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Iran arrests theater artists over Shakespeare production

The theater. (Pixabay/Released)
September 10, 2018

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Authorities in Iran have detained two artists in connection with a production of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shahram Karami, an Iranian cultural official, told the state news agency IRNA on September 10 that the judiciary had ordered the director of the play, Maryam Kazemi, and the manager of the theater staging it, Saeed Assadi, to be taken into custody.

Karami linked the detention of the two on the evening of September 9 to a trailer for the show.

Kazemi, the director, had previously described the production of Shakespeare’s fantastical romantic comedy as a combination of dance, musical, and classical theater.

Karami said the trailer had prompted a “misunderstanding” and that a court had agreed to release the pair on bail of around $24,000 each.

He did not elaborate on the content of the trailer at issue, though a clip for the show posted on social media showed women and men dancing together, which is illegal under stringent rules in the Islamic republic forbidding dancing between members of the opposite sex.

In 2014, Iran arrested six men and women for dancing in a YouTube video to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy.

The three men and three women were later sentenced to suspended jail time and lashes. The arrests resulted in international condemnation and calls for their release.