Soheil Parsa, Hallaj, 2011, Toronto. Photo: John Lauener.
Articles, Essays, Volume 8

Theatre Elsewhere: The Dialogues of Alterity

Theatre Elsewhere: The Dialogues of Alterity
By Sepideh Shokri Poori
Arab Stages, Volume 8 (Spring, 2018) 
©2018 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

The questioning nature of human beings has challenged theatre for a long. Therefore, more than any other art, historically theatre has been involved in sustained interrogation, reviewing and self-censorship. It is an art concerned with watching, thinking and experiencing together. It is the art that, according to Georges Banu, brings down the dominant power of Gods from the sky to the earth, “because surveillance is a holy, divine and unforgiving activity, and only belongs to God, who is present everywhere and is nowhere.”[1] Perhaps it is logical that we still assume “the world as a stage” because this grand spectacle was at the time under the gaze of Gods and now is overseen by terrestrial observers.

Nevertheless, theatre has preferred the horizontal observation to its vertical form which from top to down and has changed the “Wise Transcendent Eye” to sublunary tastes: Gods became human and a divine theatre was converted to a humanist one. Now we are in the amphitheater, with two groups of observers: spectators and censors (in societies that suffer from totalitarianism). The first one is satisfied with his human power and in the best scenario, s/he is an aware thoughtful person, while the latter seeks the power of the Gods and s/he is an unreasoning viewer. So, this kind of surveillance is normally followed by the revolt of the artists because humankind, according to its nature, hates being under the observant eyes, and when it is placed in the hands of the dictator, this becomes unbearable. The committed artist breaks his/her chains and shackles. Sometimes he/she has no choice but migration, becoming an exile.

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