Thursday, March 25, 2010

Deaf Iranian theatrical troupe enjoys warm Boston welcome

Deaf Iranian theatrical troupe enjoys warm Boston welcome

To the government of Iran, the United States is the Great Satan.

To the members of Mehr-Ayeen, a theatrical troupe of deaf performers from Iran, the United States is a land of opportunity for people with disabilities.

Despite frosty relations between the governments of Iran and the U.S., Mehr-Ayeen managed to make it to Boston this week as part of a cultural exchange funded by the U.S. State Department.

“Everything has been difficult because we don’t have relations with Iran,” said Tim McCarty, artistic director of Quest, the arts organization that helped arrange the group’s visit.

It took three years for the theater company to get the necessary paperwork to make the trip, which started with a performance at QuestFest, a showcase by artists with disabilities held at Gallaudet University, the college for the deaf in Washington, D.C. At the last minute, six members of the 10-person ensemble were denied visas by the United States.

Only Davood Mashayekhi, 36, Shanaz Sharifi, 32, Faramarz Talakoub, 37, and director Fatemeh Fakhri, 45, were able to make it to the festival and then to VSA Arts of Massachusetts in Boston.

Through interpreters Sharifi explained that there are few resources available to those with disabilities in her country.

“Here (in the U.S.) they have fought and gotten so many things,” she said. “To come to America was a great experience. Politically we hear negative things, but we’ve met friendly people here and know that is just politics.”

The Iranian government gives money to disabled citizens once annually, but Sharifi said there are far fewer jobs available to the disabled in Iran than in the United States.

The group plans to publish a letter about their visit to America in Iran.