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An Audition for Husain

March 21st, 2014 at 4:11 am (Uncategorized)

AI54 Husain Audition

In week 5 we learned about the Ta’ziyeh, the passion play commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husain (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) performed in Iran. This is a unique practice in Islam, specific to Shia Muslims. The ta’ziyeh is the only form of drama originating from Islam.

The ta’ziyeh differs from Western theater in many ways, as shown in our discussion reading Ta’ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran by Peter Chelkowski. For Shia muslims the ta’ziyeh is more than a dramatic performance, it is a religious ritual. Through it the audience is transported back in time to Karbala, as if they are actually witnessing the death of Husain. The audience is overtaken with emotion, and the actors use this as part of the performance. The audience is an essential part of the ta’ziyeh, in a way not realized in traditional western theater. In the 19th century, the ta’ziyeh was performed in large arena theaters, and actors would often make entrances and exits through the audience. Depending on the staging, the audience could be celebrants of the wedding and mourners of Husain at once. Avant-garde theater artists now, like Jerzy Grotowski and the “poor theatre”, strive to reach the visceral connection with the audience that the ta’ziyeh has been creating for centuries.

For my artistic response, I decided to play on the comparison between the ta’ziyeh and Western theater. I made a mock audition video for the role of Husain in a hypothetical Western production of the Miracle Play of Hasan and Husein by Sir Lewis Pelly. I thought this would be an interesting way to represent the ta’ziyeh and highlight some of the similarities it has with Western theater. Reading the Sir Lewis Pelly translation reminded me of Shakespeare. I could imagine this play being performed as a Shakespearean tragedy. It is interesting to note that I read the role for Husain as a woman, because female roles in the ta’ziyeh are usually played by men, another feature held in common with Shakespearean times. I also wore green, because the family of the Prophet usually wears green in the ta’ziyeh, while the opponents of Husain wear red.


  1. john said,

    May 20, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Well, You have learned a lot.

  2. zenius education said,

    June 27, 2015 at 3:56 am

    You know Islam well

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