Q&A: Mani Soleymanlou, director, playwright and actor

Mani Soleymanlou © Maude Chauvin

Q. You’ve written a cycle of plays, titled from 1 to 9, which deal with identity. Your latest work is titled Zéro. What prompted this choice?

A. Another word for zero in Persian and Arabic is “sefr”, which means “void”. I explored this idea in my first creations: Un, Deux and Trois. With my play Zéro, I wanted to come back to the notion of void of identity, to return to the circle, the whole that binds us to one another. I wanted to see if things had changed since my first creation.

Q. You were born in Iran at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution. You later came to Canada as a child. The quest for identity is a recurring theme in your works. Why?

A. Being so far away from my country, people always treated me as “the other”. I felt the need to explore my origins and explain where I was from. I never lived in Iran so I had to explain over and over that I was from “there”. I was never able to be from “here”, always from elsewhere. Theatre allowed me to reflect and put this exploration into words.

Q. Did you find answers to your questions?

A. There are no definitive answers. Identity is in perpetual motion. It is never static. We can never simply “be”; we are always becoming. In fact, certainty annoys me, especially when it comes to identity. I love theatre because it allows me to ask questions and allow audience members to leave with those questions, never in a preachy way.

Q. You like the idea of leaving a bit of doubt?

A. Yes, doubt is important. I try to insert it in all my creations, to have it running through my work. Doubt allows us to move forward, to listen and to open up to “the other”.

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Zéro
will be presented in the Azrieli Studio from November 27 to 30.


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