Let us believe in the beginning of the cold season

    11/05  | 20:30
    13/05  | 19:00
    14/05  | 18:00
    15/05  | 20:30
    16/05  | 12:30
    16/05  | 20:30
    17/05  | 20:30

€ 17 / € 13
1h30
EN/NL/Farsi > FR/NL/EN

Theatre-maker and actress Sachli Gholamalizad was born in Iran and raised in Belgium. In her solo Let us believe in the beginning of the cold season, she sings the praises of two prominent Iranian women artists: Googoosh and Forough Farrokhzad. Through pop music and poetry, their words gave shape to the lives of generations of men and women, among them Gholamalizad’s mother and grandmother. Thanks to the depiction of forbidden worlds, both women learned to appropriate their body once again. Gholamalizad weaves this heritage with contemporary feminist voices into a layered musical performance. She explores what it means to live as a woman today. Supported by strong women from different traditions, she formulates future definitions of womanhood, feminism and love.

With: Sachli Gholamalizad
Direction: Sachli Gholamalizad, Maryam Kamal Hedayat
Dramaturgy: Tunde Adefioye, Maryam Kamal Hedayat, Selm Wenselaers
Music and soundscape: Jan De Vroed
Video design: Steven Brys
Video editing: Moj Bahadori
Scenography: David Konix
Costume Design: Heidi Ehrhart
Choreography: Gilles Polet
Light Design: Helmi Demeulemeester
Sound: Patrick Van Neck
Technical coordination: Lieven Symaeys, Steven Brys
Production manager: Miek Scheers
Translations: Moj Bahadori, Anne Vanderschueren, Trevor Perri, Tineke de Meyer
Surtitles: Tineke De Meyer
Diffusion and tour management: Saskia Liénard 
Assistant dramaturg: Lindsay Jacobs 
Research assistants: Esther Lamberigts, Bo Alfaro Decreton
Residencies: UCLA / Marike Splint, Teatro Español, Jardin Sahél / Fernando Rubio
Special thanks to: Shokat Armon, Zeynab Hamedani Mojarad, Michael De Cock, Eric Reid, Aarich Jespers, Filip Wauters, Eric Thielemans, Peter Dombernowsky, Joe novelli, Nikolaj Heyman, Lisa Gamble, Tim Vandenbergh, Peter Dombernowsky, Charo Calvo, Sebastiaan Van den Branden, Sholeh Wolpé, Prof. Farzaneh Milani, Wouter Hillaert

Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS
Production: KVS
Coproduction: Perpodium, Theater Rotterdam, Vooruit 
With the support of: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Tax Shelter of the Belgian Federal Government 

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Sachli Gholamalizad

In Sachli Gholamalizad’s previous two performances, A Reason to Talk and (Not) My Paradise, she questions concepts like boundaries and otherness by dissecting her relationship with her mother, and later her family and her homeland.

These performances reconstruct the past to arrive at a new story. They also give us insight into her relationship with language, and more specifically the ability to connect through language. In her first creation A Reason to Talk she speaks to her viewers through a screen, a keyboard, her mother. She shields herself from the audience by literally turning her back on them. In (Not) My Paradise we start to see more openness towards the viewer. Protected by curtains, panels and installations, and somewhat hidden behind the testimonies she proposes, we see attempts to connect through dance, imagery, stories and memories.

Sachli Gholamalizad will be turning this process on its head in the final part of her trilogy. She is no longer a spectator, but an orator and creator. She questions every imposed label and framework in order to shed them later. Where previous performances zoomed in on the past, she now uses the past to create a blueprint for a new future. Central questions include: how can we cut loose from norms and judgements the world imposes on us, and what obstacles do we need to overcome along the way?
Above all, in Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season Gholamalizad wants to find strategies for emerging into womanhood by retaking narratives and opening up the Western canon. This process is also the base of her search for a new position as an artist.

She looked for and found inspiration in the poems of Forough Farrokhzad, in myths and stories, and in music, including that of Iranian pop icon Googoosh. She also travelled the world and engaged in conversation with countless strong women she encountered. She shares certain questions with them, like what it means to be a woman and how we can form alliances across boundaries. Gholamalizad interweaves autobiographical elements and universal narratives, using them as tools for empowerment. She creates a musical performance about power and stubbornness, and about transcending outdated societal standards.

Where in her previous performances she confronted her mother, family and native country, she now turns to the audience – both within and outside the theatre. Because that’s where Gholamalizad’s focus lies: in society and its structures of oppression.

Farrokhzad’s timeless verses, universal myths, and the music of Googoosh come back to life, just like the phoenix, who constantly rein-vents itself by bursting into flames and rising from the ashes.

I will let go of lines of counting numbers too, and from among the limits of geometry, seek refuge
in the soul of infinity. I am naked, naked, naked. Naked as silence between words of love.

Forough Farrokhzad

Maryam K. Hedayat, Selm Wenselaers, Tunde Adefioye,
Dramaturges

•••

Interview with Sachli Gholamalizad

KVS commissioned writer and video artist Maryam K. Hedayat to conduct an interview with theatre creator Sachli Gholamalizad. Both artists share a number of passions, longings, and a love for Iranian artists Forough Farrokhzad and Googoosh. It was written in the stars that Hedayat should assist the creation of Gholamalizad’s third play Let us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season: as dramaturge, sounding board, and interviewer.

Where did you get inspiration for your new production?

Every piece, every new story originates halfway through the creation process of the previous one. Which is logical, because you always have a number of ideas you can’t use in just one story. Whatever you have left to tell but couldn’t, becomes part of the next creation.
It’s also something that I struggle with daily: what is my role and society, and how is my role interpreted by the outside world? Some people are offered a podium, others aren’t. And if you are offered a role, it entails certain expectations. Do we play the game but silence ourselves, or do we dare to expose certain practices and accept the consequences of that decision?
My position in society as a woman, and especially as a woman of foreign origin, inspires me to reflect on that society and to create critical performances about it.

What brought you to Iranian artists Forough Farrokhzad and Googoosh?

They came to me, as it were. I didn’t really go looking for them, but they are part of my cultural baggage. It feels natural to open up to them and involve them in my creative process. It would be a waste not to share the many references of my universe with my audience. It’s high time to shine a light on our so-called canon, and to make sure we don’t fill it with uniformity.

What do these women mean to you?

Farrokhzad harbours a universality: her poetry should be read and heard by everyone. As a woman, a feminist and an artist, she was far ahead of her time. She was one of the foremost innovators in Iranian poetry, both in terms of style and the subjects she chose. She refused to accept imposed gender roles and broke unflinchingly with tradition.
Here, there is often too much focus on the so-called ‘Western canon’, like that’s a fixed concept – like no other stories deserve to be canonised. When you overemphasise the history of one part of the world, you are effectively erasing another. I do not want those parts to be erased, because they include my own frames of reference. My canon is much broader and more inclusive than the traditional Western canon. That means it has space for Sylvia Plath and Audre Lorde and Forough Farrokhzad. It’s not either-or, but both. I don’t delete anyone from my canon, I only add to it.

You spent a lot of time doing research abroad. What were you looking for?

I went to LA because it’s a place where many cultures meet. I wanted to investigate and experience how people there relate to their own and other cultures. It was refreshing to discover that people can keep their own traditions and cultures, while also embracing American culture.
It’s not an either-or story there. We sometimes miss that here. Of course there’s much to be said about the failure of the American Dream, but at the same time many people there are raised with a mentality that says people of various backgrounds should, in principle, be able to live together in harmony while adopting an overarching identity. There seems to be more openness to multiculturalism, which sounds utopian, but you can really feel it. Neighbourhoods aren’t labelled as ghettos. Here, I sometime feel like certain cultures are eschewed from the centre and from society. They are seen as inferior.
Cultures there are also not folklorised or exoticised to the same degree as they are here. There’s an openness and flexibility towards other cultures that you don’t find here. Both socially and culturally, there’s less segregation. Argentina was also very interesting in that regard. I talked and shared a lot with fellow creators there, and discovered how they combine their art with their battle against outdated power systems and the status quo.
Travelling brings about certain freedoms and insights. By travelling you get to know your own culture and identity better. You see your thoughts and ideas against a new background, which makes you redefine or adapt some of them in the new context. Travelling makes you reflect on your own thoughts and habits. You learn that nothing is absolute, and that definitions should be seen in context.
That’s a very important thought exercise, and I want to keep challenging myself that way. As soon as you think you’ve found a definition, it can just as easily be blown apart. It makes people humbler, more worldly, more open. There isn’t an answer to everything. That’s beautiful, the searching for answers, the continuing to build, construct and deconstruct.

There’s a lot of music in your performance. Why does it take up so much space? What does singing mean to you?

Through music, you can communicate with a large and diverse group of people about things like pain, loss, joy and happiness. Music can be incredibly healing and connective.
You can’t say everything with just words, which is why I don’t like doing only text-based performances. I recognise feelings like displacement easily in music, and I like to share them through music. There’s an emotionality in music that I can’t express through acting alone. I want to use my voice in various ways to approximate various emotions.
Music is also a way to get out of your head. I don’t want to get stuck in the role of the explainer. I want to escape rationality. There are multiple ways of telling a story. Music is an important part of my world and my inner workings. It harbours things in a different place, at a different frequency. It means allowing for multiple layers with which to understand and question the world around me. There’s no escaping yourself or your voice in music.
Music and singing are also universal. Women have had to demand their right to a voice throughout the centuries, in all cultures and continents. It’s a tool for empowerment and freedom, for relinquishing the dominant structures. Music has historically been used in many forms to criticise society, challenge it, but also address large groups of people.
Today we need new lyrics and new songs that express how we feel, and that carry within them many different worlds just like we do. I want to use my voice as a tool for empowerment.

How does the third part of your trilogy relate to your previous works?

An idea, a concept, and a performance all grow through time. Just like us humans grow, go through certain processes and learn from mistakes in the past, you also learn from your performances and try to create new ones that embody who you are at that moment and what you believe in. I want to question the masks we put on in this performance, confront myself through the dominant ideologies and how they help or hinder me in life. That means that, besides the narratives around me, I also want to investigate my own creative process and my role as an artist. The insights you have today are perhaps different from the ones you will have in a year, so the crux is to dare to be critical time and again about yourself and your context.

How would you describe your evolution as an artist?

As an actor, I still feel the need to perform my first creation A Reason to Talk after six years. The piece transforms me every time, because it takes on different values and meanings for different audiences in different countries. As an actor, I grow through the new meanings I find in it. It transcends my own story, becomes universal, and works in a connective way.
I also trust myself more and am no longer afraid to speak from my own perspective. I feel like I don’t have as much to lose. I don’t feel the need to mean anything to anyone. I feel freed from the need to be loved. By letting go of that, you create space to choose who you want around you, what types of people and ideas you want to nourish yourself with. It creates room to grow, to accept yourself. I no longer want to please, and that will become clear in my future performances. I learn from my experiences and my creations, and that gives me the confidence I need for the future.

What do you want to tell with this performance? What would you like people to remember?

That’s a difficult question, because the performance hasn’t been created yet. But  
I can only hope to be understood, even  though us humans will never fully understand each other due to language’s inadequacy.  But if I can pull people into my reality, that’s something to be thankful for.
If the play makes people think, talk, question things, it means we can grow and progress together. It’s important to keep inspiring and feeding each other, even if we have different perspectives on life. I don’t want to force anyone to change their minds, I’m not interested in propaganda. If people are ready to listen to my stories and look at what I want to show them, I’m satisfied.
I don’t want any more fakeness. I want to live in truth, and I expect that truthfulness from my audience as well. The times we live  in call for us to surpass superficialities and masks, and to truly get to know each other  as the complex beings we are.

When is a performance successful to you?

The creative process of this performance is just as important as the result. It was extremely enriching to work with this team, we complement each other well. It’s very inspiring to work with people who agree, but who can also bring a unique perspective to the table. On that count, the performance is already a success.
What counts for me is that the audience can find consolation and recognition in my creation, and that they gain insights from it.  I want to do more than just communicate with my audience; I want to forge a bond.  
I want to hold up a mirror to them and to myself, create a safe space where we can find insights together. I want to keep questioning myself and dare to be insecure and humble. Humility does not mean keeping quiet and small. Humility means having the courage to talk, because you want to contribute to society.
Staying silent is often cowardly and even narcissistic. People are often too afraid to be criticised to sacrifice their security. I want to surpass that and tell the stories that don’t get told, that often don’t even seem to exist. By telling them I don’t just give myself the right to exist, but I also try to make visible those that do not have the privilege of being heard. That, too, is humility to me.

Interview by Maryam K. Hedayat

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Sachli Gholamalizad is a theatre creator and works in film and television as an actress. She studied theatre at RITCS in Brussels and took acting classes from Jack Waltzer in Paris. In 2013 she created her first play, A Reason to Talk, as the first part of a trilogy. The production won a number of prizes (Fringe First 2015, Circuit X, Roel Verniers, Shortlist Amnesty International, ...), toured in several places and was met with great enthusiasm. In 2016 she created the follow-up (Not) My Paradise. She is one of the KVS faces, and is artist in residence at Vooruit in Ghent for the coming five years. In May 2019 her third solo performance Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season premieres at KVS and Kunstenfestivaldesarts. Sachli Gholamalizad can often be seen on the big screen. She plays in Brian De Palma’s new film Domino (2019) and Mijke De Jong’s Layla M (2016). She also acts in various (inter)national television series, including Stockholm Requiem (2019), Bullets (2018), De Twaalf, Loslopend Wild (2012-2018). She took on a lead role in De Bunker (2015). She tours internationally with her plays. In previous years she performed amongst others in Toronto (Canada), Buenos Aires (FIBA), Barcelona (GREC Festival) and at the Edinburgh Fringe. Besides her work in theatre and film, she also writes a column for MO* Magazine

Faegheh Atashin (born 5 May 1950) aka Googoosh is an Iranian pop diva, actress and icon who, in the words of many Iranians, “grew up before our eyes with us”. From a very young age, Googoosh  could be found on stage. During the fifties and sixties, she was the Iranian population’s sweetheart. After the 1979 revolution, when female singers became outlawed, she decided to stay in Iran regardless and to quit performing. It wasn’t until many years later, around 2000, that she started touring again – albeit abroad. She has been singing to sold-out venues worldwide ever since. Googoosh’s allure is not limited to her identity as a pop icon and diva. She is a role model for many women inside and outside Iran. Since the revolution, she has taken up a prominent place as a herald of nostalgia. Iranians like listening to her for her powerful melodies and warm voice, but also because she takes them back to their childhood. Young Iranians are transported to the Iran their parents grew up in. For the majority of Iranians, Googoosh will always be the greatest. She will always be unique – a once in a lifetime phenomenon. 

The cold winter months are when we learn most about who we are and who we have become. At least, if we have the luxury and privilege of looking back. Iranian poet and filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad, writer of the poem Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season, did not have that luxury. She died after a car accident at the age of 32. We know from her poems that she lived through many a cold season. At the same time, her progressive lifestyle and feminist ideals have brought warmth to many. She was well ahead of her time and wrote about her experiences without any taboos, although critics were not ready to embrace her innovative style. Her words, travels and films didn’t only shed light on what it should and could mean to live fully as a woman, she also pointed out social ills in others. Before American human rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw came up with the term intersectionality, Farrokhzad was already living on multiple crossroads. She navigated various axes whilst painfully exposing how different forms of repression affected people, and women in particular. As a woman, she courageously challenged society. Her private and public lives were interwoven in the poems she published about her personal experience of sexuality. She was and is an inspiration to many. Long after her death, Farrokhzad keeps on lighting the path for new generations.

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