‘Zahhak’ Premiered!!

After more than a years’ worth of work we -as in Boston Experimental Theatre- shared our work with the audience via YouTube and the work was welcomed by the curious eyes. So here’s some remarks by some of them:

A review by Broadway World Boston’s Andrew Child

“Artistic director Vahdat Yeganeh has adapted, along with strong collaborators, a narrative from Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi’s ancient Persian epic, Shahnameh as an experimental duet between an actor and a jazz musician. Right away, the source material is engaging, fantastical, and speculative. For a western audience, this seems the equivalent of boiling down The Odyssey or The Suppliants to its philosophical barebones and staging it with two performers in a black box space.”

Click here for full review.

From various members of audience:

“Thank you to BETC for sharing this fascinating story on YouTube! For those of you who don’t know this Persian myth, as I didn’t before watching this, I recommend watching the production twice. It is worth it as the richness of the production increases the second time and no doubt the third too… Bravo to Donya and Engin-the performers. The shadow work is beautiful.” 

Heather Waters-editor at The Theatre Times

“This show reaches into the bones and invites of the breath and is worth embracing mutliple times. This performance, the music, the lighting, the pacing, the voice, the prose, presence and power is … forever something I will remember in an embodied and soulful way. The cinematography is also marvelous. Please please make a moment to light a candle, breathe in some breaths and engage in this story. Please please support the Boston Experimental Theatre company!  I can’t wait to see what they do next!” 

Tamera Marko-Executive Director of the Elma Lewis Center, Emerson College

“I really enjoyed this production, well done! Located at the inerstices of theatre, music, and storytelling, it wove a compelling story with movement and sound. Also, the foregrounding the piano player allowed us to enjoy both the story and the artistry of the telling. You should include a link here where people can donate to Boston Experimental Theatre and support more innovative work!”

Dr. Robert Lublin-Professor of Theatre Arts, College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts Boston

“I found the production of Zahhak quite revealing of how the language of mythology has different energies and transformations across cultures. There is much to explore in the way Vahdat Yeganeh’s theatrical sensibility has been shaped by his exposure to archetypes in the Iranian context. And this finds expression in their use of color and the strange affinity with the dream-like score of the piano.

At one level, it is minimalist relying on a storytelling idiom to the accompaniment of the piano. But it is this very crystallization of the basics that makes the myth come alive in very sharp and arresting registers. I found myself compelled to listen to each and every word for which the actor must be given due credit for holding the performance so effortlessly without any cuts. So one felt the sense of “real” performance time.

The music was exquisite. Such an interesting choice for the musical score, so far removed from the more predictable beating of drums. In its glacial, almost Debussy-like coolness and detachment, one felt the story more deeply because the piano acted like a counterpoint. It gave the myth a contemporary edge.

In addition, there were some magical moments in the lighting which I am sure will be enhanced once the director get to finalize his mise-en-scene. At all costs, the staging needs to retain its intimacy because it is in this space that the myth of Zahhak becomes real and, at the same time, distinctly theatrical in an understated, yet elegant, enactment in recreating the myth.

My warmest good wishes to all in the company, and a special warm embrace for Mr. Yeganeh as he keeps his creativity alive in these stressful times.”

Rustom Bharucha-writer, director and cultural critic, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

Working with an actress and a director for a year!

Some time in late December, 2019 sitting in a warm Boston pub with members of Boston Experimental Theatre, celebrating an intensive and exhilarating ‘IsNotThatAnymore‘ performance, Vahdat Yeganeh (founder of BETC) asked me if I’d be interested in being the musical director of his new project called ‘Zahhak’. Now, sitting in my Istanbul room, listening to Sam Harris’ Interludes, and three weeks away from premier of Zahhak, I wanted to share a short journal of how we (as in the creators; Vahdat, Donya and myself) managed to come to this point, from December 2019 to March 2021.

BETC rehearsal in process – Actors and musicians in same space – March 2019

The three of us started rehearsals in early January 2020 using New England Conservatory practice rooms as our lab space. Donya and myself plowed through myriad of exercises Vahdat (the director) laid on us to become better connected to our emotions, the surrounding space and with each other as performers on stage. The exercises ranged from simple introspective meditations to turn based improvised acting or music-playing which Vahdat calls “passing-the-ball”. The rehearsals were three to four hours in length and happened two or three times a week until the pandemic hit Boston in March 2020. From March to May, we hunkered down in our homes and kept meeting for rehearsals on Zoom and kept ‘passing the ball’ to better learn the script of ‘Zahhak’, analyze the characters of the story and stay in-tune with each other as performers.

What made this project really interesting to me was the fact that Vahdat asked me not to compose anything beforehand, and simply come to the rehearsals to improvise music off of the emotions that I felt at the rehearsals. As an improvising musician at heart, I naturally found myself deciding to improvise music for the whole forty-five minute-long Zahhak perfomances. (More on how I managed to do that in a future blog post!)

Entering June 2020, Boston’s COVID cases seemed to level off, yet live performances were out of question at the time. Burning with the desire to share our creation, we decided to take our chances in recording the project in July. This meant finding a rehearsal and recording space in Boston with a decent acoustic piano, and room enough for stage design. After many unsuccessfull tries, we found a church in downtown area with everything we needed (including a sweet grand piano!). The three of us jumped backed to our regular rehearsal routine now with safe distancing.

Community Church of Boston – Our rehearsal/performance space July 2020

After 3 weeks of intense work, we shot the performance with help from Boston News Networks’ Steve Marx and Ed Slattery (as camera operators), and Joseph Branciforte (as sound engineer) on the set.

Zahhak – A recorded theatre performance

Our new recorded theatre performance Zahhak has been in the making for the last 12 months, and we’re super excited to announce that it will soon premier. I’m super proud of what Donya, Vahdat and myself have created even though it’s been an incredible challenge to pull this off during the pandemic. 

Looking forward to sharing this creation, which has been a total ‘in-flow’ experience for us. Please stay tuned.