Nasrin Navab, artist and curator of Reckless Law, Shameless Order: An Intimate Experience of Incarceration, spoke with Ezzat Goushegir about her play "My Name is Inanna" prior to its performance in the exhibition.
Nasrin Navab: I first saw your play at Red Tape Theatre, last October, and I was very much touched by the concept, the directing and acting, specifically Maryam Abdi’s performance. Tell us about yourself in a few words.
Ezzat Goushegir: I’m a trilingual Iranian- American writer, mostly a playwright, fiction writer and poet. Although I’m curious and social, and have courageously experienced life in different aspects, I would also identify myself with Emily Dickinson and Fernando Pessoa in being a secluded, solitary person. Since immigrating to the U.S, I have written many scripts. Some have been produced for stage and anthologized in English. Twelve books including plays, short stories and memories in Diaspora have been published in Farsi. Most of my Farsi and English writing has not yet been published.
N: Why did you write “My Name is Inanna” and how was it shaped?
E.G: Writing this play was my urgent reaction to certain global events and the meaning of democracy and each individual’s presence in today’s world. I had to write it! I had to write it from different perspectives and viewpoints. It began as a one woman show. Then it was translated into Mandarin and produced in China and had readings in the United States, the Philippines and Sweden. Then I worked on it through several other readings, audiences’ comments, and individual workshops with some directors before its recent full production at Red Tape Theatre in 2021 in Chicago.
N: What is it about?
E.G: It's about a reaction of a woman during a period in history where global politics and global financial crises culminated in wars. That’s the blueprint of this play. To answer the earlier questions, I created a character as a modern Middle Eastern single mother who is in search of identity, justice and freedom in the new world. Blended with intersectional feminism, mythology, historical documents, and contemporary realities, the storytelling, gradually, layer after layer, peels off the complexity of each story within each scene and explains the concepts of imprisonment, trauma, racism, and living under surveillance technology in women’s lives.
N: How did you incorporate so many subjects in a one woman show?
E.G: I wrote it in a stream of consciousness narrative mode where each scene is structured around the main character/Inanna’s interior thoughts, emotions, and events. I intended to show the complexity of the themes through multiple genres, forms, and styles, in a lyrical language.
N: Tell us about the form and style of your writing in this play. How do you describe your writing style?
E.G: I believe each piece comes with its own form and style of writing. Inanna, my main character wanted me, somehow pushed me to free her to express herself. In chaos you will always find structure. She urged me to find her voice, her world of thoughts and imaginations, her past life and present. That inspired me to find certain theatrical elements from Persian poetry (Nezami’s Seven Paykar), Persian traditional theatrical forms such as Naqqali and Pardehkhani, the Zar ceremony (African and Afro-Iranian healing tradition) and the play within the play (Hamlet and One Thousand and One Nights).
N: What did you change for the Urbana- Champaign performance?
E.G: It will be a staged reading of the play as a solo performance. Maryam Abdi, the brilliant actor will play multiple characters. Acting in a one-person show requires enormous energy and strength to carry it out perfectly. The actor’s main goal is to connect with the audience, touch their hearts and resonate with their souls. I must add that I sometimes believe staged readings can deliver the emotional aspects of a play more than a full production. It is just because reading inspires and triggers the imagination of the audience to create an intimate version of the play in their minds.
N: What do you expect from the audience?
E.G: Theatre is a collaborative art form that teaches us to broaden our horizons, question every little thing in life, and build empathy with fellow human beings. I hope the audience will think collectively, see artistically, feel humanly, listen thoroughly, and dig deep and reflect on the pain and suffering of others. What do we expect from art? Don’t we seek to become better human beings?
N: What was your experience and the learning process during the Pandemic?
E.G: It was a tense time during the rehearsals of my play in the Fall of 2021 at Red Tape Theatre. I have immense appreciation for the large cast, the director, Reza Mirsajadi, the leading actor, Maryam Abdi, and other actors, and all the technical crew who risked their lives and put their hearts into the production, wearing masks to protect each other. They created a unique, harmonious community. Living in an isolated world, helped us to have a deeper understanding of ourselves and the values of community. A community helps an individual to learn how to see differently, act humanely, understand others and have the courage to raise questions.