Sheida Dayani is a theatre historian working on the social and cultural history of Iran. Informed by her fieldwork in Iranian cities and villages, her current book project is Making History with Theatre in Modern Iran: Juggling Revolutionaries (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2023). The book traces theatrical transmissions in Iran through the waves of migration to and from the Balkans and Anatolia on the one side, and the Iranian plateau, Greater Khorasan, Transoxiana, and western and northern India on the other side. Arguing for the use of theatrical documents as historiographical sources, Juggling Revolutionaries offers a social history of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Iran while it examines the development of Iranian theatre from performance rituals to European-style playwriting. Juggling Revolutionaries
Her research topics include Shi‘i passion plays of Ta‘ziyeh, Taqlid improvisatory comedy, Persian translations and trans-creations of Molière, women’s plays, identity formation through language “reform,” theatre in the migration of Roma and Godar communities, and comparisons between Iranian comedy and the Commedia dell’Arte. In addition to theatre history, she has published on the social psychology of contemporary performance rituals and the theatrical roots of Iranian visual arts.
Before joining Princeton, Dayani taught at Harvard University for six years, including courses on Iranian theatre and Persian playwriting, literary and historical texts in Persian, and Persian language and literature with the use of film.
She received her Ph.D. from the department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. Her dissertation, "Juggling Revolutionaries: A Theatrical History of Indigenous Theatre and Early Playwriting in Iran," was recognized with the Honorable Mention of “The Mehrdad Mashayekhi Dissertation Award” from the Association for Iranian Studies and the Honorable Mention of “The Best Ph.D. Dissertation of the Year” from the Foundation for Iranian Studies.
Dayani’s Persian poetry and translations have been published in Iranian journals, including Tajrobeh, Bukhara, and Negāh-e No. Her English poetry and translations have appeared on Jadaliyya and featured by Open Source on NPR Boston. Dayani has also worked as a simultaneous interpreter for several Persian-speaking filmmakers, including the late Abbas Kiarostami and Mr. Asghar Farhadi at the Academy Awards and other ceremonies.