Saturday, July 27, 2013

Arash the Archer by Bayzai - The Play Reading at Stanford

The story of Arash the Archer has been rewritten in the modern Persian by Bahram Bayzai about half a century ago.  It was performed at Stanford last night, directed by Bayzai himself for the first time.
The endearing mythology of Arash the Archer is about this hero, Arash, whose heroic act indicated the border of Iran when it was invaded by non Iranians of the time, called Touranians.  At the time, Touranians had taken over a vast land of Iran's, many killed and many lands destroyed.  To end the blood shed it was agreed that the war would end and the land would be depicted by Arash's landing of a single shot of an arrow. Arash hence climbed the Damavand, the tallest mountain in northern Iran, and shot a single arrow that was shot beyond any ordinary man could have shot.  There are different versions of how long the shot arrow was travelling in the air or how far it landed or whether it landed at all.
Bayzai's rendition of the story is written in the form of a screenplay and is somewhat different than the ones written in the ancient Shahnameh or the modern retelling of the story by Sivash Kasrai. In Bayzai's rendition, Arash was a simple man who was not a proper archer; he was betrayed by both Iranians and Aniranians. Yet, he honored the peace pledge, climbed the Damavand, and shot the arrow not by the strength of his elbow, but by the strength of his willpower.  The arrow has never landed and no one has seen him descending from Damavand since.
Bayzai's screenplay was directed by others and was screened a few times already.  However, it was directed by himself for the first time and played last night at Stanford.  It was not a real "play", but a "play reading" in fact. There were only two actors who literally narrated the actual screenplay, and they did a unique and fantastic job in my opinion.
Mojdeh Shamsaei and Mohsen Namjoo "played" the screenplay by reading it, seated at all time, depicting different scenes and characters using different ton of their voice.  It was really a different version of acting.  The fundamental difference of this version compared to a real "play" for me was how the play reading needed a good deal of attention to be comprehended.  There was hardly any visual clues, any motion, any change of color or light even.  It was all reading, demanding the audience to pay attention to the words and intonations.  It needed some getting used to.  But after a while, it was easier to follow and imagining the scenes.
The play reading is repeated tonight at Stanford.
Mojdeh Shamsaei, Mohsen Namjoo, Bahram Bayzai

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