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Theatre Elsewhere: The Dialogues of Alterity

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In the dialogic space of theatre, how can art operate effectively in a new space and in another language? How can theatre discover a universal language through new performing methods? These are some of the questions that I want to consider in this essay. First, I will explain the word “exile” and some of the leading artists in this situation; second, I will consider the works of some Iranian artists in exile.

Exile

If we consider immigration as a voluntary migration, exile instead suggests forced separation. Etymologically, the word exile refers to distance, separation and “earthly life” versus “heavenly life.” According to the Greeks, exile meant to live outside the homeland, withdrawal from one’s birthplace, and implicitly the loss of oneself. This distinction between elsewhere and homeland, alien and domestic was one of the basic elements of Greek culture and its literature and mythology replete with examples of the hero’s journey. What is interesting about land and exile is the word Nostos, which means “returning” in Greek. Thus, the story of Ulysses in the Odyssey and his ten-year exile finds another meaning: forgetfulness or in other words “forget to go back home.” In part of the Odyssey we read that Lotophages (meaning the Lotus Eaters) fed some companions of Ulysses with lotus flowers whose taste caused forgetfulness. This amnesia was the concept of “forgetting the land” and was the basis of exile.

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