February Spotlight: Mahin Mohasseb
Mahindokht Mohasseb was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1947. She holds an LL.B and an LL.M degree in Law. She is an attorney-at-law and has authored several books in her field (Genocide, Access to Justice, Human Rights and Women). Mahin has always been interested in theater and has published twelve plays focusing on women’s rights and issues.
As an Iranian playwright I joined ICWP in 2016. My favorite western playwright is Bertolt Brecht, and my favorite Iranian playwrights are Bahram Beyzaie and Gholam-Hossein Sa'adi. I concentrate on women’s issues and all my plays are about these issues. I am a lawyer and hold an LL.M degree in law. Nowadays because of the global media everyone knows more or less about the women’s condition in the Middle East.
In most countries in this area the rules and laws treat women as the inferior gender and deprive them partly or completely from a great part of human rights; access to education, jobs, as well as cultural and social positions. Marriage in childhood, no right or restricted right to divorce and custody of children are also some of the women’s difficulties.
On the other hand during the past forty years in different countries of the Middle East war has brought these women rape, loss of family, and homelessness with the young children. Despite these hardships, they are on their own and can manage their lives without any support from the society or others. They struggle with obstacles, and try hard to find a way for progress. Some of them are even in high positions in the society for example, university professors, physicians, authors and senior managers.
Now I am happy to have this opportunity to send my voice through ICWP to women playwrights across the world and propose to them to write a short play about the difficulties and the abilities of the women in the Middle East as expressing solidarity with them. I hope my voice is heard and a collection of these plays will be published or be online.
As an old time member of the ICWP I get excited when a new member joins from half way across the globe. Mahin Mohasseb lives in Teheran, Iran and I’m honoured to write a Spotlight for her. She’s not only an important lawyer, but a prolific playwright. I have read the synopses of twelve of her plays and she has ideas for many more. Although the plays have not yet been produced, they have been published and are on sale in bookshops in Teheran and can be read in libraries in Teheran. Mahin confided to me that she never wanted to be famous but now she would like her work to be produced and translated if possible.
She began writing as a result of her legal work. She wrote books about human rights but felt that people did not take them seriously. I’m sure she shares with all writers the frustrations of trying to appeal to people who live stressful lives and seem to have little time or patience for the weightier issues. Mahin Mohasseb then turned to writing her legal cases out as plays. She’s naturally interested in dialogue and argument but it is obvious that her plays go beyond mere legal cases.
Her favourite play is Mirage, set in an eternal present in a woodland setting. A young female student meets a Spiritual Master and learns that he is not in love with earthly things but with a heavenly Beloved. This love of the Supreme Being, however, is a special kind of love and the Spiritual Master is lacking the other, physical, kind and he tells her that he needs this physical release to calm himself. Although I have not read the play, since it is not yet translated, their encounter sounds like the beginning of a tragedy as the young student has to defend herself when attacked.
Reading the blurbs of all twelve plays, I was particularly taken with Wedding Dress, about a father who uses his absolute authority over his daughter, and The Empty Seats about two prostitutes who are defending themselves in court. Both these plays are in the collection Cherry Earring, and I look forward to them being translated.
I have been fortunate enough to attend performances of Iranian theatre when I was married to my Iranian husband. The first time, forty years ago, I saw a traditional comedy starring a Falstaffian character. In 2004 I saw a play set in Iran in 1950 which was a family drama detailing the change in Iranian culture and social life. I believe the play was set in Abadan, the oil producing area in Iran. A country’s theatre has, necessarily, to reflect what is happening in that country and the quality of theatre, as we know in England, varies greatly even in a couple of decades. Plays and playgoers undergo a great deal of change throughout the centuries. The theatre changed drastically during Shakespeare’s time, until you could almost believe his plays were out-of-date. As a thinking philosopher and writer, Shakespeare will never go out of date. The work of the best playwrights are always more than the sum of their country’s experience. I’m sure this will be the case with Mahin and that her work will last as long as the best.
Welcome New Members
Mary Bonnett, USA
Mary Bonnett (Producing Artistic Director) created and cofounded Her Story Theater. Creator and director of Gloss Over, The Sex Trafficking Cycle: Shadow Town, The Johns, Money Make’m Smile, Mongers, and Cide Show. She has won numerous awards for excellence and outstanding contributions in professional theater, writing, directing, and theater education. Her plays and directing have been seen in Chicago theaters, universities and venues. She speaks regularly to various organizations across Illinois on sex trafficking and the impact the current culture has on our youth. Mary has appeared on television and radio shows, championing the need for change in laws to protect our children and women.
Under Mary's leadership, Her Story Theater has raised thousands of dollars for its partner organizations. Recently, Mary developed The Short Series: an evening of play performance and workshop. The first presentation was Court Side in partnership with Federal Judge Virginia Kendall. The play and workshop focused on the trauma based behavior and journey of the sex trafficked victim. Two more customized works are in the making for medical and law enforcement.
Beyond Chicago campaign, created by Mary, was designed to invite a participating theater and anti-trafficking organization to produce one or all of the Sex Trafficking Cycle plays to raise awareness in their community. The first to step forward on this new endeavor was Houston, Texas. The Johns will be presented at Mildred’s Umbrella Theater and partner with 3 Houston anti trafficking organizations in time for Super Bowl 2017.
Money Make’m Smile is part of a partnership with the Chicago Teachers Union in developing sex trafficking curriculum and workshop for educators which Mary leads. She is an active member in the anti-trafficking community serving on various panels and advocating city wide for change. Mary and Her Story Theater were honored with the Illinois State Senate Award for Outstanding Work In Raising Awareness on the Issue of Sex Trafficking.
She has written the novel, Alabastard of The Mound...literary fiction set in 1930 Mississippi and completed her children's novel The Adventures of Cleaver and Whizjam. Mary is a member of SAG-AFTRA, SCBWI, CWIP, American Dramatist Guild NYC. Her Story Theater is a proud member of The Chicago League of Theaters.
Mary holds a BFA in Theater Arts, BFA in English Literature, MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, England.
BACKSTAGE.COM voted Mary’s theater as the Top Ten Best International Theaters that Change Lives”. Her play SHADOW TOWN was voted “One of the Top Ten Best Plays Of The Year” by Chicago Theater Beat.
Katie Walenta, USA
Katie Walenta fell in love with words almost as soon as she could speak them. The way they weave together, tell stories, and reveal the intimate details about ourselves has always been fascinating. Something about the dramatic structure, what is seen and unseen, called to her. She now attends New York University - Tisch School of the Arts where she studies Dramatic Writing.
Marlene Burrell, USA
My name is Marlene Burrell. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am a playwright currently living in Charlotte.
The International Centre for Women Playwrights will hold its Annual Meeting February 12-20. I encourage you to visit the online forum to vote for new trustees (board members) and weigh in on topics of concern, including the 2017 50/50 Award.
The following board members are up for re-election.
The board can contain up to 14 members so we are actively seeking nominations for new board members.
Since we will be discussing and voting on important issues during the Annual Meeting, the Meet the Board column and the 2017 50/50 Award information will be presented at a later date.
Now Playing and Coming Soon
If you have a play or a reading between March 1 – March 31, please email Amy (firstname.lastname@example.org) before Feburary 15 and it will be featured in the NOW PLAYING column of the March newsletter. Any play or reading in April will appear in the COMING SOON column.
February 10, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. Sandra de Helen’s
LGBTQ thriller “Till Darkness Comes” will be relaunched at Another Read Through Bookstore, 3932 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, Oregon, USAI will read from the book, answer questions, and sign any of my books, all of which are carried by the bookstore.
February 11, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. she will also be signing and selling “Till Darkness Comes“ at Tabor Space, 5441 SE Belmont Avenue. She is one of seven lesbian authors participating in the fair.
in Gutless & Grateful
plays at the Metropolitan Room on 34 W 22nd St, New York, NY 10010, USA on February 5th at 7pm and February 25th at 4pm. Doors open 30 minutes beforehand.
s full-length comedy, In the Restroom at Rosenblooms
February 24 Shelby Community Theatre - Shelby KY, USA
Also by Ludmilla The Woman with 27 Children
(One Act Monologue) will be playing at the Sha tin Town Hall (Cultural Hall) Hong Kong CHINA, February 24, 25, 26 (4 performances)
And So ... by Patricia L. Morin will be a part of Flush Ink Production's SHE SPEAKS-WOMEN'S WORKS, WOMEN'S WORDS festival March 3rd and 4th in Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA.
The Lost Goddess by Katherine Koller is part of The Mommy Monologues, produced by SkirtsAfire Her Arts Festival in Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA, from 2-12 March, 2017.
A staged reading of Riverkeeper by Katherine Koller is presented by Alumnae Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, CANADA, as part of the New Ideas Festival on March 11, 2017.
Ludmilla Bollow’s full-length comedy, “In the Restroom at Rosenblooms” March 3-5 - Shelby Community Theatre - Shelby KY, USA
Articles of Interest: Theatre in the Middle EastAl-bab
, an open door to the Arab world, offers an overview of Arab theatre, both historical and contemporary.
Arab Stages is an online journal broadening international awareness of performance cultures in the Arab-Islamic world.
The Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation teaches puppetry and encourages new development in this traditional art form.
The Middle Eastern Theatre Academy trains talented young performers from across the middle east.
Noor Theatre in NYC is dedicated to developing producing the work of theatre artists of Middle Eastern descent.