars of the history of Iranian theater, both secular and religious. He has been the Darybari Visiting Professor at Stanford University since 2010. While at Stanford, he has been able to write and stage several of his new or never-before-seen plays. He has also given numerous lectures on Iranian cinema and theater and currently teaches three undergraduate courses.
Right: Professor Beyzaie takes a bow with the cast of Tarabnameh
Until its premiere at Stanford, “Crossroads” had never been published or performed. The seven sold out performances received much acclaim inside and outside Iran. Brilliantly staged using a minimalist set, the play is at once poetic and personal, but poignantly political and historical. It chronicles the havoc brought in the last four decades by tyranny, crass commercialism, faux nationalism, and hypocrisy on the lives of not just two star-crossed lovers but all who pass through the crossroad, people with disrupted often disfigured lives.
Tarabnameh tells the story of a hadji who sets out to sell his servant and buy in his place a young slave girl. On the way, they see a poet about to be beheaded; a young lover in search of a purloined beloved; and troubadours, their profession banned, desperate to bring joy and laughter to any face. In short, the world they see is all topsy-turvy.
Tarabnameh has its genealogy in the tradition of Takhte-Hozi plays—a tradition of popular plays, combing comedy and music, dance and poetry. Centuries of despotism have rendered this form bereft of content. In Tarabnameh, a play with a cast of thirty-seven actors, this ancient comic genre keeps its joyous ambiance but takes on new form and meaning, underscoring the possibilities of once forgotten traditions becoming rich, robust, and lively modern forms of theater.
The play, performed in two five hour segments, involved more than 1,000 rehearsal hours, at least 100 handmade costumes, and brought in audience members from as far as Los Angeles and Canada.
Ardaviraf’s Report is inspired by a Zoroastrian text that many consider one of the earliest renditions of the journey to the other world that was later canonically captured in Dante’s Divine Comedy. In Beyzaie’s adaptation of the ancient Persian text, Ardaviraf travels to paradise, purgatory, and inferno where he meets a pantheon of characters from Persian history and mythology.
The Play is a brilliant poetic dramatization of tales from the other world—a reckoning with Persian mytho-history at the hands of a master playwright. And as always with a masterpiece, it also deals with our troubled times.
Arash is one of the most enduring stories of Iranian mythology—the story of a man who offers to end the bloodshed between Iran and its neighbor, Touran, and instead uses the power of his arrow to determine the border of the two countries. Past renditions of this myth have been suffused in messianic hero worship. In Beyzaie’s rendition, the only salvation will come from our own action.
Arash is one of Beyzaie's earliest writings, and though it has been performed numerous times, in numerous countries and languages, it has never been directed by Beyzaie himself. Iranian Studies is proud to have presented a stage reading of this singular work, with two of their generation's most acclaimed artists, Mojdeh Shamsaie and Mohsen Namjoo, in the leading roles.
Jana and Baladoor is a panorama as majestic as life itself. Beyzaie brings to the stage a magical combination of poetry, puppets, music, and myth.
In his never-before performed Jana and Baladoor, he recounts the drama of a world dominated by dark demons, and the heroic battles of four mythic siblings. They represent the four elements of air, water, earth, and fire and their battles redeem and re-enchant the world. Two of Iran's most accomplished artists, the acclaimed actress Mojdeh Shamsaie and the musical wonder Mohsen Namjoo, recite the story accompanied by music and shadow figures that bring the narrative to life. Shadow plays used to be a part of Iranian theatrical heritage. For approximately seven hundred years they were banned by zealots. This was a historic revival of an old tradition.