How Simple Things Can Connect Us – An Interview with Keyvan Sarreshteh

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I want to put light on the small things, like a cup of coffee on the table and the memory of somebody’s touch on this cup. These ordinary things are important because they are always with us, independently of the places we live in.

– so said Keyvan Sarreshteh – a multi-disciplinary artist based in Tehran. The author of the performances: Stage Direction, and Apart-ment. Those plays caught my attention the most during New Narratives – an online showcase of contemporary Iranian theatre organized by my friends Sepehr Sharifzadeh and Raha Rajabi from NH Theatre Agency. I have described this event in the June article. Now, I invite you for the first interview with an interesting artist I met.

Through Keyvan’s art, I could discover the hope in the things and spaces I have around right now, in my small apartment that I rent in a foreign country. The ordinary things call me to explore the sense of longing, and peculiarity of how my body absorbs what I experience. This is not really easy, but at the same time, there is some importance about any case you engaged in.

Why do you focus on places and memories in your theatre?

I am fascinated by the stories of individual people in public spaces. Because in this space we usually become invisible in the crowd. It can disconnect us from our individuality, but we can find also some connections. I try to focus on the person in the public space.

In Iran, I can think of three major kinds of movement: emigration abroad, emigration inside the country, and moving inside the city because the rent is very high and people are forced to change places so often, and they have a problem to built stabilization.

So, I try to focus on small things we can find details of our lives in the space we rent or in the new city, the new country we move to. Things that normally go unnoticed. I observe that when there is no frame around the ordinary things we see, we just pass by them. Who cares about seeing a cat near you in a public space? But this can matter when it becomes a link that because connects us to each other.

What kind of feelings do you describe?

There are longing, desire, grasping for things out of reach, searching for something which cannot be found. In my plays, I show that when you want something very much, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get it, the process of wanting becomes a part of your life. And this can change you.

The shadows of our desires are always with us. Not only every time with a focus on one desire – like having someone in your life, or having the perfect place to live, there is always something we miss.

In the title Apart-ment I put the dash because this performance is about something we are always apart from. This play is about me, my personal memories of the spaces I lived in. My body has the memory of these experiences in it and I can search for it in my movement, my soul, my habits. But I need a point of reference. And this is why I focus on small things I have around.

How the memory of architecture or political situation express in our body?

In the Stage Direction, I tried to design some kind of choreography and find out how our body is soaked by architecture and by the public space we live in. How it is affecting our movements. There is a very sharp difference between the inside and outside of your home in Iran. A kind of double life. You always feel that somebody is watching you, and some people judge you. So, there is stress.

In a public space, all the time you feel like you are wearing glasses. You become careful about it because they can be broken if you fall over. It means like in public space you feel like you can be criticized or criminalized, at any moment.

Where is the connection between Iranian culture and the rest of the world?

I am talking about universal things. I always look at the bases of how I feel. It is a simple idea that I think a lot of people are familiar with. How you remember things, and what this remembering does to you.

The concept behind Apart-ment continues in Stage Direction. In my performances, I do not want to put anything tangible on the stage like a sofa, or a wardrobe. But I want to create an image of them in the audience’s mind. I want them to see their own doors, windows, and sofas. With their own associations. You are always engaged with the things you use. If somebody touches your cup of coffee, a memory of that touch will remain with that cup. I want you to remember that memory, through remembering the cup.

If you want, check out more about Contemporary Iranian Theatre, and stay tuned because the next interview is coming. 🙂

All photos come from NH Theatre Agency. All rights are reserved.

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