Episode 8: Underground Theatre in Contemporary Iran
In the eighth episode of Siamak Pourzand Foundation’s People of the Underground podcast series, a theatre director speaks about underground and private theatre in today’s Iran. According to him the kind of underground theatre that evolved in recent years due to the harsh restrictions that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency brought about, resembles the private performances that women had in their homes during the Qajar era. He emphasizes that given the strict limitations that would prevent theatre artists from staging their work publicly and legally, many of his colleagues left the country or quit their art altogether. Others tried to continue their work in private and underground spaces without necessarily wanting to make a point to the government. He is of the belief that most underground theatre artists simply want to continue their work even if in a minimalistic and undesirable manner, and express themselves to their audiences without intermediary elements. He further highlights the recent phenomenon of private theatre in Iran, that is essentially the result of governmentally-led privatization of underground theatre. He calls this phenomenon a way for the government to redirect underground theatre to its own benefits and needs. Nevertheless, he mentions that in the constant pursuit of ways to connect with the audience, underground theatre artists use these privatized venues that are highly undesirable for staging a show, and are often located in remote areas. He concludes by reminding us that art, and theatre in particular, is meaningless without its audience, and asks policymakers in Iran to respect and allow for direct and uncensored interactions between artists and their audiences.