The ex­or­cism of Shahin Sayadi

Mul­ti­tal­ented artist’s orig­i­nal play shines a light on fam­ily drama and blend­ing cul­tural tra­di­tions.


Asheq: Rit­ual Mu­sic to Cure a Lover Septem­ber 13-14 Dal­housie Arts Cen­tre, 6101 Univer­sity Av­enue $22-$25 pris­mat­icfes­ti­

For­bid­den love, dys­func­tional fam­i­lies, se­crets and de­monic Mid­dle Eastern ex­or­cisms—sounds like typ­i­cal soap opera ma­te­rial, right? If that’s your steeze, you def­i­nitely need to hit up Asheq: Rit­ual Mu­sic to Cure a

Lover dur­ing the Prismatic Arts Fes­ti­val and wit­ness this drama-packed one-per­son play by Shahin Sayadi.

The set­ting is a fic­tional sea­side vil­lage of the Per­sian Gulf in south­ern Iran, where East African and Per­sian tra­di­tions have blended over time to pro­duce unique cul­tural prac­tices, in­clud­ing the mod­ern Zar rit­u­als. Asheq wit­nesses a Zar ex­or­cism cer­e­mony, in­tended to rid a young man of the “sick­ness” of his love for an out­cast young woman—lead­ing to rev­e­la­tions of a fa­ther’s buried se­crets. “It’s the old story be­tween light and dark­ness, good and bad, and what will pre­vail in the end,” says Sayadi.

Grow­ing up in a theatre fam­ily and study­ing scenog­ra­phy, Sayadi’s lat­est work is new ter­ri­tory even for him. Pre­sented by his own One­light Theatre, the the­atri­cal im­pre­sario wrote, di­rected and de­signed the play. He’ll also be the sole star.

“That as­pect has been chal­leng­ing be­cause I’m di­rect­ing the en­tire pic­ture that’s tak­ing shape,” he says. “But as an artist I’m find­ing it very sat­is­fy­ing.”

Sayadi has also com­mis­sioned in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned mu­si­cians Habib Mef­ta­houshehri and Moshen Shar­i­fian to com­pose orig­i­nal mu­sic, giv­ing the pro­duc­tion another di­men­sion of au­then­tic­ity. “We al­ways cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that will take ev­ery­one on a jour­ney,” says Sayadi. “The whole thing takes place in a very par­tic­u­lar cer­e­mony that ev­ery­one is in­vited to come and ex­pe­ri­ence.” Sayadi does want to leave the mean­ing of

Asheq open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion, en­cour­ag­ing spec­ta­tors to ar­rive at their own con­clu­sions. “I don’t al­ways try to go for any par­tic­u­lar mes­sage with my work,” he says. “I usu­ally just try to stick with the story, and what­ever mes­sage peo­ple will get from it they’ll get from it.”

Sayadi’s play is a new look at the old­est story.

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