by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Soheil Parsa is an award-winning director, writer, dramaturg, choreographer and teacher, whose professional theatre career spans thirty years and two continents. In his native Iran, Soheil completed studies in Theatre Performance at the University of Tehran and began a promising career as an actor and director. Arriving in Canada with his family in 1984, Mr. Parsa completed a second Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies at York University and then went on to establish Modern Times Stage Company, one of the most innovative theatre companies in Canada. In 1995 he received a New Pioneers Award by Skills for Change for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts by a recent immigrant to Canada. His own work at Modern Times has been recognized with five Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a Chalmers Fellowship in 2002, a senior artist creation grant from the Canada Council, as well as a number of international prizes and master class requests. In 2007 and 2010 he was short-listed for the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre Celebrating Directors, the highest honour in Canadian theatre. Most recently, he has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contribution as a theatre artist to Canadian society.
PARSA: My relationship with members of the Danish theatre started in 2010 when I was invited by Vahid, an accomplished student of Eugenio Barba and the artistic director of Goossun Art-illery, to participate as a director in an exploration of a project called “HamletZar” in the city of Aarhus in Denmark. The project was a fusion of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Zar ceremony. Zar is a Middle Eastern ceremony whose function is to pacify malevolent spirits through music, chanting and dance. One of the other participants in the workshop was Barbara Simonson, the Artistic Director of Laboratoriet and a very well-respected director, writer and dramaturge in Denmark. Barbara and I were artistically connected during the workshop and I invited her to join our project of Forgiveness as a dramaturge. After joining the first workshop of Forgiveness in the winter of 2011 in Toronto and getting a sense of the style of the project, Barbara thought that Jannik Elkær Nielsen and Kristoffer Louis Andrupgård Pedersen from Don & Gnu Dance Company in Denmark would be the right collaborators for this project. She connected us with them and our happy collaboration started in 2012.
PARSA: This project is not so much about conclusions as it is about explorations; not so much about answers as it is about questions. We have learned that the further you examine this theme, the more multilayered and enigmatic it becomes. As human beings we desperately need to have an understanding and a language of forgiveness to be able to cope with life’s uncertainties and injustices. This vocabulary is often missing in individuals, peoples and nations. The results are obvious. Nonetheless, how and when to forgive will always remain elusive. Hopefully our production will encourage the audience to examine in a bit more detail their own relationship with forgiveness in their lives.