1st Edition

Shakespeare in Tehran Meeting the Mothers of Those Who Lead the Iranian Revolution of Woman, Life, Freedom

By Mahmood Karimi Hakak Copyright 2024
    108 Pages
    by Routledge India

    108 Pages
    by Routledge India

    Shakespeare in Tehran is a personal history of Iran through the eyes of an award-winning Iranian American artist. Drawing on parallels between life and the stage, it uses A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a roadmap to explore social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of Iran before and after the revolution of 1979. Through first-person accounts, interspersed with emotional reflections of the universal human experience, it delves into the historical and sociological context of a divided country.

    Storytelling, flashbacks, and flashforwards paint an intimate picture of public life in Iran in a time of uncertainty. Accessible, engaging, and nuanced, this volume will be of interest to scholars and researchers of politics, history, theater and performance studies, and West Asian studies.

    Prologue: The Miracle of Meeting in Tehran x

    Acknowledgments xvi

    1 The Plane Ride 1

    2 At the Airport 7

    3 At Madar Jaan’s 12

    4 The University Gates 22

    5 The Return Home 27

    6 The School of Fine Arts 30

    7 Inside the Studio 49

    8 Ascetic Theater 61

    9 Seven Stages 73

    10 The Words of Truth 87


    Mahmood Karimi Hakak is an award-winning theater director, poet, author, and translator whose works center on intercultural dialogue and peacebuilding. He has created dozens of world-premiere plays including Passion of Ashura (1979), Gilgamesh Con/Quest (1990), and Is the One I Love Everywhere (2020). His literary credits include three books of poetry, four translations, six plays, and many articles and interviews. Shakespeare in Tehran recounts seven years of living in Iran during the 1990s when his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was raided and closed down by the Islamic Republic. Karimi Hakak is a professor of creative arts at Siena College in New York.

    “Karimi Hakak’s telling of this dark tale of the shattering events in Iran’s past is by turns nostalgic, humorous, frightening, and hallucinatory. It is also an extremely courageous and introspective account of the fears and regrets one must experience when the tide of history turns violent. Yet, it also offers hope, from the perspective of a deeply sincere artist whose clay is the human psyche, first of all his own, and who offers us a light to carry through our own darknesses. We may yet hope to shine this light on the dire lessons of our own histories and avoid repeating them.”

    – Cheryl De Ciantis, PhD, Mythologist, Artist, Author, and Values-Based Leadership Educator

    Shakespeare in Tehran, like a Persian carpet, weaves the personal, poetic, and historic into a seamless whole. Karimi Hakak has produced a powerfully authentic glimpse into life in Iran as he experienced it during the 1990s, when he returned to see his mother before she died.”

    Sheila Pinkel, Emerita Professor, Artist, International Editor of Leonardo

    “In this engaging memoir, Karimi Hakak takes the reader on a journey from and to Iran highlighting the emotional turmoil of a young man who is an immigrant in his own motherland. Shakespeare in Tehran is an intimate recount of the author’s interactions with Iran’s cultural and academic spheres over a timespan stretching from before the revolution until the onset of the reform movement in Iran. This memoir provides a rare insight into Iran during the nineties, a period of rapid political and cultural change.”

    – Mohammad Javaheri, PhD, Professor, Siena College

    Shakespeare in Tehran is the story of one who lives his life constantly on the edge of what is possible. It is a powerhouse generating innovative theater, poetry, and pedagogical techniques. Karimi Hakak’s insistence on the immediacy of experience is what he demands from every moment of his life. His influence on the next generation of Iranian activists and intellectuals will rest on two things: his openness to the unexpected and his fearlessness.”

    Bill Wolak, Emeritus Professor, Poet

    “There are many masterfully rendered scenes in Karimi Hakak’s memoir about the Iranian Revolution, some heartwarming, many surprising, some brutal, and some surreal. But the scene that most subtly and most forcefully foreshadows the personal and internecine upheavals occurs early on in the narrative and ironically enough, inside the “House of Peace.” Here as a child accompanying his father who was a caretaker of Imam Reza’s tomb, Karimi Hakak would sometimes ‘stare at my (his) reflection broken into the millions of mirrors, (and) it seemed as though infinite silhouettes of me (him) existed simultaneously.’ In this one poetic masterstroke, those million fractured reflections he saw of himself demonstrate his conflicted struggles about whether to stay in Iran or go and suggest the ultimate fracturing a theocratic revolution would wreak, especially on women. And how shockingly relevant and how closely it mirrors the conflict in the US today after Dobbs and the religious nationalists battling to strip away ‘unalienable’ rights already enshrined in law.”

    John DeAngelo, Poet