Grotowski in Iran

by Masoud Najafi Ardabili (Author)
©2019 Monographs 158 Pages


Jerzy Grotowski and the «Laboratory Theatre» presented his famous performance «The Constant Prince» to Iranian audiences in 1970 during the Shiraz Art Festival and in Teheran. Jerzy Grotowski travelled to Iran four times and his fifth journey, which was supposed to include «Apocalypsis Cum Figuris» as well as «Desert Project» had been thoroughly planned but never happened.
Although Grotowski had not talked too much about his travels to Iran, his influence on Iranian artists during three generations is quite obvious.
The author gathered many documents and conducted interviews for this in-depth study pursuing the fundamental questions of his research: How was Grotowski’s work received in Iran and in what way did he influence theatre artists in Iran?

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication Page
  • Foreword
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Research Difficulties
  • 1 Reconstruction
  • 1.1 Art Management in Iran
  • 1.2 The Toudeh Party
  • 1.3 Leftist Artists
  • 1.4 Leftism in Theatre 1941–1983
  • 1.5 The Shah and Socialists
  • 1.6 Shahbanu, the Art Developer
  • 1.7 Non-socialist Festival
  • 1.7.1 Why Shiraz?
  • 1.7.2 The Goal Beyond the Festival
  • 1.7.3 The Shiraz Art Festival
  • 1.7.4 Theatre
  • 1.8 The Fourth Shiraz Art Festival
  • 1.8.1 Theatre and Ritual
  • 1.8.2 Festival Programme
  • 1.8.3 Inviting Grotowski
  • 1.9 Spring, the First Journey
  • 1.9.1 Visiting Kargah-e Nemayesh
  • 1.9.2 Towards a Poor Theatre
  • 1.9.3 Second Translation
  • 1.10 Summer, the Shiraz Art Festival
  • 1.10.1 The Symposium
  • 1.10.2 Grotowski’s Guides
  • 1.10.3 Delgosha Garden
  • 1.10.4 Audience Selection
  • 1.10.5 The Constant Prince in Shiraz
  • 1.10.6 Peripheral Events
  • 1.10.7 Film Screening
  • 1.10.8 Meeting Shahbanu
  • 1.10.9 Travel to Kurdistan
  • 1.11 Autumn, the Third Journey
  • 1.11.1 Returning to Iran
  • 1.11.2 Ferdows Garden in Tehran
  • 1.11.3 Tehran University Speech
  • 1.11.4 Interrupted Speech
  • 1.12 Winter, the Fourth Expedition
  • 1.12.1 The Wind of Jinn
  • 1.12.2 Taghvai’s Invitation
  • 1.13 Desert Project
  • 1.14 Appendix: Documents
  • 2 Receptance
  • 2.1 Research Methodology and Difficulties
  • 2.2 Shiraz Art Festival Influence
  • 2.3 Grotowski’s Influence
  • 2.3.1 The Impressive Persona
  • 2.3.2 Not Impressive Persona
  • 2.3.3 The Constant Prince
  • 2.4 Towards a Poor Theatre
  • 2.5 Different Interpretations
  • 2.6 Tehran University
  • 2.6.1 Opposition
  • 2.6.2 Opposition to Grotowski
  • 2.6.3 Opinions on Grotowski
  • 2.7 The Press
  • 2.8 Conclusion
  • 2.9 Appendix Chapter Two: Saeed Soltanpour2
  • 3 The Influence
  • 3.1 Ashurbanipal Babla and Ahreman Theatre (1973–1978)
  • 3.1.1 Research Method and Difficulties
  • 3.1.2 Preface
  • 3.1.3 Beginning: From Tehran to Beirut
  • 3.1.4 Transformation: Meeting Grotowski
  • 3.1.5 From the Heaven to Earth
  • 3.1.6 Expansion: Kargah-eNemayesh
  • 3.1.7 Out of Theatre
  • 3.1.8 Receptance
  • The First Category: Leftists as Opponents
  • The Second Category: Proponents of Kargah-e Nemayesh
  • The Third Category: The Generation After the 1979 Revolution
  • 3.1.9 The End of His Career
  • 3.1.10 Death
  • 3.1.11 Appendix: Chronology of Ahreman Theatre (1973–1978)
  • 3.2 Hamed Mohammad Taheri and the Black Narcissus Theatre (1997–2005)
  • 3.2.1 Research Difficulties
  • 3.2.2 Research Methodology
  • 3.2.3 The Beginning
  • 3.2.4 From Literature to Theatre
  • 3.2.5 The Summer’s Kid
  • 3.2.6 Antigone
  • 3.2.7 Transformation
  • 3.2.8 Rehearsing and Preparing The Blacks
  • The Blacks: The First Version
  • The Receptance
  • The Blacks: Second Version
  • The Blacks: Theatre-Gallery
  • 3.2.9 The Black Narcissus Collapse
  • 3.3 Afshin Ghaffarian and Tantalos Theatre (2005–2009)
  • 3.3.1 Prologue
  • 3.3.2 Wanderings
  • 3.3.3 Transformation
  • 3.3.4 Transformation Through The Poor Theatre
  • 3.3.5 Tantalos Student Theatre
  • 3.3.6 Cat Exercise
  • 3.3.7 Approach
  • 3.3.8 Medea
  • Formation of the Structure of Medea
  • Performing Medea
  • Receptance
  • 3.3.9 Practical Final Project
  • Energy, Body and Actor’s Presence
  • Thesis: At Work with Grotowski on Physical Actions
  • 3.3.10 Epilogue
  • Conclusion
  • List of Figures
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Jerzy Grotowski travelled to many countries all around the world. Laboratory Theatre also had many performing journeys until 1982 when it was officially closed down. Iran is one of those countries that Jerzy Grotowski and Laboratory Theatre were invited to as well. The Constant Prince encountered Iranian audiences in 1970. The Constant Prince had been invited to the Shiraz Art Festival, and it was also performed in Tehran two weeks later. One year before that the company came to Shiraz. Grotowski had been there alone to appraise the festival conditions. Accepting Naser Taghvai’s invitation, he also made an expedition to Bushehr, six months later. He came to Iran alone to make an expedition to the south of Iran and participate in the Ashura Ceremony in Bushehr.

Jerzy Grotowski travelled to Iran four times. The first trip was in the spring of 1970, in which Grotowski was alone, to evaluate the possibilities of the Shiraz Art Festival and the organizers’ conditions. Later in the autumn of the same year he travelled to Shiraz with Laboratory Theatre and The Constant Prince. He also chose four chapters of Towards a Poor Theatre to be translated and published. Grotowski had meetings with artists and gave several speeches for the general public as well as students during these trips. Grotowski gave a long speech at the Fourth Shiraz Art Festival about “Theatre and Ritual” and answered audience questions in a question-and-answer session.

Due to the success that The Constant Prince achieved, the Shiraz Art Organization invited them to come back to Tehran two weeks later with the same performance. He met students at Tehran University and answered their questions in a meeting. This meeting, for reasons that I will explain in the following sections, remained unfinished. Grotowski successfully made an expedition to meet Kurdish Dervishes and participate in one of their ceremonies.

Grotowski’s fifth journey, which was supposed to include Apocalypsis Cum Figuris as well as “Desert Project” (Paratheatre project), had been thoroughly planned. However, it never happened.

Although Grotowski had not talked too much about his travels to Iran, his influence on Iranian artists during three generations is quite obvious. In 2008, when I came to Wroclaw to participate in a conference regarding Grotowski Year, I noticed the lack of any thorough research studying Grotowski’s travels to Iran: historical reconstruction of his travel to the Fourth Shiraz Art Festival to perform The Constant Prince, studying the receptance of Grotowski and his Poor Theatre by critics, theatre scholars and artists, and investigating his effect ←13 | 14→on different generations. Therefore, I chose my dissertation title as “Grotowski in Iran” and divided it into three parts: historical reconstruction, receptance and influence.

Since 1999, when I became a Theatre Academy student, I have been studying Grotowski and trying to understand his teachings. When I came to Wroclaw in 2008, I had a good deal of background knowledge that could help me understand the topic better. I came back to Iran for six months and started a vast amount of field research. Like a detective, I was looking for Grotowski’s traces everywhere. I gathered many documents and conducted interviews which helped me answer the fundamental questions of this research better. I continued the research from when I was accepted officially as a Ph.D student in Wroclaw University in 2010 up to now.


In order to write this book, I applied two research methods. First of all, I collected all the available evidence and documents, reviews, interviews and whatever had been published about Grotowski in Iran during the last forty-seven years, specially during the Fourth Shiraz Art Festival. I reviewed various collections of magazines, newspapers and catalogues at the National Library as well as in the Tehran University archives. I also went to different Tehran antique shops and bought any text, source or other evidence which was related to the topic. Available existing written and published evidence, which I managed to collect, forms the base of this chapter.

The second method was interviewing the students, theatre scholars, critics or audience members who were either present at the Shiraz Art Festival or had met Grotowski in person or any artist who was related to Grotowski and Laboratory Theatre in Iran. I also talked to a number of people whom I would categorize as a new generation of artists and theatre scholars, who are strongly interested in Grotowski and his teachings. I have made more than twenty-five interviews, of which most are recorded. Later I transcribed and arranged them to use as first-hand sources.

Research Difficulties

The novelty of this research topic, and the fact that many kinds of research about the Shiraz Art Festival have been outlawed since the 1979 Iranian Revolution or had difficulties to be done, results in a lack of sufficient written resources. Uncovering related documents in Tehran’s antique book stores and the shops ←14 | 15→which sell rare old magazines was arduous. The biggest difficulty in this part of the research was the fact that most of those texts, documents and magazines were either completely destroyed or were kept in closed archives.

The fact that many critics and artists had either passed away or had emigrated from Iran was another difficulty in conducting interviews. Therefore, I tried my best to do a precise historical reconstruction about Grotowski’s travels to Iran based on written sources and the interviews I could obtain.

1 Reconstruction

The fundamental questions of this chapter are addressed using historical evidence and Grotowski’s visits to Iran. Why was Grotowski invited to the Shiraz Art Festival? What kind of experience was his expedition to Kurdistan? Why did Laboratory Theatre come back to Tehran two weeks after performing at the Shiraz Art Festival and perform The Constant Prince again? Why did Grotowski decide to do an expedition to Bushehr, and what happened to him there?

1.1 Art Management in Iran


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
Theatre Theatre Laboratory The Shiraz Art Festival Iran Theatre Theatre History
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 158 S., 7 farb. Abb., 38 s/w Abb., 1 farb. Graf.

Biographical notes

Masoud Najafi Ardabili (Author)

Masoud Najafi Ardabili graduated in Theatre Studies in Teheran. He continued his studies in Poland and holds a Ph.D in Cultural Studies from Wroclaw University. He is a specialist in the field of Polish Alternative Theatre and spent a decade studying Grotowski and his heritage in theatre and culture.


Title: Grotowski in Iran
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