Watching Chekhov in Tehran: From Superfluous Men to Female Revolutionaries


In the summer of 2011, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov (1887) debuted on the Iranian stage. The director and playwright, Amir-Reza Koohestani (b. 1978) aimed to create a production that was faithful to the classic status of this text yet which also maximized its potential to resonate with a contemporary Iranian audience. I explore how Koohestani served this dual purpose, in particular by shifting the dramatic focus from male to female characters and by internalizing the censor’s gaze in his work. André Lefevere’s concept of translation as refraction is used to show how literary texts function within the systems of cultural production that shape political and aesthetic consciousness. As a pre-revolutionary Russian play positioned between East and West, Chekhov’s Ivanov had striking relevance for an Iranian post-revolutionary audience. This case study of watching and performing Chekhov in Tehran illustrates how refracted texts acquire new lives in the process of their performance and translation into new cultural contexts.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.