The Scarlet Stone
Review by Mavis Manus

The pent-up energy and creativity of the Persian diaspora exploded in a spectacular way when the Persian Arts Society recently mounted THE SCARLET STONE at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Based on a famous Persian epic poem, the Shahnameh by Ferdosi, and a 20th-century work, Mohreye Sorkh, by the late Siavash Kasrai, THE SCARLET STONE wedded old and new in a seamless and fresh way. While a storyteller, in this case Gorda Farid, the first female ever to take on such a traditional role, related key passages of the text in a commanding voice, four dancers acted out the story, framed by a lushly-colored set that called to mind a royal salon. Five musicians, some of whom played instruments like the tanbur, tombak and balaban, filled the air with the exotic sounds of ancient Persia (score by Shahrokh Yadegari, who also adapted and directed THE SCARLET STONE). At the same time, such modern touches as video projection and electronic sound effects were employed, giving everything a contemporary feel.

The story itself, though rooted in the past, had obvious relevance as well. The story focused on Sohrab, a young nobleman who believed deeply in justice and equality, only to be killed on the battlefield by his ignorant father, Rostam (symbol of paternalistic power and narrow-mindedness). The same struggle which pits freedom vs. fundamentalism, youth vs. mullahs, is taking place in Iran today, as we all well know.
The multi-disciplinary production of THE SCARLET STONE proved to be a remarkable experience, with music, dance and spoken word combining to bring Persian sensibilities to life in vivid, compelling fashion.