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I started really paying attention to Iran (and to Twitter, tops for breaking news) on June 20, 2009, when the tragic, short-lived Green Revolution erupted, fueling unrealized hopes for a more democratic country.

Then I read Jason Elliot’s Mirrors of the Unseen (and blogged about it here) about his travels in Iran, and especially about the people he met and the architecture he admired. He came up with a theory about the architecture that related to the builders’ Islamic beliefs, a love of nature, and a concept of sacred proportions. (If you should see the Nova special on how Medieval architects used the Bible to decide on ideal Gothic cathedral measurements, you will get the idea.)

Elliot loved the people he met in Iran and bemoans the way the Western media depict them. In full agreement with Elliot is the British translator of ancient Persian poetry, Dick Davis, who was on PBS NewsHour last night.

But though the Iranian people may be like people anywhere, the government is not. Residents are frequently obliged to be cautious. Which is how theatrical productions in the privacy of a taxi have come about.

Haleh Anvari of the Guardian‘s Tehran Bureau has that story.

Unpermitted Whispers is a 35-minute play that takes place in one of Tehran’s ‘Rahi’ taxis, which traverse the city along fixed, often straight-line, routes. Rahis pick up passengers at major intersections and drop them off anywhere along their set route, making for a convenient method of getting around town and one cheaper than the minicabs available in every neighbourhood of the capital.

“In contrast to the minicabs, which provide door-to-door service, the Rahi system affords passengers much more anonymity, allowing for candid and uninhibited conversation. Tehranis frequently share stories that they have overheard in these communal cabs; for many, they serve as an extension of the private sphere in which Iranians feel safe to talk about issues of the day.

Unpermitted Whispers takes advantage of this unlikely superimposition of public and private to tell the story of three passengers, all women, who are picked up by a male driver at different points along his route. …

“The play’s first scene was performed entirely on the telephone, as we eavesdropped on a conversation of a kind with which many Iranian women are familiar: a young bride wants to go to the theatre with her university friends but needs an alibi as her traditional family and jealous husband will not approve.”

More here.

Update 2/5/14: Turns out NY City has a play in a cab. It’s called “Take Me Home” and is reviewed by Neil Genzlinger, here.

Photograph: Hanna Havarinasab
Unpermitted Whispers is a play by Azadeh Ganjeh performed in a taxi.

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