Angelika Betzold writes on… “The Death of the King”

Peter Farbridge Home, Modern Times In Depth, The Death of the King

TIME TIME! “In the beginning there was no Beginning And in the end, no End …” (Christopher Logue)   It seems to be a prevalent view that theatre is political when a play treats current political problems or when an old play is set in the tedium of, let’s say, a local convenience store. In his play, “The Death of the King”, Bahram Beyza’ie has done neither; the story is set in a mill in the city of Merv in 651 CE and draws on a historical event: The assassination of King Yazdgird III supposedly committed by the miller. And yet, it seems to be an absolute contemporary play and current political reflection. But maybe it is more accurate to say that it is a timeless play and therefore inhabited by a political urgency of a very different kind. In order to explain this statement and why I regard it as important, I want to turn away from Beyza’ie’s play for a moment. When asked about the specific setting of one of his short stories, Jorge Luis Borges once replied that it is not advisable to reveal a specific place or say that a story takes place in the present. Instead he thought that, in order to keep the freedom of imagination, a certain distance in time and space is necessary. It seems to me that with his remark, Borges asked simultaneously for something else: namely for an active reader whom he – who regarded himself, first and foremost as a reader – may have simply assumed as a given. But I think it is worth mentioning more explicitly that such literature needs a reader who dares to follow the imagination and who takes it over like a baton in order to bring it back to his or her lived …

Body, Breath and Borders

Peter Farbridge Modern Times In Depth

  The work of Modern Times is featured in the spring 2015 issue of TicArtToc, a magazine on cultural diversity produced by the NGO Diversité artistique Montréal. Called ‘Made au Québec’, the fourth edition of the magazine features articles by Anglophone and Francophone artists living in Montreal who are working at the interface of the two communities. To this day the two linguistic groups still remain mostly separated in the city, and Francophone stages are mostly absent of cultural diversity. Modern Times’ supporter Fouad Oveisy, a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, was commissioned by Diversity artistique Montréal to write an article on Modern Times’ unique approach to diversity. His article ‘Body, Breath and Borders’, focuses on the relationship between Modern Times’ founders, Soheil Parsa and Peter Farbridge.

Modern Times and Interculturalism – Ric Knowles writes

Peter Farbridge 25th Anniversary, Home, Modern Times In Depth

  Ric Knowles has worked as a dramaturge for Modern Times’ productions on several occasions. The following is an excerpt from his forthcoming book on interculturalism in the Toronto theatre scene, in which he uses Modern Times as one of his case studies. “Modern Times” is perhaps a surprising name for a theatre company whose popular reputation, at least in its press coverage, seems to be based on its staged adaptations of ancient Persian fables, and whose current mandate focuses on the blending of Middle-Eastern and western theatrical forms. But the name is appropriate: central to the company’s importance may be its contribution to the rethinking of modernism itself. Indeed, Modern Times can be understood in its politics and artistic practices to be working in its modest way towards the completion of what Jürgen Habermas in 1980 famously (and controversially) called “the unfinished project of modernity”—the extension of the larger humanist project of Enlightenment through the creation of a rational and democratic public sphere, one that includes the arts as well as science and morality. According to Habermas, modernity held “the extravagant expectation that the arts and sciences would not merely promote the control of the forces of nature but also the understanding of self and world, moral progress, justice in social institutions, and even human happiness”. Habermas is sceptical about the project’s potential success, citing “Three Conservatisms”—antimodernism, pre-modernism, and postmodernism—that work against it. In spite of Parsa’s own experience with antimodernism in Iran, and his rejection of postmodern instabilities, Modern Times is more optimistic, and, circumventing many of the critiques levelled at Habermas’s gender blindness and his Eurocentric defence of the Enlightenment and its ravages, explicitly extends this extravagant expectation to all of the world’s peoples, whatever their genders, sexualities, races, or ethnicities. The company’s central project, I suggest, is …

Why Are We Here? Angelika Bertzold writes about ‘Forgiveness’

Peter Farbridge Modern Times In Depth, Season 2014-15

By Angelika Bertzold “The history of forgiveness found its end in Auschwitz”, wrote the French philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch. This is a very strong, yet by no means simplistic statement, expressed and explained within a philosophical structure that seems to be the right place to reflect on subjects such as “forgiveness”. So given that philosophy or theology would be the place to consider the meaning of “forgiveness”, a theatrical approach seemed somewhat startling and, thinking of Jankélévitch’s statement, I was curious about what would happen on stage.

Our Aesthetic

Peter Farbridge Modern Times In Depth

At the beginnings of the company, Soheil looked at different theatrical styles—some Middle Eastern and some Western–and explored them in the context of an established script.  Although it involved experimentation with different forms of theatre, we were never interested in completely challenging the audience-actor relationship…

Working Values

Peter Farbridge Modern Times In Depth

We respect individual voices, look for human contact, appreciate everyone’s contribution, and respect cultural differences. We want to be accepting of disagreements and never sacrifice human dignity. We try our best to be coherent with this message and how we behave towards each other…

Diversity at Modern Times

Peter Farbridge Modern Times In Depth

Modern Times would not exist in its present form today if not for Canada’s project of multiculturalism, since this policy led to the creation of diversity-specific funding streams. At the same time, the label of ‘multicultural’ has been very a challenging one for the company. On the one hand, it served to promote the company’s ‘uniqueness’ in the context of a Canadian theatre scene that in the 90s was still fairly white Canadian.