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A Better, More Tolerant Perception of Theater Emerging

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A Better, More Tolerant Perception of Theater Emerging
A Better, More Tolerant Perception of Theater Emerging

The International Seminar on the Potential of Independent Sector in Theater was held last week (March 5-7) at City Theater Complex in central Tehran.

The event brought together senior theater executives along with researchers, writers, directors and academia from Iran and 15 other countries such as Spain, Nigeria, Georgia and Hungary.

Aside from panel discussions, participants spoke about the latest articles on independent, alternative and private theater.

Major topics included the role of private enterprise in theater and its connection with government-managed theater as well as ways and means for academia to efficiently use non-government resources to help the sector grow and develop.

On the second day of the event Behzad Ghaderi, a keynote speaker, presented an article on the interaction between civil society, theater, tradition and entrepreneurship.

In a talk with the Financial Tribune Ghaderi said in Iran over the past 40 years social institutions have gradually taken new forms and the ruling establishment has come to terms with the role and influence of diverse social forces in the country. “The government has tried to coexist and converge with these players.”

He is of the opinion that the state believes theater in Iran can and will “help facilitate this process by reducing social constraints and to this end is trying to function as its friend.”   

Nation states, specifically in the developing world, were formed as a three-tier hierarchy of systems including governments, markets and society with society acting as a bridge between the market and government, Ghaderi said.

“In the classical models of nation states, the role of society was rather marginal. In the modern world a successful nation is that in which the government and market both take back seats and allow civil society to have a more prominent role,” he said.

The professor recalled that governments in many countries are delegating authority to civil society and allowing them meaningful access to resources and facilities. Global civil society acts as an ombudsman and mediator to help create a balance of power between the government and the market and compels them to be responsible for their actions or the lack of it related to measures required for establishing a better society based on justice and democracy.

“Arrowhead of civil society is the private sector because it takes on the challenges that governments are either unable to address, did not want to, or had no understanding of.”

A modern and functioning civil society brings together two important concepts: norm and innovation.

A people-centered theater can create a sustainable development model and it is upon the private stakeholders and government to lend the needed support in terms of providing tools, financial aid and space needed for the growth of the sector, he said. “Similar to Greek theater, which both learnt from and taught norms, modern-day theater must also educate.”

The professor drew on another model in the theater of Greece in which merchants were granted minor trade incentives and would have a year named after them in exchange for hefty investments in theater. The spaces in which drama was performed were located outside the metropolis and would bring together the people and the kings in one place.  This provided an opportunity for personal interaction between different societal echelons and a chance for the people to voice criticism which the kings would hear. Similar models could gradually be applied in the theatre in Iran.

Ghaderi also referred to “The Doctor Stockman Syndrome” as a social ill that has afflicted sections of the elite and intellectuals in Iran.

Taken from the name of a character in Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘An Enemy of the People,’ Doctor Stockman Syndrome refers to intellectuals who fail to maintain a balance between different forces—those who feel the urge to suppress the people (norms) while “playing the martyr.”

This, Ghaderi believes, is a major defect that plagues the contemporary intellectuals in Iran, alienating the people (norms) while glorifying their own solitude.

Born in 1952 in Zahedan, Ghaderi is a writer, translator, researcher, literary critic and university teacher.


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