‘Women without Men’

A schoolteacher, a housewife, a prostitute and a young, unmarried woman find their lives intertwining as they escape the strict 1950s Iranian society and escape to a village garden on the outskirts of Tehran — to live without men.

Before she even knew the full story, Joyce-area director Diana Bigelow was captivated by the fable’s title: “Women without Men.”

“Just seeing that title, it caught my eye,” Bigelow said of seeing the book, written by Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur, at Seattle’s Asian Arts Museum.

After she read the book, Bigelow said she immediately was intrigued by Parsipur’s candid portrayal of female sexuality, frankness that got Parsipur arrested and caused the book to still be banned in Iran.

“As soon as I read it I was inspired by the idea that it would be a wonderful staged play,” she said. Bigelow, who has directed plays at both the Port Angeles Community Playhouse and the Port Angeles Children’s Theater, wrote to Parsipur asking for permission to use her story as a play and then assembled a cast of 22 people, who reside from Joyce to Sequim to Bellingham, to play the 53 roles.

Intrigued to see her 1989 novel being adapted into an peninsula play, Parsipur, who now resides in California, will attend all the performances and be available afterward for questions and a book signing.

“(Parsipur) has been very supportive,” Bigelow said of the author.

In the afterword of the novel, poet Persis Karim insists that, despite the title, the play is less about running away from men than finding a place to have a “spiritual transformation.”

“While the garden in Karaj serves as a temporary refuge for each of the women … it is not their final destination,” Karim writes. “The garden serves as a space for the women to be at home … but none of them are satisfied living a life separate from the outside world or a life without men.”

To add a twist to the play, which is being sponsored by Womanfest and Soroptimists International of Port Angeles, Bigelow decided to hold the production outdoors, in the labyrinth of Webster’s Woods at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center. The actors use the pieces of art already in the labyrinth as props — a bench, a gate, the shrubs.

“The garden is the heart of the play (and) “I thought that because there is such a beautiful garden here, it would be a lovely setting for the play,” Bigelow explained. “It certainly creates some unique challenges, but I weighed the pros and cons and I think it’ll be worth it.”

A Persian play

Who: A cast of 22 men and women from all over Clallam County and beyond

What: “Women without Men: A Fable of Modern Iran,” based on the novel by Iranian expatriate Shahrnush Parsipur, directed by Diana Bigelow

When: 4 p.m. Aug. 1-3

Where: Webster’s Woods at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center; in case of rain, productions will be held at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse next door

Tickets: $10 suggested donation at the door

Additional Information: Audience members are advised to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets to sit on in the grass; an extra sweater also is advisable depending on the weather

The Author: Parsipur will attend all three performances and be available afterward for a question-and-answer session and a book signing.

Contact: Diana Bigelow at 928-3946

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