Tales From the O'Neill: Iran, Puppetry and The O'Neill

By Sophia Saifi
17 Jun 2013

After the war ended in 1989, Poorgholamhossein put all her energies into finding a place to learn puppetry. She ended up at Tehran University where she is currently working towards an MA in the medium. The first company she joined was called The Full Moon Show where she worked on a project called Cats of Grey City, a tale of two cats living in a city deserted by war who stumble across a human baby. Tehran is the hub of puppetry in Iran, which is an art form dominated by females, according to Poorgholamhossein, who said 80 percent of Iranian puppeteers are women.

At the O'Neill, Poorgholamhossein is currently working on a project about a little boy in Iran who was blinded by a land mine explosion. In a twist of surreal wonder, he replaces his eyes with glowworms, which then transform into butterflies.

"It's like living in Disneyland, it is a dream come true," Poorgholamhossein said, who described being at the O'Neill as "a once in a lifetime opportunity."

The arts in Iran operate under the shadow of strong government control where every script has to be reviewed before permission for any further production is given. During a Q&A session, Poorgholamhossein was asked — considering the strict control of public space in Iran — how she planned to implement all she had learned at the O'Neill after her return. Winking, she replied, "there are always a lot of basements and parking lots!"

Her response is a testament to the fact that where there is art and beauty, there is always an audience.

Participants at the National Puppetry Conference will be performing to the public on Friday and Saturday, June 14-15.

For tickets phone (860) 443-1238 or visit theoneill.org.

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center was founded in 1964 and is based in Waterford, CT. Programs at the Center include the Puppetry Conference, Playwrights Conference, Critics Institute, Music Theater Conference and the National Theater Institute. The Monte Cristo Cottage, O'Neill's childhood home, is also owned and operated by the group.