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World Languages and Literatures
Play by World Languages and Literatures’ Anosh Irani garners awards and critical acclaim in Toronto
By: Christine Lyons
“A clown, a trapeze artist, a love triangle, a one-man tour-de-force performance in which Felix the clown takes you on a journey from cradle to grave,” reads the play synopsis on Irani’s website.
Buffoon played at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto in November and December, 2019. This past June, it took home awards for Outstanding New Play, and Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, which went to Anand Rajaram for his performance as Felix, a clown whose lineage includes two acrobats, and who struggles with his own destiny to be a circus performer.
Writing the play was a long journey for Irani. “It started out way back in 2003, as a commission from the National Arts Center,” he says. “I was working on a play called Manja’s Circus, which had several characters, but then the clown demanded his own one man show. So I had to abandon that play and write one for him.”
Irani has been long-affiliated with the department of World Languages and Literature (formerly the World Literature Program). For nearly 8 years, he's held the position of writer in residence every fall semester, teaching a creative writing course in world literature and holding a public lecture. This year, he's teaching an additional summer course for the new WLL Department and will be delivering his annual fall lecture online.
Irani is currently in Bombay, India since December, 2019 and preparing to teach World Literature 330:Adapting World Literature for the Screen. While he finalizes the course reading list, Irani is also working on a new play based on one of his short stories titled Behind the Moon.
Dora Mavor Moore Awards
On June 29, Irani attended the award’s first-ever virtual gala where he said it was a “privilege to be nominated alongside such a stellar lineup of playwrights.” He gave a heartfelt thanks to the jurors for choosing Buffoon, to the theatre, cast and crew including director Richard Rose for guiding the characters with “love and care.” Irani also praised actor Rajaram for bringing his “own truth, his own fire, and his own empathy” to the character of Felix.
In his acceptance speech, Irani ruminated on his respect for playwrights and the difficulties and rewards that come with the art: “I think it’s extremely hard. We spend so many years working on a play, creating these characters and then we hand them over to a group of people. In a way, it’s an act of madness and also an act of faith. Sometimes your faith is rewarded and sometimes not.”
“It is important to keep going to keep having faith, because to not have faith is a kind of artistic death,” he continued. “But when that faith is rewarded like in this case with Buffoon, it gives me the strength to keep going to write the next play so that the cycle of madness and faith can continue. And for that, I’m deeply, deeply grateful.”
Read more about Anosh Irani’s writing, Buffoon and check out Fall 2020 course offerings from the department of World Languages and Literatures:
• Toronto Star interview with Anosh Irani and actor Anand Rajaram, who plays the role of Felix.
• Theatre reviews of Buffoon in The Slotkin Letter and Mooney on Theatre.