When playwright Nassim Soleimanpour was barred from leaving his native country of Iran because of his status as a conscientious objector, he did the creatively unthinkable. He wrote a play that required no director, no set, and a different actor for each performance.
The play, "White Rabbit, Red Rabbit," takes the form of a solo performance that is completely different each time it is performed, as each actor does not read the script until they are onstage for the first time. The monologue is written in Soleimanpour's voice and we get to know him and his ideas through the actor portraying him. The audience participates as well, not only throughout the course of the show but also technologically, sending Soleimanpour notes about the show via their cellphones.
The earliest version of the play was performed in Brooklyn at the Brick Theater in their Iranian Theater Festival last Spring. But Soleimanpour told HuffPost the play had its official world premiere after he met Ross Manson (artistic director of Volcano Co. Canada) and Wolfgang Hoffman (artistic director of Aura Nova Berlin) at a festival in Tehran, where they discussed and later solidified performing the play at Toronto's SummerWorks festival and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year.
Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre in London, where it is currently being performed, has said that “Having the actor not see the script beforehand gives you a profound sense of the writer’s voice in the room. The spontaneity of an actor reading a script for the first time and discovering it with the audience gives complete authority and power to the writer’s voice, and the way that voices control people is an intrinsic theme in the play.”
Soleimanpour is not the only Iranian artist to push the boundaries of censorship as of late. Last year, imprisoned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi smuggled his documentary, "This Is Not A Film," out of the country on a USB drive hidden inside a cake. His film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and was released in the U.S. in February.
Soleimanpour’s ‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’ fuses audience, actor and playwright together, who all share (despite Soleimanpour’s absence) a collective experience in the face of Iran’s censorship and the looming threat of disobedience. Most importantly it makes everyone question that authority.
Peep the trailer for the show from the Volcano Theatre in Toronto below.