Iran: Theatre of Independence – Manifesto

We have recieved this document from a theatrical group based in Iran. We republish it for the interest of our readers.

The development of Iranian theatre, was more or less on its path to generate a rather firm foundation since its dawn until the 1979 revolution. But after the 1979 revolution, like other social phenomena, it came to a sudden stop as the new government took over, except for the short period of the first two years. Professional-commercial theatres were closed and non-commercial professional theatres, through which the Iranian theatre was in fact identified, came under government control and were crippled by unprecedented censorship. Under the rule of the previous regime, the dominant thought in Iranian theatre originated from the vulgarian bourgeoisie while it simultaneously drew in influence from paradoxically modernized and religious petit-bourgeoisie. The new regime, however, tried to impose a conservative-religious ideology by adopting monopolist and discriminative policies, which are relentlessly persistent to this day despite the distinctive nature and capacity of theatre, and the powerful social needs and demands in support of it. These policies have resulted in what we are facing today; a theatre which is firstly, derailed from its normal path to growth and consequently has turned into a theatre that lacks planning, strategy, identity, thought, innovation, knowledge and is conservative, conformist, coward and dependent; posing as a new-fashioned theatre with boastful claims while having obsolete content, and secondly, a theatre that is isolated from national culture and international theatre.

We, as artists of two generations from two different epochs of Iranian theatre, before and after 1979 revolution, firmly believe that in the current catastrophic and urgent situation, the role of true theatre artists in changing this tragic state is of the utmost importance; and taking appropriate actions towards it is the duty that history has entrusted them with. Therefore, we invite those theatre artists who agree with us and have suffered from imposed policies on theatre over the years to fulfill this solemn duty together by joining us and abiding by the principles of the «Theatre of Independence» Manifesto. The judgment of the posterity will be based on the legacy we leave to them today.

  1. We think independently, for the historical experience has taught us that only by independent thought and practice can we be immune to the influence of adverse and biased elements; only by independent thought can we be sincere and true to ourselves, our art, and more importantly, our audience.
  2. We believe that the nature of our profession as art, is first and foremost artistic and we address our audience from an artistic foothold. We are also aware that like other social phenomena, art is not unaffected by its existential circumstances, including existing policies; hence, we inevitably have our independent political stance in our artistic work and towards current policies.
  3. We do not subscribe to political agendas or platforms of any governmental or non-governmental organizations, whether left or rightwing.
  4. We do not receive funds of any kind in any capacity from public or private institutions.
  5. We are legal entities independent from political or governmental organizations, groups, or institutions; for we strictly believe that no political or governmental organization has the qualifications for policymaking or planning for an artistic institution. The policies and the fate of art must be determined solely by artists, same as the works of art that are created by the innovative hands of artists. Creators of art are the creators of their own fate.
  6. We determine our policies and programs based on, and following the fundamental principle of independent thought and practice, and in accordance with our understanding of the society and duties of art.
  7. We devise our methods of operation and discover aesthetic forms of our artistic work by relying on our predecessors’ experience, while using modern methods of perceiving the present situation, and understanding the adopted policies towards art.
  8. We believe «art is the source of knowledge» not an instrument for political power.
  9. We do not turn a blind eye to the wrongdoings and Anti-theatrical policies in order to guarantee our existence, for we believe that we need to have an ontological reason for our existence, which is the duties that our rights as citizens have entrusted us with as social beings.
  10. In order to resolve the issues and predicaments which have lead the Iranian theatre into the current catastrophic situation, in order to reclaim the dignity of art and our artistic identity in theatre, we suggest all our fellow theatre artists join us and form independent cooperative cores together with their like-minded sympathetic colleagues, so as to liberate ourselves and our art from the enslavement of the state and initiate the method of professional independence as an unprecedented national movement. Theatre is our identity, profession, social status, and our home, and we shall defend it. Together we can restore the theatre’s true identity.

This manifesto is based on natural and inalienable human rights inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ratified in December 1948 and is hereby proclaimed and publicized.

Towards Independence!

October 2020

Iran Theatre Association - Exit Theatre Group

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