The 1953 coup in Iran was an extremely significant moment both in American and world history. While clandestine American involvement in the internal affairs of other nations was nothing novel, the 1953 Iranian coup signaled a new, aggressive era in American foreign policy. Although largely unknown by the American populace, the coup is still invoked as justification for calling America "The Great Satan" and the echoes of that action continue to reverberate in the turmoil that engulfs many parts of our world.
I was initially introduced to this event by an excellent article that appeared in the New York Times in the spring of 2000. That article coincided with the release of a declassified internal C.I.A. document (written by agent Richard Wilbur) that was a after-action report detailing the inner workings of the C.I.A.'s involvement. That article is available online from the NY Times website and includes photos and a copy of the C.I.A. report.
A book on the subject, All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer appeared in the spring of 2004. An interview by the author that includes footage from a documentary on the coup is available online from the democracynow.org website.
The Mossadegh Project is dedicated to advancing the study and understanding of Mohammad Mossadegh.
Mossadegh - The Rock Opera
I have been a songwriter since the late 80's and began toying with musical theatre writing in 1999. The aforementioned NY Times article appeared at a time when I was looking for new material for a dramatic musical work of some kind. I filed it away on my hard drive and moved on to other things, specifically a career transition out of performing and a musical comedy about investment bankers. Another idea that was floating in my head at the time was the paradoxical concept of a "Rock Opera" based on an ancient historical event - dramatizing the timelessness of the human experience.
The Irreplaceable Commodity was the investment banking musical and it made it's debut as a self-production at the 2003 New York International Fringe Festival. Producing a full-scale musical comedy is always an ambitious affair and in the confines of what is still a largely guerilla theatre festival, the experience turned out to be very stressful, expensive and unpleasant. It got me thinking there had to be an simpler, cheaper and easier way to do a dramatic musical work that fit more appropriately within the draconian technical limitations of an Off-Off-B'way festival.
This led to the merging of ideas into a rock opera about the 1953 coup. The use of a rock band as the sole performers reduces the cast size and technical requirements to a manageable level. The abstract nature of the rock opera form permits reduction of a large historical story into a simple 45-minute theatre work with an emotional life driven by a catchy power-pop score. And the direct relationship between the decisions of 1953 and the American entanglement in Iraq permits an artistic response to current events.
Work on MOSSADEGH began in September of 2003, culminating in a submission to the Fringe Festival on January 8, 2004, an acceptance letter on May 10, 2004 and an opening night August 17, 2004 - two days shy of the 51st anniversary of the 1953 coup.