Holding Session of "Necessities of Compiling Oral History of Children and Young Adults Performance"

We Have Had One hundred Year Children Theater, But not Its Oral History

Faezeh Sasanikhah
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


According to Iranian Oral History Website professional meeting of "Necessities of Compiling Oral History of Children and Young Adult's Performance" was held with presence of members of children performance foundation and Davood Kianian organized by Document Research Institute of National Library in Parham Hall of the research institute in Tuesday April 18, 2017. In the session seven activists of children area gave a speech.


Recording Experiences of Protagonists

At the beginning of the session, Davood Kianian, one of protagonists of field of theater for children and teenager who managed the meeting, spoke about reasons for holding the session and at the same time thanked participation of members of performance foundation and said: foundation of children and teenager performance was established formally by protagonists of the field in 2015 and conference of related officials to theater for children and teenager was held. Assemblage the officials and all active organizations of this area with various specialties happened for the first time in Iran, and we announced we are ready for fundamental measure in the field of theater for children and teenager. In 2016 (1395 SH) three theoretical books were published in this field. We celebrated also Jabbar Baghtcheban, founder of theater for children and teenager. Our another action was that we could offer Kazemi House, an old and traditional house which is located in district 12, Tehran and is visited by tourists, to children and teenager foundation in order to perform theater in it.

Then the active author in field of children and teenager's literature noted about necessity of holding the meeting and said: We have had a hundred year theater for children, but don't have its oral history. In fact, there was a century activity for Children Theater but its pioneers have not been identified. We had invited daughter of the late Jabbar Baghtcheban in the International Festival of Theater for Children and Teenager in Hamedan. Most people did not know who is founder of theater for children and teenager and where is his tomb. However, he is one of our national heroes.

He continued: Iranians have published theoretical books for one hundred years, have translated some works in the field and made dolls, dolls that are national and international; but they have hadn't oral history in the field. Number of theater protagonists left us last year, and this is a warning for us. We must use their experiences and write them, but the culture is not formed among us. Is it possible people who work in field of theater for children and teenager to be not aware of past and present a good work? So we are obliged to take oral history serious in this field. Of course there is a valuable work in field of children literature which its subject is extensive and in part of it theater for children and teenager is discussed.

The teacher of theater for children and teenager and creative performance stated: today is continuance of yesterday and tomorrow is coming and we have to think about descendants. Theater indirectly nurtures children creativity and even improves children and teenagers disorganization. We must ourselves do something for the important area and don't engage literature history of west countries which their culture is different with us. I hope we record experiences of the protagonists of this field before missing them. Among these one can name Hengameh Mofid, Samineh and Parvaneh Baghtchehban, Marzieh Boroumand, Hamid Jebeli, Reza Fayyazi and Bahram Shah Mohammadlou.


Theater for Children and Teenager, Born of Modern Age

Mansour Khalaj was second speaker of the session. He addressed history of forming theater for children and teenager in the world and told: theater for children and teenager was established too late in Iran and even in the World and it is a new and modern achievement. Adult theater dates back to 2500 BC. There are many works of great writers at the time, but no one has written a book for children. It is a question that why did not they write about children and teenagers? The fact is that theater for children and teenager is achievement of modernity. Psychology noticed children and teenager's conscience and before that all thought children do not understand and comprehend anything.

The professor talked about history of forming theater for children and teenager in Iran and added: after a war which took place at the time of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar in Tbilisi and Alexander Griboyedov was killed in Iran, a delegation from Iran went Russia to resolve the issue and they were there for a while and they became familiar with the Russian theater during their plans. Mirza Taqikhani Amir Kabir and Mirza Agha Tabrizi were also among the group. After returning from the travel, Mirza Agha Tabrizi wrote a play influenced by Russian dramas and later the first students to be sent abroad. They became familiar with theater, especially French theater and Shakespeare and Moliere works, but a long time later they paid attention to children's theater. As urbanization occurred middle class was born, Maktabkhaneh were closed and schools were formed and at the time they paid attention to children and teenagers.

Jabbar Baghtcheban in this area is one of the first pioneers. He lived in Yerevan and later migrated to Iran and established a school in Marand and he showed first play there. He was a very creative man, a stylish teacher and a capable playwright and his works are still cited. Some of his works are Mojadele Beine Do Pari (controversy between two elves), Torob (radish), Khor Khor, Jamshid and Shapour. His wife, Safieh Babaei also helped him in designing dress and composing. Later Baghtcheban established a school for deaf children.

Abolghasem Jannati Ataie entered the arena after Baghtcheban and wrote the book of "Performance in Schools". He believes that theater for children is important such as food. Bijan Mofid was the next protagonist who had studied English Language and Literature. He made an atelier and wrote the first play named Shahr-e Ghesseh (City of Tales), and after a while several plays including Shaparak Khanoom, a new version of Torob and Kuti Muti. Later he joined Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults and continued his activities there.


Oral History of Student's Theater

The third speaker of the meeting was PhD Yadullah Vafadari. He narrated history of student's theater and said: Student's theater wasn't continued after activities that Jabbar Baghtcheban began in Ahmadieh School of Marand. However, some measures were done sporadically, but it didn't have a specific officer and formation and wasn't consistent. Now festivals are too repetitive. However, in 1368 and 1369 SH festivals were held in Neyshabur and some professors were invited; works were very prominent and masters were affected by these works.



The professor stated: in 1336 (SH), current Minister of Culture commanded Abolghasem Jannati Ataei to write a play book for children, his sources were Shahnameh, Saadi relics and foreign authors. In 1989 Cultural Director of Deputy of Education insisted him to write a play for students. Ten plays were written specially for them; such as Man Dige Be Madrese Bar Nemigardam (I wouldn't come back to school no longer) Elham, and Darse Moalem (Lesson of the Teacher). This field was again stopped. Good works were published in 1995. Simultaneously Martyr Foundation of Islamic Revolution also published some works based on its approach.

Finally he pointed out: It is about two or three years, teachers write good plays according to a Mehr (September and October) question which is asked by the presidents. Six publication packs of Monadi Tarbiat have been released named Soroushe Sahne 1, Soroush Sahne 2, etc. However, student's theater was not continued in order to be transferred its experiences for future generations.


A Period of Theater for Children and Young Adults

Moslem Ghasemi, actor, director, translator and educator in field of theater for children and young adults was fourth speaker of the session. Referring to decades of 1340 and 1350 SH (1960 & 1970) Ghasemi started and said: in the period one-dimensional poems were replaced by other currents and Maktabkhaneh was replaced by Education of western schools. Later libraries were opened in provinces and journalism, filmmaking, theater, writing system and painting were grown. Theater context was at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. Don Lafont invited Bijan Mofid, Gholam-hossein Sa'edi and Bahram Beyzai to write plays and plays of Khorshid Khanom Aftab Kon, Torob and Kuti Muti were written.

He added: a group of teenagers was needed. We were accepted and started to work with these people and then we enter professional works and worked with professional and non-professional groups. Taking theater to the heart of country villages with mobile truck such was one of plans and it was felt lack of Puppetry. Hadesei Dar Shahre Arousakha (an incident in city of dolls) was the first Puppetry. They chose students across the country and taught them, so they both visit their families and hold classes for children in those cities.


Theater on TV

Abbas Jahangirian was fifth speaker of the conference. At first he talked about television history in Iran and said: Iranian TV was started in September 1958. It was tax-exempt. At the beginning its programs were foreign, but it was changed gradually through producing theater. Six theater groups were formed which its founder was Abbas Javanmard. Among those who attended in the theater groups were Jafar Vali and Ezzatollah Entezami.

The author and researcher added: the first theatre which was played was translated by Shahin Sarkisian and directed by Abbas Javanmard. Gradually TV approached Lalehzari plays too. A few years later Hamid Samandarian and others also joined the group. The dramas were not recorded and were broadcasted live, so there is any archive of them. By the time the television had two channels and Channel 1 audience was general. During twenty years before the Revolution 50 theaters were played.

The author of Yadegar'e Jam said: Reza Babak has been known, in different areas with plays of Panbeh Daneh (cottonseed), Baran Baran (Rain Rain), and Kuti Muti, as the most active person in arena of theater for children and young adults. Some of other people who worked in this field are Iraj Tahmasb with "Kola Ghermezi va Pesar Khaleh," "Alang'o Dolang", Kambiz Samimi "Aleson 'o Valeson" and Abolfazl Razani with "Kar va Andisheh (work and thought)".

Author of "Daftarcheh Moskelgosha (trouble-shooter notebook)" and "Girls Dreams Aren’t False", added: performance theaters are two kinds, one is made by TV and the other to be recorded at the scene by using three cameras. Half of these theaters were produced in both channels and recorded half in the hall; 1960's and 1970's were the same. Now the best theaters are performed in Tehran halls and others are banned from watching it. If the theaters to be recorded and broadcasted in TV even villagers of far villages can see them too and increases number of theater watchers and has a good educational value.



At the end, Jahangirian stressed: much of our resources are foreign and we, Iranians, must write oral history of our country in all industrial, medical, etc. spheres, and don't let to be forgotten.


Oral History of Theater for Children and Young Adults Before and After the Revolution

Manouchehr Akbarlou, playwright, scholar and activist in field of theater for children and young adults was sixth speaker of the conference. He reviewed plays of before and after the revolution and said: before the Revolution, Dar ul-Funun had worked in this field of Theater. One of activities of National Scout Organization was theater and it had various educational periodicals. The organization was active until 1980 (1358 SH), but was liquidated in Esfand (February or March) of the same year and was undertaken by Cultural Center of Education. Centers of Rah-Ahan Square, Shoosh, Shariati (in front of Hosseinie Ershad) are under control of Education. Red Lion and Sun Society was one of other active organizations in field of theater which had theater hall in most of cities. Now municipality is active in this field. After victory of the Islamic Revolution Lion and Sun became the Red Crescent. Of course it does not have art-cultural activity in sense of theater, but theater is presented in Red Crescent halls and one of them is theater for children and young adults. Another organization was Vocational schools. Current Sahid Beheshti Vocational School was the first one.

He continued: IRIB has also performance in order to support its activities. Student Basij under supervision of IRGC have worked somewhat in this area to attract young people to the front and cultural activities. Cultural affairs, which its other name is educational deputy, is another active agency. In-service courses for primary and preschool teachers are of conducted activities to work in the field and student's theater is still one of serious activities. Islamic Propaganda Organization's Hozeh Honari is also one of other active organizations in theater and has activated children's theater independently. About festivals, Hamedan International Festival is also active.

Akbarlou said: last part of activity is free communication with the World which was done by Ministry of Culture or partly through the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults during seven or eight years ago, but now atmosphere is more open.


Oral History of Playwriting and Research Works of Performance

The seventh and final speaker of the meeting was Hossein Fadaie- Hossein, director and researcher in field of theater. He said: Jabbar Baghtcheban started book of children's theater in 1929. Ninety years have passed since publication of books on theater for children and young adults. Books could be divided into different categories: drama and research or scientific writings including training and research works. We have about 390 books in field of theater for children and young adults which 340 are plays. 88% plays and the rest are research and training. During the ninety years, sixty years we didn't have research work and research works are for last thirty years. As we approach today the ratio would be more for play. The first compiled book in field of children's books is for Davood Kianian. This book presents theory and the author introduces theater as an innate thing for children and in general human beings.

The researcher addressed another division in field of theater for children and young adults, and stated: one is theater for children and young adults that its audiences are children and young adults and Baghtcheban worked is in this category and the other theater with children and young adults that has used professional artists and this kind of theater was on children.

Fadaie-Hossein pointed out another category in field of publications of the area, and stated: another division is for compiled and translated works. 80% of books are the compiled and 20% the translated. Of 340 works, 30 works are translations. Among 50 educational and research books, 22 were translations and 28 compilations and 125 of the 340 works are dramas.

He then named active publishers of the arena and added: a publisher that has worked in field of play and research is Sooreh Mehr Publication which has published 63 books and its 30 works have been written by one writer and it is a collection. Of 63 works of Sooreh Mehr, 98% are plays and 2% research ones. Another publisher is Namayesh Publication that has 50 works in this area. Publication of the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults has worked less in area and Madreseh Publication has 25 works which its 98% are research works.

Finally he noted calendar of publishing the books and pointed out: from 1300 to 1350s SH, 25 works had been published. We had 22 works during 1360s including research and plays. During 1370s we published 150 works and 123 in 1380s, but in first five years of 1390s it approached 115 books which it shows a growing process and this is a happy event.



Alongside the professional session of "Necessities of Compiling Oral History of Children and Young Adult's Performance", a small exhibition of works of authors in field of theater for children and young adults was held which one can name books such as Kotulei Ke Hamishe Faryad Mizad (a dwarf who always shouted), Poshte Cheragh Ghermez (behind red light), Se Mahi (three fishes), Ghul o Abadi (ghoul and village), Shir o Mush (lion and mouse) and play of Madrese Cheharomiha (the fourth school) and play of Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr (The Conference of the Birds).

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