Art & Culture

Performing artists concerned about the future of historical Herat Theater

Artists and theater management officials in Herat province are upset over not having a suitable venue for rehearsals and shows after a decision was taken to repurpose the site of the old theater and turn it into a commercial center.

The ongoing construction in the area is not aimed at revitalizing the theater, but rather aimed at transforming it into a commercial hub. This distressing revelation has sparked outrage among the acting community in Herat, who now find themselves without a dedicated venue to practice their craft and showcase their artistic endeavors.

Ghulam Sakhi Ghulami, a well known actor, expressed his dismay, stating: “Artists face numerous challenges in every aspect.”

“We used to have a salon where we honed our skills, but it has been demolished,” he said.

The artists fear that the Herat Theater, with its rich history spanning over a century, is now facing its most trying period.

“Over the past hundred years, Herat Theater has experienced both triumphs and setbacks. Herat, being a religious city, holds a unique position among the provinces,” Fraidoon Fakuri, the former director of Herat theater, remarked.

However, the theater’s significance seems to have been overshadowed by the decision to allocate half of its land to road expansion in 2015. Despite assurances from the Herat Municipality that the remaining portion would be preserved for the theater, no concrete plans have materialized. Now, the looming construction of a commercial center on the remaining site has further exacerbated the artists’ concerns.

Taliban officials in Herat, without providing any documentation, claim that the land adjacent to the public library belongs to the municipality and falls within their urban development plans.

Their proposal entails constructing a four-story structure, with two floors dedicated to the Department of Information and Culture, complete with all necessary equipment and theater facilities. However, the information and culture department of the Taliban and the Taliban’s municipality have failed to reach an agreement on this proposition, according to Taliban spokesman for Herat municipality Nasir Armal.

According to Herat theater management, in recent years, around 200 actors, including 120 women and girls, have been actively involved in stage productions. But a significant number of male artists have already left the country due to the prevailing circumstances.

As Herat Theater faces these challenging circumstances, the artistic community and concerned citizens hope that the authorities will recognize the importance of preserving cultural heritage and provide a suitable space for artists to continue their creative pursuits.