I apologize to anyone who prefers the title The Scarlet Stone, but the first Time I read Mohreye Sorkh by Siavash Kasrai, it brought to mind a simple red bead. Indeed, that may be what the late poet meant to reduce it to. Why ‘mohreh’ when he could have called it ‘gohar’ or ‘sang’, which ultimately give it more substance? However, the title is beautiful and a jewel is still a jewel no matter what one calls it.
Kasrai was a master in his adaptation of Persian mythology and he used it to reflect on contemporary affairs of his beloved Iran. His Arash Kamangeer was the masterpiece my generation grew up with, a window of hope for those who desired change, and God only knows the number of young people, who perished amid their Arash dreams.
Thirty years later, he wrote Mohrehye Sorkh. In its preface, Kasrai sent us a message as he writes, “Arash kamangeer was the harvest of my youth(sent to you) from miles away, and Mohrehye Sorkh is a legacy of old age. Any resemblance between the two is in their general justification, for they each use the language of their era in search of an answer to hopelessness.”
To read the story in modern version – vs. the classical Book of Kings by Ferdowsi - once again I dreamed of the day when someone would compose an operatic version of Rostam and Sohrab. Now and then, the thought returns, though I don’t hold much hope. So when I heard about a dance performance/musical play under this title, I was intrigued. And the fact that the opening was scheduled in my neighborhood had to be a sign!
My last minute purchase gave me tickets in the worst possible seats, but I soon found out it didn’t matter where you sat. Before I knew it, the dancers, their flawless costumes, the immaculate choreography and eloquent narration had lifted me off my seat to indulge in an ethereal experience. The drums, the light and the backdrop of Shahnameh’s pages added the perfect touch to this outstanding production. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam may be new to the art scene in the U.S., but just wait and see where his art will lead us next.
Were there any negative comments? Come on, we’re Iranians and so yes, the audience found their fair share of artistic suggestions to make. One man even proposed changing the music to what is “currently available out there!” Let me confess. I, too, may have preferred a different sound effect for Rostam and Sohrab’s fight, but the question is, what do I know?!
My only question was why was Rostam – the symbol of our national honor - depicted as a back-stabber? To which I received two eloquent responses. Ms. Sarshar said, “Some versions of Shahnameh go as far as claiming that Rostam knew this was his son! So when it comes to saving the honor of motherland, such back stabbing and even the murder of one’s own son may be what a hero is prepared to do.” And I also enjoyed Mr. Moshkin Ghalam’s response. “The Scarlet Stone is nothing but a symbol. Throughout our history, both in Ferdowsi’s era as well as Kasrai’s time and even today, people let passion blind their wisdom and fathers have knowingly or unknowingly killed their sons. The question is when will we learn?” I liked that answer enough, though as an admirer of Rostam – not to mention a native of Toos - I was not fully convinced.
A day has gone by and I’m wondering if I’ll ever see another performance that might leave me with such an indelible image. Our beloved Siavash Kasrai had wondered what we’d do with his legacy. I commend his daughter, Bibi for taking the initiative in giving her father’s work the long overdue appreciation it deserves. Thank you, Mr. Moshkin Ghalam for this gift. And should you hear any negative comments, just remember it’s a cultural thing! I wish every member of the cast and crew growing success and look forward to more of their art.
Zohreh Ghahremani is the author of Sky of Red Poppies, winner of One Book, One San Diego 2012.
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