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“The Mute Who Was Dreamed”

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Pessyani, Atilla (aka Attila Pessyani, Iranian playwright, actor, director, founder of Theatre Bazi, 19__-____), and Mohammad Charmshir (Iranian playwright, 19__-____), “The Mute Who Was Dreamed [aka The Mute Dream],”

a 60-minute drama into English translated from Farsi, with music by Mohammadreza Aliqoli (19__-____), set in a kitchen, Iran,

2m2f (+ extras/ushers);  •  © 2001 by Atilla Pessyani;  •  in Attila Pessyani and Mohammad Charmshir’s The Mute Who Was Dreamed (Tehran, Iran: Theatre Bazi, 2001);  •  script/rights available from Atilla Pessyani, Theatre Bazi, c/o Dramatic Arts Centre, Tehran, e-mail _____, telephone (home) _____, (work) _____, fax _____.  •  Cited by _____ via ftp _____, 2002; _____ says,

  §  Dramatis Personae The Boy With the Umbrella (m), _____; Dream (m), a participating observer; Teacher (f), civilised, in a bigger coat; Student (f), a teenage deaf-blind-mute pupil, in ear muffs, goggles and a big coat; Ushers (m or f extras), Security Police.

  §  Synopsis “We’re ushered to our seats by Hejab covered security police sternly shining their torches. Two people, their gender almost indiscernible, sit eating at opposite ends of long table, a live white duck stands between them. The adult person eats in a civilised fashion, the younger like a wild monkey gnaws at its meal. The girl Setareh Pessyani with the teacher, Setareh’s mother, Fatemeh Naghavi, give intense performances which draw you not just onto the stage but into the minds of these struggling humans. Between the edge of the stage and the audience is a wire fence, the director, father and husband of the actors, Attila Pessyani, sits behind it at one side, sometimes signing, playing live music or shining a torch to add illumination. The girl’s meal is suddenly removed and the adult attempts to introduce to the girl the world she can not see or hear. But she is rarely kind, often holding the girl’s hand over a flame, giving her scissors, a sharp knife, the dangers of the world aren’t shielded. Fascinating also are the teacher’s introductions to her pupil of the elements and other beings living in them, by way of a penitent’s mask and then the living duck, or the experience of water and a live swimming fish. The performances are accompanied by music from traditional to modern Iranian music and video showing war news, story-like images of the two, while the very few intelligible words are from varied religious texts some of which Western and Mideastern religions equally revere. As the girl learns the teacher changes, becoming less civilised. She introduces increasingly dangerous experiences, getting her pupil to use one half of a land mine as a mask, then helping her feel for them in the sand. Later the pupil takes charge, using a carving knife to cut flesh, placing the crown of lights on the teacher’s head, the same crown that teacher once made her wear. . . .—Thelma Good 11 April 2002.”—Edinburgh Guide Theatre review - The Mute Who Was Dreamed, http://www.edinburghguide.com/aande/theatre/reviews/m/mute_who_was_dreamed.shtml, accessed July 23, 2002.  •  The student cuts through the netting surrounding the stage and in a spotlight takes off her goggles.

  §  Comment Performed at Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, London W6 9RL, England, April 16, 17, 2002.  •  “Drawing from classical Persian dream narratives, ‘The Mute Who Was Dreamed’ depicts the world as experienced by a girl from the wilderness; a girl who is deaf, mute and blind. At the centre of all is a steadily intensifying conflict between a pupil and a teacher, ideas of obedience and rebellion and the meaning of education. This is magical, dreamlike and tense theatre. The script, by Atila Pessyani and Mohammad Charmshir, interweaves many sources: William Gibson’s Miracle Worker which dramatises the relationship of Helen Keller to her teacher Annie Sullivan; Handke’s Kaspar, Ionesco’s The Lesson; and Sophocles’s Antigone. Performances in Glasgow, London and Cardiff.  •  Theatre Bazi was founded by actor/director Atilla Pessyani. Atila trained with Peter Brook, Tadeusz Kantor and Yoshi Oida, and his productions echo these western influences as well as Iranian passion plays and rouhouzi, a form of commedia dell’arte. Produced by the Dramatic Arts Centre, Tehran, Iran.”—Theatre Bazi (Iran), http://www.thecpr.org.uk/iran.htm, accessed July 23.  •  “Full of double and multi-meanings and symbols The Mute who Was Dreamed is extraordinary. Almost wordless, it speaks so eloquently of isolation and how difficult it is to understand or break through without destroying something precious and rare.”—Thelma Good.  •  Samantha Ellis, April 20, 2002, in The Guardian, reviews the performance at Chapter, Cardiff, April 23 and 25, 2002: “There should be more ducks on stage. . . . [T]he duck provides a considerable distraction. It flaps, it potters, sometimes it makes a bid for freedom. Perhaps with this eventuality in mind, director Attila Pessyani designed his set as a coop . . . . Introducing her pupil to food, flame, lipstick and braille, Naghavi’s teacher lashes out mercilessly, and, at one point, apparently eats a goldfish live on stage. The violence, set to a soundtrack that veered from prog rock to Arabic ballads, is all the more terrifying because, with breathtaking dramatic irony, we have a constant ‘It’s behind you!’ advantage over the girl, who cannot see the teacher menacing her with a knife or a lit match. . . . Inspired also by ru’hozi (Iranian commedia dell’arte) [Peter Brook, at Shiraz Festival of Arts, Persepolis] produced Orghast, a play about myths clinging to the ancient pre-Persian language Avesta. As for [the legendary Pole Tadeusz] Kantor, there are definite traces of his weird performance style (machines and mannequins, mainly) in The Mute’s depersonalised dreamscape. The son of an actress, Pessyani first went on stage aged 10, and was in his teens when he worked on Orghast and played (appropriately, given his interest in mime and muteness) a non-speaking part in Kantor’s Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes. . . . According to the programme, the constraints created ‘a specific theatre language of metaphor and suggestion . . . which is clearly understood by the Iranian audience.’ The play is so obscure that the temptation to decode it is strong. But Pessyani said that even the hand gestures, which I had assumed were Farsi translated into sign language, had ‘no meaning. The girl can’t learn the language of the mute; it’s only her imagination. It’s that she wants to speak.’ His mute is ‘in darkness, but always hearing music. She is coming out of the darkness with a loud voice.’ It’s hard not to interpret this politically, and eavesdropping in the bar yielded a near consensus that the cooped-up women, and the mute’s frustrated attempts at speech, symbolised the Iranian people. But Pessyani says he’s not interested in political theatre. . . . Quoting a poem by the Farsi bard Rumi (‘I am a dumb who had a dream but all the world is deaf. I can’t say it and they can’t hear it’), he summed up his theatrical impulse as ‘trying to make dreams.’ But he did explain the goldfish (that old magic trick—a sculpted carrot) and, with his peculiar mix of empathy and whimsy, the duck: ‘It’s so strange. It’s a bird, but it can’t fly—just like the girl.’”—Samantha Ellis, April 20, 2002, Guardian Unlimited | Archive Search, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4397571,00.html, accessed July 23, 2002.  •  Research could include Neil Genzlinger’s Lincoln Center Festival 2002 review, "Interacting Without Words And Separated by a Duck," The New York Times, July 19, 2002, p. B3.  •  Also, research could include Ta`zieh: Honar Bumi Pishro dar Iran [Taziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran], edited by  Peter J. Chelkowski (Tehran, Iran: Scientific and Cultural Foundation, 1988/1367; or New York: New York University Press, 1979), ISBN 0814713750, 412 pp.  •  Also, research could include W. O. Beeman’s Culture, Performance, and Communication in Iran (Tokyo, Japan: ICLAA, 1982), ru'hozi material, pp. 94-96, 102-117, 127-148.

  §  Themes animal on stage, blindness, deafness, education, Gonge Khab Dideh, meaning of education, multimedia, musical accompaniment, muteness, obedience, rebellion, ru’hozi (Iranian commedia dell’arte), ta ’ziyeh (Iranian passion plays based on the life of Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hossein), symbolism.


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