An opportunity to experience an often-misrepresented culture through a refreshing, original, informative and, above all, unique lens: this is the Iranian Theater Festival at the Brick. Running for a little over three weeks, the festival consists of ten plays and two films. The plays themselves are fresh creations, with some translated into and performed in English for the first time. The artists behind them are young and of Iranian descent, offering a unique insider’s perspective on a culture that often falls victim to generalizations and assumptions. The festival not only attempts to correct mistaken notions of Iran and its culture, but also to forge a new cultural identity for Iranians that balances tradition and Westernization. It also gives a voice to young, new playwrights who offer their own perspective on their heritage, using their plays as a medium to explore and rediscover it.
Silken Veils, the play we saw, was indicative of these general themes. By combining Rumi poetry with puppeteering, video, shadows, and more traditional acting, creator Leila Ghaznavi tells the story of her heroine’s desire to understand true love by looking into her own family and national past. Darya is getting married, an act she cannot bring herself to complete given the heartbreak and pain that was the end of her parents’ passionate marriage. At the risk of losing her fiancé, Darya is forced to look into her own family’s story, which is indivisible from the history of Iran. Ghaznavi’s was a tale of history invading the family domain and altering relations between characters. It was informative for those unfamiliar with the topic and touching for those who were acquainted, as it sutured the careful blend of fact with fantasy, and tradition with innovation. Minimalistic and low-budget, the performance centered on highlighting the performative aspect of the play rather than cloud its meaning with unnecessary details. Though Ghaznavi informed the audience that her personal story had not influenced that of her play, she certainly expressed an insider’s point of view as someone familiar with the culture and history, and as an individual sympathetic towards it.
The audience, a mix of Iranians, students, and people in their mid 30s, seemed to enjoy what Ghaznavi had to offer, as the small black box was full of interested faces. Small and innovative, the Brick is an enterprise run by a group of friends with a love for theater. Its size—seating about 40 people—gives it an immediate feel, bringing audience and performers close, and demanding a more convincing performance from the actors who stand literally at arm’s length. It regularly organizes festivals and special evens, most of which are followed by special Q&A sessions by the performers for those who wish to see more. If you are looking for a small, unique, and slightly experimental experience, the Brick is the place for you—just make sure you get there early to claim your seat. Check out the Iranian Theater Festival and expose yourself to the inner workings of this mysterious, beautiful culture.
- Myrsini Manney-Kalogera
575 Metropolitan Avenue (Metropolitan Ave and Lorimer St), Williamsburg, Brooklyn
L to Lorimer
Running time: March 3-26.
Show Times: Vary. Weekdays, start between 7 and 8 p.m. Weekends from 1 through 5 p.m. Most days feature two plays.
Price: $15, $10. Special three-day pass for $33