December 19, 2005
Just recently I was at an audition for a Canadian national commercial and as I walked in, the Casting Director asked me to tell him a little about myself -- as they often do. Of course I started by explaining that I was born in Iran, raised in Canada, went to McMaster University where due to my parent’s persistence, I studied Economics, but decided to pursue my dream of being an actor upon graduation despite great resistance and opposition from my parents.
As I explained myself, the Casting Director looked at me and said, "Wow, you know we rarely ever meet any Persian actors but I know at least two Persian doctors and one lawyer."
I did not quite know how to respond, because he was actually stating a fact I had pondered on myself many times in the past. In all of the time I have been acting here in Toronto, I rarely run into other struggling Persian actors or even worse I have yet to see a casting call for the role of a Persian.
As I left the audition I could not help but to wonder, if as Persians we simply perceive art as a pastime and not an actual occupation. Perhaps maybe we do even except art as an occupation but see it in a much lesser positive light than other occupations, such as being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.
In the Iranian culture, doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers are admired and viewed with respect and admiration, which they so greatly deserve, based on the dedication that they have shown to their craft. However, should our artists, not be shown the same amount of respect and admiration since they show the same dedication to their craft.
Let's take me for example: I was a very promising kid, with great marks and a curiosity required to pursue any of the much-admired careers mentioned above and in fact was accepted by all the top Universities based on my grades in math and science. However, it so happened that my subject of desire was dramatic arts and theatre, which I knew I had the passion, talent and the drive to do matter. On the other hand my parents sternly insisted that art is a hobby, one that I could freely participate in after I receive a respectable degree from a respected University.
Well, I finally received my degree 2 years ago and at that time according to what my parents had promised, I should have been free to choose my path as I pleased. However, by that time a new set of expectations began to arise such as graduate school, getting married, or perhaps getting a job in the field of my study. I guess, by this time my parents were hoping that I would have forgotten about my passion for acting, otherwise known to my parents as my hobby.
So, I guess my question here is: when do we stop stressing over our parents expectations of us and pursue the path that we see fit for ourselves?
I mean I wonder if the great poet Hafez or Ferdowsi experienced the same amount of pressure from their peers and families in regards to pursuing their passion of poetry during their time. I know that we look upon both Hafez and Ferdowsi with great admiration and respect today, but I wonder if they received the same amount of admiration and respect when they were struggling to make their art.
Let’s say for a moment that they did face those same obstacles and pressures that many of us face today, and decided to be sensible and pursued some other career as opposed to writing poetry. How would that have affected the rest of us and our history and culture? If Ferdowsi and Hafez decided to give in to the pressures of their oppositions then we as the human beings would have missed out on some of the greatest talent that our culture has produced to date.
Furthermore, I can’t help but to wonder: Should we admire and nurture artistic talent while it's still living, or wait till that talent has passed on -- to legitimize them and really appreciate their contribution to our culture and history?
So I guess the more important question is what value do we as a culture assign to art and when do we assign that value? When the artist is living and struggling at their craft or once the artist has passed on and can no longer contribute. When do we actually as good Persian children, draw the line between what our parents and culture expects from us and what we owe to ourselves to accomplish.