Lillian & Mona: Drama Within a Drama

Lillian & Mona: Drama Within a Drama

Bahram Nadimi

I never thought I’d write—let alone be teary-eyed about—someone I never met. It was during my recent trip to the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina, where I got to visit my dear friends Mark and Azadeh Perry, whom I had not seen for a while.

During this visit I got to hear about a young lady of the tender age of 18, Lillian Chason.  This is her story.

A play about Mona

A little bit of background: In the year 2003, I moved to RTP in North Carolina to be close to my twin brother and his family. The day I arrived—straight from the airport, in fact—I got to see a play entitled A Dress for Mona performed by a devoted theater group called the Drama Circle. Many of the performers were westerners, though the play is set in the heart of the Middle East. It tells the story of Mona Mahmudnizhad, a young woman who was executed—along with nine other Bahá’í women and girls—because of her faith. She and the women with whom she was hanged were Bahá’ís.

Mona

This play about an Iranian teenager was instigated by Mark Perry, a playwright and his wife Azadeh who knew Mona in Iran. The write-up on the Drama Circle website (www.dramacircle.org) describes the situation this way:

“Shiraz, Iran 1982, fanaticism ran rampant in the streets, and Mona, as a Baha’i—a member of Iran’s largest religious minority—was the fanatic’s prime target. Based on a true story, this is a story of one teenager’s capacity to love in the face of fierce persecution”[1].

In the next few years a video and a documentary about A Dress for Mona were produced; the documentary won an award. During that time, I was overjoyed when Mark and Azadeh asked me to help out with other dramatic endeavors, which resulted in me co-producng a new dramatic work by Mark.

The Universal House of Justice (the world governing body of the Bahá’ís) commented on the endeavors of the Drama Circle in context with a general statement on the power of the arts, especially the performing arts:

“The Universal House of Justice wished for us to express to you its delight in learning about the recent accomplishments of the Drama Circle and to convey its warmest encouragement of your work…the arts have a special capacity not only to stimulate people’s thinking but even more, to touch their hearts and to open their eyes to new possibilities…”

Enter, Lillian

Lillian Chason

This is where Lillian walks on stage—literally. A couple of years ago, Mark—now a University of North Carolina drama lecturer—embarked on the remake of A Dress for Mona. It was then that he met Lillian when she tried out for the lead role.

Lillian had a deep connection to Mona and wept when she heard Mona’s story. This connection was noticeable to everyone around her, thus making her well suited for this lead role.

It was shortly after she started rehearsals that she contracted the H1N1 flu virus and was hospitalized. After putting up a valiant fight, she could not overcome this disease and passed away December 16th 2009.

The Universal Nature of Youth Sacrifice

It is hard to overestimate the effect Lillian had on those around her, including the cast of the play. According to her family and friends, Lillian was a joy, talent, a beauty and force to be reckoned with. Her situation got a lot of local TV coverage. Thousands prayed for Lillian’s recovery and started a blood drive on her behalf. Performing the lead role of a play about a 16 year old teenager sacrificing her life for love, suddenly took a whole new meaning. Stunned cast members and producers devastated by this development, started to look for another person to play the role of Mona.

It was only an hour after the cast found a replacement that Lillian took her wings from this world and soared into the limitless spiritual world beyond.

Cast photo: A Dress for Mona

Lillian’s parents said they felt Mona’s presence while their daughter was on life support. Azadeh’s brother-in-law is one of the Yaran (the appointed leadership of the Bahá’ís in Iran) who, like Mona, has been unjustly imprisoned in Iran for his belief in Bahá’u’lláh. No surprise that Azaedeh was profoundly moved by Lillian’s situation.

Yes, this is a story about the tragically short life of Lillian, but it is also testament to the universality of youthful spirit as well as the mystery and power of the sacrifices people make for love.  I am positive Mona and Lillian are hanging out together somewhere in the “heavens”.

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7 thoughts on “Lillian & Mona: Drama Within a Drama

  1. Dear Bahram Nadimi,
    Thank you for telling your story,
    for writing out spirit.
    Thank you,
    Cate Chason

  2. Dear Cate

    Thank you for your comments. Don’t know why, but I feel she is happy, content and has a high station.

    My best regards to you and your family

    With respect

    Bahram

  3. Bagram aziz…
    Such people gives us inspiration and power, in addition to lessons to learn life….such people God sends them us as an example to show us evidence on what the power of love …and God takes them back to him as their eternity world suits them more than this world…
    Sometimes we need to think deeply of God’s wisdom in everything even if it could be beyond our limited understanding…when the right time will come we will sure do…
    Thank you for such a nice article
    All the best
    Randa

  4. Thanks Randa

    It seems that life is cruel when we see someone’s life is taken away so quickly, but as you said if we look at the end at the beginning it becomes clear that a tragedy can be a gift of inestimable proportions. the spiritual world to come is where its at.

  5. Dear Bahram

    I anticipate the arrival of 19 November, the day Lil was taken to the hospital, I happened again upon your lovely piece of writing and once again I am comforted with your words as well as Lil’s and Mona’s spirit.

    December the 19 will make four years since Lil’s passing. The pain of her absence stays hard and true with me, but I am also learning to engage with her great, smart, sassy spirit. And many people — some who never met her, some who I have never met tell me they think of her, they feel her, they speak with her on a regular basis. I have collected innumerable precious “dark gifts” from my sweet Lillian since I last saw her.

    Thank you again for your effort through writing.

    Blessings.
    Cate

    1. Hi Cate

      Thank you for your kind words. It is funny I feel her presence a lot as well. Sometimes a tree can grow better if it is replanted somewhere else. I feel her spirit has truly blossomed. From her point of view there is no separation. She is with you always. I am glad you feel her presence as well and I am not surprised others who have never met her have found a connection with her. I am one of them. Tears come to my eyes still when I think of her.

      It is said that one can help the soul of a loved one progress by praying for them, and also giving to charity in that persons name.

      In case you have not heard of this charity: http://www.monafoundation.org, it is a first class organization that in memory of Mona, the same Mona, provides support to the needy in many parts of the world

      My thoughts are with you and your family and hope to meet you some day

      with infinite respect

      Bahram

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