Arts & Events

Around & About--Theater: Modern Times Theatre Co. of Toronto Performing Bahram Beyzaie's 'The Death of the King' at ODC in San Francisco

Ken Bullock
Friday April 08, 2016 - 03:37:00 PM

A theatrical event of the first magnitude: Modern Times, the critically acclaimed theater troupe from Toronto , will perform the great Iranian playwright and pioneer filmmaker Bahram Beyzaie's masterpiece 'The Death of the King' ('The Death of Yazdgerd') in a translation by Modern Times director Soheil Parsa next week for seven performances at the ODC Theater, 3153 -17th Street (at Shotwell, near South Van Ness), Wednesday April 13 through Sunday the 17th, 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with 2 p. m. matinees Saturday and Sunday, and a 5 p. m. evening show Sunday. 

Beyzaie, Parsa, director of Iranian Studies at Stanford Dr. Abbas Milani and members of the cast will participate in a talk-back after the Saturday matinee. 

Beyzaie, widely credited as the founder of modern Iranian theater, a unique blend of historical Iranian performance styles, other Asian theater and some influences from European theater, has realized his art through theater and his pioneer filmmaking (his first film, 'Downpour,' 1971, was shown in a print restored by Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation at the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Pacific Film Archive two years ago--as well as his ongoing research and teaching (here at Stanford), Soheil Parsa being a former student. 

When Shotgun collaborated with Oakland's Iranian theater Darvag to produce 'Death of the King" (as 'Death of Yazdgerd') over as decade ago, I thought the play to be the best by a living playwright I ever reviewed. I haven't changed my opinion. (That review is in the Planet's online archive.) 

And I was fortunate enough to interview Beyzaie at Stanford three years ago, a very down-to-earth and brilliant conversationalist, with Dr. Milani adding much to the occasion. 

The play, inspired by a single line in an old Persian history concerning the fate of the last pre-Islamic Shah of Persia after losing in battle with the Arab conquerers, concerns a Miller and his family, threatened with hanging for treason, telling and acting out divergent stories of how the body of the King came to be found in their mill--in this sense a little reminiscent of Akutagawa's 'Rashomon,' made into a film by Kurosawa--but also dealing by infrrencr with this key moment in the history of the Middle East and Central Asia--and all that's come of it, down to today. 

Beyzaie's film, 'The Death of Yazdgerd,' is excerpted on YouTube and available on subtitled DVD. 

Tickets are $35 for evenings, $25 matinees with discounts for Stanford students and staff.