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Bahram Bayzaie (gray hair) with members of the Darvag theater group

Bayzaie in Berkeley
A short but sweet visit to northern California

By Nersi Ramazan-nia
June 1, 1999
The Iranian

"Bahram Bayzaie is in L.A., he can come up for the day to Berkeley. How about Sunday?"

Who could believe it, Bahram Bayzaie in Berkeley? It was to be a twelve-hour visit; arriving in the morning and back to Los Angeles at night.

Of course Bayzaie is very well known as a filmmaker. What is perhaps not so well-known is that as a student of theater he is Iran's most influential, and prolific playwright using traditional Iranian forms such as taziyeh (tragedy) and ruhozi (comedy).

Bayzaie was met at San Francisco airport by a small group of Iranian Berkeleyites. He was first taken to visit the Darvag Theater where members of the Darvag group have been preparing to stage "The 8th Voyage of Sinbad" in English. Bayzaie wrote "Hashtomin Safare Sandbad" in his twenties -- more than thirty years ago.

Genuinely surprised at finding an Iranian theater group with its own playhouse, Bayzaie explained aspects of the play and asked questions about its production. Jim Cave the director, for example, wanted to know how taziyeh was incorporated into the play.

Bayzaie gave his best wishes for the success of the production and then went on to the nearby Albany Community Center where he spoke to an overflowing crowd about the difficulties of artistic life in Iran.

He said his next film "Siavash Khani" is in the planning stages. By taking another look at the story of Siavash in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, Bayzaie is trying to investigate themes of optimism and reconciliation in a narrative that bridges ninth century Farsi with today's language. The average cost of making a film in Iran these days is $100,000. For "Siavash Khani", Bayzaie hopes to raise $300,000.

For the rest of the afternoon Bayzaie shared many of his perceptions and some anecdotes, indulging the audience with the humor, richness, and the seriousness of life as he sees it.

The ease and openness of his ideas and replies mesmerized everyone; no hidden meanings, no confusion, something the audience had been thirsting for and maybe had given up on for a long time.

After an hour behind the podium he asked for a glass of water, and everyone wanted to bring him a glass. "How accessible", "Down to earth", " In the tradition of great Iranian artists, a free spirit in a closed society", and also; "The best afternoon of the last five years" were some of the reactions to his short but sweet visit.

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- Send a comment to the writer, Nersi Ramazan-nia

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