Scarlet Stone

Who are we to blame?! Being scattered is the fruit of the bitter seeds which we planted on this land, and now they have bloomed. Whoever has had an ideal in mind and a desire in heart, now grapples with the self in the dark black cave of separation. But the key to this big black cave ...?!  
-- Siavash Kasrai
 Scarlet Stone is a new multidisciplinary and collaborative music/dance/video work told in the language of dance-theatre to be performed in:  San Diego Mandel Weiss Forum, UCSD, November 19, 2011; and Los Angeles Freud Playhouse, UCLA, December 10 and 11, 2011.

This epic piece is based on the last work of Siavash Kasrai, Mohre-ye Sorkh (Scarlet Stone) which re-tells the most famous tragedy of Iranian mythology, namely Rostam and Sohrab. The production uses the modern rendition of Ferdowsi's ancient mythology to portray the current struggle of the people of Iran, especially those of the youth and women, in their brave quest for freedom and democracy. The goal is to make this project directly relevant to the current political and social climate of Iran and the Middle East in general. Scarlet Stone emphasizes the value of wisdom over infatuation and brings to our attention the need for all Iranians to take responsibility for the cultural, social, and political development of the country in the past 60 years.

UCSD's professor, director/composer- Shahrokh Yadegari in collaboration with French-Iranian choreographer/dancer Shahrokh Moshkin-Ghalam (also starring as Sohrab) have gathered some of the best performing talents of the Iranian diaspora to include Afshin Mofid - former NY ballet star (as Rostam),  Ida Saki - young rising star dancer (Gordafarid -Sohrab's lover), Mariam Peretz - Bay Area-based acclaimed dancer (Tahmineh-Sohrab's mother) and Fatemeh Habibizad, the first female Iranian Naqqal - (Epic Story Teller, Ferdowsi) for this production. Advanced interactive video designed by Ian Wallace, and stunning lighting by Omar Ramos and Kristin Hayes define the world of the story.

Similar to the artistic form of Kasrai's poem, Scarlet Stone is staged with modern aesthetics and a deep commitment to the traditional and ancient values of Persian arts. Advanced interactive technology is used for production and projection/diffusion of video and sound, which will help the integration of the multiple disciplines used in this project. With a critical view, Scarlet Stone offers strength as well as hope. One can argue that much of what is addressed in Scarlet Stone, both in terms of societal problems and solutions are alive in the current social and political movements in Iran. For many years, the only option for defining a structural basis for a social or political movement was either leaning towards the left or the right. Kasrai, having come from the leftist tradition and having been the victim of the disillusionments which followed the left movement in Iran, proudly writes a hopeful poem for facing the problems which have plagued our times. We feel the current movements in Iran (and the Middle East in general), where all sections of people have come together to voice their desire for peaceful reform and freedom, are a living example of this approach.

Yadegari says: our goal is to produce Scarlet Stone in a way for it to become a catalyst for communication among Iranians, Iranian diaspora, and all those interested and invested in the evolution of the political and social life in the region. The production employs artists of highest caliber and uses exquisite interactive design technology to tell the touching and sobering story of Siavash Kasrai, in which he praises wise and passionate commitment to global human values as a beckon of hope for the current sociopolitical climate of Iran. We believe that the recent movements in Iran and later around the world, are fundamentally new forms of peaceful approach to political dissent, where actions are not fed by partisan politics, but by grass root social necessities. Moshkin-Ghalam believes today's generation of the youth and women in Iran are the generation of the `Shorab's and 'Tahmineh's, who bravely, passionately, and peacefully have been struggling against oppression. The non-violent resistances of Iranian people after the 2009 election in Iran is an excellent example of the committed, thoughtful, and intelligent political activism which Kasrai has depicted for us.

About the poem:

Based on the "Shahnameh", the poem "Scarlet Stone", by Siavash Kasrai, is set at the last moment of the life of Sohrab. Kasrai was one of the most important and eloquent contemporary poets of Iran. Kasrai was persecuted before the 1979 revolution by the Shah's regime, and after the revolution by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Kasrai's life work has been a hopeful message for Iran and the proud Persian culture. He has written a number of works based on the mythology found in Shahnameh. In "Scarlet Stone", Sohrab (the mythological character) confronts the author of "Shahnameh", Ferdowsi, for the reason of his tragic death and the meaning (or meaninglessness) of his futile quest for peace and justice. Kasrai finished this work in 1990 in exile, when the Islamic government had already established its successful autocratic and oppressive rule over the people of Iran by mass terrors of intellectuals, artists, and nationalists. One finds one of the most hopeful and meaningful messages regarding the recent struggles of people of Iran in the answer that Ferdowsi gives to Sohrab in "Scarlet Stone", that: "Your fight is not only local, but a global struggle against injustice"; "when you began your road to be a hero, you should not expect the path to be easy"; "you may think you are dying in the book, but your name will forever be the light and the symbol for those fighting for justice and freedom."

Click here to read Segments of Scarlet Stone in Persian 

Excerpts of Scarlet Stone (Mohre-ye Sorkh)
by Siavash Kasrai
Translated by Haleh Hatami.

Many tales reach their end and yet
"the old sorrowful crow has not flown toward the nest"
but still flies in this lone night.
Twinkling, the bleeding North Star
drips in the cloud.
The phoenix of clouds
went to die in the nest of the night.
Nearby, split open,
in the dirt
burned, dissolved,
in the flames of fever.
But the attack of fever
Brought Sohrab to speak in the bloody bed
I am burning and
in no need of water
No, water cannot quench my thirst
Oh, the misery of this craving,
what a frightful mirage
Where is this place?
what will be come of me?

Did the wind carry it off
In the garden, whatever there was?
Alone in the open spaces
this unripe fruit of termination
Rubies of blood
lone scarlet drops
Who bequeathed this stone,
this red rose, tell me tell me, who lay it near me?
Tahmineh (mother)
My only son
My sole fruit of youth, my love, where have you gone?
What happened to you?
O, young forest of hope,
what happened that this tree, brimming with branches of wishes,
became so untimely severed?
I told you, didn't I?
That the scent of your joy
Afrasiab must never sense.
But you, proud in your "good thoughts"
But you, in haste to see Tahamtan
shut wisdom's eyes.
The enemy reached out
his hand in expedience,
but you, unknowing,
were wrongly sitting with these hypocrisies.

I thought in raising a son
skilled and handsome
Tahamtan's heated temper
would become serene
That the sitting of this son with that father
in our homeland
would burn the root of enmity's fruit
and shelter this realm
within the wings of love

Rostam (father)
Father and son face to face and estrangement
with one hundred clues of visage and stature
I didn't recognize you
You didn't recognize me
Who is this concealing eye-closing sorcerer?
Wherefore this blindness?
The heart was saying: Rostam,
Turn and look – doesn't he have your scent?
Say it, seek it
Alas, the vain intellect rendered the judgment lame:
"There goes the enemy".

When your hand draws the dagger of deceit
even in the name of justice
be warned
In the end
that dagger will dig in your own heart.
Once again
I repeat 'ere I finish this account that this is how it is.
It is our bond and love
the envy of others
But sorrow and separation of that dear pair
are cause for comfort for this tribe of mean deeds.

Where is that moonlight cresting above the ancient tower
Where is that bird - where -
What happened to that irascible flower?
Oh, impatient soul
-Sohrab -
night is leaving the halfway mark
dawn is approaching sleep
Our meeting
in this story
was far too hurried and ill-timed.
Apart from sorrow, what was the point?
Like the fast fleeting of a meteor by a meteor
Or a fistful of roses fallen on water
Pass as a phantom (or shadow) in this sinister night
With heartache
I leave you
With love
I entrust you
to God.
Sohrab said: No
Stay with me a moment
In the narrow passage of that meeting,
at the peak of this wicked deed,
a hand devilishly seized our judgment.
Together, our hearts opened a door with love
Our meeting was essential to this story
If we didn't drink from love,
we witnessed it as a fistful of roses
floating with the current.
Behold, the path through the Valley of Darkness
is in my sight
I am dying
in love
Sohrab to Ferdowsi
Oh sage orator poet,
with a point of blood
you concluded
this story that love
had prefaced from the start.
You fostered me so lovingly
and set me free so soon,
through words.
Oh, hero-weaver.
This was not your way.
With the circling of the quill, your hefty book
renders my father - old warrior - immortal.
But me - young
yes, young - you killed me at the hands of this very man,
disgraced Rostam-e Dastaan, through the story
and set Tahmineh down in a bottomless grief.
I came
to the path
so pure
such a seeker
like a drop of water,
toward the sea.
I came
to set justice and brotherhood
on the thrown
and then serve my father
Let liberty be
our wholesome custom.
Let us open wide the doors of treasures and wealth,
let no one sleep hungry in our lands.
I said that my war
is the end of wars.
From here on, all the world is love and brotherhood,
and the stems of roses the emblem
on the quivers and shields of heroes.
In the dark, in our dispute with death,
father and son
and those faces, worthy of enmity,
hidden in the corners -
peering at us
As if, when I arrived there
the world turned on end -
dishonesty visible,
unities concealed.
Closed-lipped mutes,
those tame submissives, from which creator born?
Or, from which creation, those poorly-molded figures?
Are they not, silently,
kindle to the flame?
Oh hope of the heatbroken
drawn from
the peak of Rostam's legacy.
Having tread in treacherous paths
and others of grandeur and grief -
Hero rich in origin,
bring this story to its close

In my quest to build this palace for people
and this arduous poem
I am a wise poet
mirror holder
to the nature and face of the age.
The moment you accepted your father's stone
world renowned ruby
fastened to your arm
you opened wide the gate to self calamity, and from the start
seek disaster's secret in the scarlet stone.
Sohrab, that ornament on your arm,
that stone
is the stone of world heroism.
Know that a man come forth from this,
even within our own borders, inevitably
plays a universal role.
That stone, in your hands,
renders every mean and dubious thing -
indigence and ignorance, injustice and fear -
as visible as an image.
And, in this way,
it awakens
your eyes
to the pain of the age.
And thus, good thoughts and self-belief
fall short in achieving
the grand task
Happy are those who in the heart of the dark halls of ignorance,
in their burning anguish, find wisdom's light within reach

Shameful he who turns his back on comrade and homeland
Turning - with one hundred excuses - toward the foreigner
Yes, it is possible for the path to the sea be near
and for years
to stay safely beyond the reach of the deadly depths.
But one cannot
know the ocean and steal the pearl from the shell
without immersing in water.
Oh, wounded by ignorance in the dark,
the cure is in the king's treasury.
But not for you or for your wounds.
Yes, you thirst not for water, for water
lies beneath your feet.
Hear from me that your cure lies in the light of being
in the rocky springs of knowing,
Sohrab, that is your place.
Allow me to tell you a secret - out of kindness - openly
This wonderful stone
is an infusion of poison and antidote.
Dying and eternal blooming are contained in it.
It is poison its red wine, poison.
Apart from lovers, may no one lay eyes upon this spirit.
It slays, unexpectedly
and raises you up every dawn like the sun.
Beware, oh auspicious one
Oh eternal youth.
You go showing
your wounded flank
to anyone carrying a dagger.
You go disclosing
your wounded side
before the eyes of the nigh-struck, distraught exhausted.
Before those who unaware of how things work
and who use their arms to battle
the ornamental collar of valor.
Let not the lovers take the wrong path
and advance on the known road with this scarlet torch
In a book, thus,
I have battled much.
Not with the sword
- with the pen!
Good or bad,
whether heartbreaking or heart warming
your cradle, your fate
your book of sorrow, of oppression and anthem
your golden book of wisdom, testament to love,
it is your Book of Kings and your book of origins

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