‘Eclipsed’ showcases Iranian, American identities

Monday, March 14, 2005

A woman dressed entirely in black limps feebly onto a dimly lit stage. As soulful music plays in the background, she begins to speak about what being a woman means to her and, rejoicing, suddenly breaks into song and dance.

She shouts, “This woman’s not done.” She hobbles off the stage, bent but strong.

This monologue, written and performed by Rose Weaver MFA ’00, was one of many pieces that reflected the theme and purpose of “Eclipsed,” a multimedia presentation created and directed by Raina Rahbar ’05. In celebration of Women’s History Month, “Eclipsed” examined the construction of feminine identity in Iranian and American cultures through the lens of fashion, dance, media, music and image.

The March 11 performance at the Black Repertory Theatre was the culmination of a year’s work for Rahbar, who has been collaborating on the project with the Resource Scholars and Artists Program since last semester. The program, which was initiated by the Resource Center and expanded five years ago to include projects dedicated to the creative arts, encourages students of all disciplines to think about how their work has a larger social relevance.

The program helped Rahbar to shape the context of her show and provided her a space to present her project to the Brown and greater Providence community, she said.

Rahbar started to conceptualize the idea for “Eclipsed” after thinking about writing a senior thesis, she said. As an International Relations concentrator, she knew her thesis would be restricted to academic writing, which made her consider an independent project as a freer way of expressing her ideas.

An Iranian-American, Rahbar wanted to explain both sides of this dual identity as well as fuse both cultural perspectives. She said she also wanted to shed light on representations of Islamic femininity, a timely and prevalent topic in today’s media.

“My intention in doing this is trying to reach to women in general,” she said. As long as one person is somehow changed by the experience by rethinking his or her conception of femininity, her mission will have been accomplished, Rahbar said.

Rahbar chose to explain the mission of her project through the metaphor of an eclipse, an allegory that is predominant in Iranian culture. The eclipse examines the relationship between three factors, Rahbar said – the sun is the symbol for man; the moon, the symbol for woman; and earth, the symbol for culture.

In her self-written monologue titled, “Eclipsed,” Abigail Ronck ’05 summarizes the idea of an eclipse as a form of imprisonment.

“Eclipsed, encased, enclosed. Can she breathe in there?” she asked.

Rahbar’s presentation asks for this trapped woman to be freed from the patriarchy of American and Iranian societies.

An original garment created by Rahbar, called “Eclipsed,” is a tangible representation of that request. The outfit’s bold and sexy combination of silky cloths – an orange tank top decorated with flowery ornaments around the neckline, red Capri pants and a yellow see-through sari that covers the waist – visualizes the voice and power women can maintain within that patriarchal system.

Other highlights from the event included dances and monologues created and presented by female Brown undergraduates. These performances translated the cultural and historical development of womanhood aesthetically.

“It was a unique way of presenting information,” said audience member Ben Johnson. “It’s definitely a good thing to see it up on stage,” he added.

The event was sponsored by the Resource Scholars and Artists Program, the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center and the Christian Northrup Charitable Trust Fund. All proceeds from the event will go to women’s shelters in Providence.