Female Playwrights

Zanan [Women]; Social Monthly
Sept 2002, No. 91
By: Rahmat Amini
Page: 31 - 32
Word Count: 1552

Summary: A glance at Iranian female playwrights of the recent two decades brings to light the growing trend of women choosing theater as a career. Women's theater found a new dimension as a consequence of the increasing number of female students and graduates majoring theater who chose to write and perform plays such as Azam Borujerdi's "Eqlima", Eliza Urami's "Tanak" and Pari Saberi's "I in the Garden of Gnostics". Besides the plays written by the graduates of theatrical literature such as Naghmeh Thamini and Chista Yathrabi gave women's theater a new dimension. Among the latest female playwrights, Maryam Nemat-Tavousi and Shabnam Tolouie might be mentioned.

Text: A glance at the history of the world theatrical literature will bring to light that women have had a minor part in this type of artistic and literary field. So that once tragedy was born and during the most brilliant era of the Greek classical drama, the names of male playwrights such as Aschylus, Sophocles and Euripides are the only ones recorded.

As a matter of fact, the limited participation of women in play writing and other artistic and even social domains is not limited to the ancient Greek era and any specific geographical area. Even in later periods, women had rarely ever any opportunity to expose their artistic creativity. In the later periods such as the Elizabethan when prominent figures including Shakespeare who created Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello and the era of modern drama marked by the name of Ibsen as a pioneer playwright who took a serious nontraditional step to approach a woman's character in his play titled "The Doll's House", scarcely ever any reference is witnessed of women playwrights.

Thus it is not so strange to witness the absence of women in the relatively short play writing history of our country, which is hardly 200 years old and even not be able to remember the name of a female dramatist in the contemporary period marked with such playwrights as Beyzaie, Saedi and Radie.

Women have not only failed to expose their potentials in the field of theatrical literature, but have been faced with great limitation in the wide field of the art of theater, especially acting and directing, so that before theater in its specific meaning came into being, women's role was played by men in traditional plays, among which Shabih-Khani and Takht-e Hozi are the most significant. The actors playing women's role were normally referred to as "disguised as women". The first women who ever started acting were Armenian, rather than Iranian.

In fact, a thorough research is required to bring to light the origin of women's participation in the course of Iran's theatrical history. However, to be brief, the writer of the article has only taken a glance at the recent years, hoping to approach the female playwrights who are gradually establishing their status in Iran's theatrical literature. As a matter of fact, the period under study starts with the 80s and continues to the present time.

Among the first serious female playwrights who might be considered pioneers in the field, Azam Rahman Borujerdi and Eliza Urami might be referred to, whose plays were not only performed on the scene but were published as books.

Ms. Borujerdi's "Eqlima" produced by Mahmoud Azizi, is one of the plays of a collection written by Borujerdi under the same name, which made her name remain in the minds of the public.

The numerous and different performances of Eliza Urami's "Tanak" in various festivals and in provinces across the nation, where at times actors and actresses should be differentiated, made it known to the public, specially during the 90s. Given that all the characters of the play are women it seems that by choosing a story and characters marked mainly for being "female", the playwright has acted wisely to secure its success from a wide range of aspects.

In the very same years, Pari Saberi, known as a director, decided to give a try to playwright by writing "I in the Garden of Gnostics" on the basis of Sohrab Sepehri's life and literary works. Thus she too joined playwrights. Then she approached Ferdowsi, Hafez and Iran's ancient literature.

Once theater faculties were expanded and more students were admitted, female students constituted a great number of those majoring in theater and one of their favorites was theatrical literature. One reason for such a growing number was that theater students didn't necessarily have to appear on the stage practices, which was quite pleasant from the viewpoint of their families. Meanwhile, other majors such as stage design and even puppet show could also be selected by female students.

Thus, the theater students majoring theatrical literature, among who some girls were included as well, in addition to covering a theoretical subject in their final paper were required to write a play and have it judged by their professors before graduation. Despite the fact that plays of high quality are rare to come by among the written plays, the effort paves the way for the creation of genuine plays to be written by the university graduates and continuing their career as playwrights. Azam Borujerdi is one of the students who managed to acquire much expertise during her studies and availed them to others as an instructor.

Among the new generation of female students who followed a similar approach and gradually managed to establish themselves in the domain of theater, Chista Yathrabi and Naghmeh Thamini might be mentioned. Though Yathrabi's major field of study both in undergraduate and graduate levels was psychology rather than theater but her great interest in the art of theater, especially play writing, attracted her towards the field. Her involvement with the press as a theater analyst and translator greatly contributed to the growing trend of her activity in the domain of theater.

Yathrabi's plays were hailed by the students and youth. Meanwhile, at times she herself took on to direct her own plays and succeeded to make some achievements as well. "Sorkh-e Souzan" and "Jome Dam-e Ghorub" are two of her plays.

Her plays have been directed by various female directors, including Shohreh Soltani who directed "Jugglery and Talisman", Sima Tirandaz who directed "The Bride's Hotel" and Manijeh Deldar Golchin who directed "A Woman from the Blankness of Time" and "Newspaper". The presence of the above directors and the success achieved by some of the performances of the said plays during the Fajr (Dawn) Theater Festival secured her success as a playwright.

Naghmeh Thamini, another female playwright, made her first attempt towards playwright as a student majoring in theater by writing some texts for her classmates. Once she noticed her potential for play writing, she presented her plays to be worked out for the Student Theater Festival and Fajr Theater Festival. Thus she proved that play writing is of the greatest significance in her career, especially given that she is also involved with theatrical research and analysis.

Thamini's written plays were soon published and staged at the City Theater Complex. They include "Talkh-Baziy-e Qamar dar Aqrab" and "Aunt Odyssey" directed by Shohreh Lorestani and Babak Tavassoli respectively.

Meanwhile, her plays including "Afsoun-e Mabad-e Soukhteh" and "Mysteries and Lies" directed by Kioumarth Moradi, which were staged in Fajr Theater Festival in the recent years were analyzed by various critics.

In addition to the two above playwrights who keep on writing plays, the potential of a new generation has been manifested on the stage, especially at the annual Fajr (Dawn) Film Festival, among whom Afrouz Forouzand and Rima Raminfar might be mentioned. Their written and performed plays mark their serious approach. The plays written by Afrouz Forouzand include "A Man Who Wished to Remain a Man" and "The Park Round the Corner", which made other groups to perform it, ever since it was first staged. Meanwhile, Rima Raminfar working with Mohammad Yaqubi's successful theatrical group, in addition to acting, approached play writing.

Meanwhile, reference can be made to individuals who might have achieved to establish themselves in theater if they had been more persistent, such as Maryam Nemat Tavousi whose play titled "Starfish" was performed and published. Shabnam Tolouie whose plays "Morad" and "Until Tomorrow" were performed and published was another example. Nonetheless, after her successful appearance in Dr. Rafiei's plays as an actress, she almost forgot play writing.

Golbarg Aboutorabiyan, who also approached play writing, left Iran after she wrote "The Last Transaction" and nothing has been heard about her ever since.

Along with artists appearing on the stage, female playwrights are quite active in the radio broadcasting and its theater department. Zohreh Mojabi is one of them, whose radio plays constantly broadcast from IRIB (the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio Broadcasting) are appealing.

In addition to the mentioned individuals, other playwrights have certainly written some plays in recent years, which have been performed in various festivals and have at times been awarded. Nonetheless, a closer survey will require more research. However, considering the wide presence of female playwrights in the recent decade, it is hoped that among tens of active women playwrights, the name of a few will be recorded in the nation's history of theatrical literature and that their works will be analyzed.

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