I happen to have some very poor luck with timing; after visiting family up in the San Francisco bay area in June, I found out that in May a spectacular little show had graced the San Francisco International Arts Festival with its presence. The show is called White Rabbit, Red Rabbit and is written by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. And if I had been up in the bay area at the time this show was up, I definitely would have gone to see it.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is an interesting theatrical creature. Soleimanpour is not permitted to leave Iran; in refusing to do military service for Iran, Iran has refused to give Soleimanpour a passport. Thus, Soleimanpour wrote a play that would be able to travel the world without him: a play that requires no director, no set (save for a chair, table, and two glasses of water), and a different actor for each performance. There are no rehearsals, no techs, no design meetings. The actor is handed the script at the beginning of the performance, and the experience begins.
Despite the fact that I have the internet at my disposal, I can’t seem to find anything plot-related about this play in order to give an informative synopsis. What I can tell you is that it is a mix between action and allegory, there is audience participation (where some audience members are assigned roles as either white or red rabbits), and that the play revolves around questions posed about censorship, isolation, and responsibility. Other than that, the play remains a mystery to me even as I peruse the numerous reviews and websites I have found that rave about it.
But it’s impact on the audiences and performers, still lingering far after they have left the theatre and travelled home, is evident in how they write to Soleimanpour to thank him for the experience they just had that night in that theatre. People from all over the world send him emails, share pictures with him, and write to his website to show how far his play has gone and how much it has impacted the audiences who have seen it.
Theatre is an experience: one that is shared between the production staff, the cast, the audience, and the playwright. I have never been to, or heard of, a production that has so poignantly touched so many people, and affected people so strongly in a way that they feel the need to reach out to the playwright to thank them for that experience. But, in my opinion, that’s how strongly it should affect people. Maybe I just expect too much, but since theatre is a live event, and there is no screen that acts as a middle man, then the connection should be that deep and should be that moving. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is one of those shows that people continue to think about and discuss far after the play is done, and I’m so pleased that theatre still has the power to do that today.
Maybe I’ve become somewhat jaded by all the mindless entertainment that has been thrown onto the stage in recent years, but shows like this give me hope that audiences and artists still vie for that desire to change and be changed in the process.
Until next time!