Monday, February 14, 2011

Bahman 25, Tehran

Looking out from the City Theatre onto the demonstration

What to say about today? 

1) Our schedule has us seeing three shows. We meet to leave early for the first theatre - at 3pm. With the planned demonstration, we don't know if our route to the theatre will be blocked. We get in our minivan, and this time, a security guard from the festival comes with us. In the case of roadblocks, he can get us through.

2) There are no roadblocks. Just very bad traffic. Arriving at the theatre, we are taken upstairs to an office, for tea. From here, we have a clear sight of Enghelab Street. This is one of the routes along which the demonstration is forming, to march towards Enghelab Square. There are riot police and soldiers everywhere. Below us, in front of the theatre (it's a very big theatre complex), are parked about a dozen police vans. Over the course of almost an hour, more and more people pass by us, marching towards the square. Perhaps a few thousand. It is peaceful. Traffic is backed up terrifically. The car horns are a sign of support, says someone.

3) We go downstairs to watch show number one. We all feel slightly odd to be seeing a play, with so much drama outside. But it is a good piece, from Italy. A young group, very inventive staging. 45 minutes of imagistic theatre about a man who has no memory.

4) Back to the minivan. We pass Peter Stein and his team going to the theatre we just left. We get in and drive. By this point - none of our cell phones work.

Now it gets interesting.

5) The route to the next theatre is THROUGH the demonstration. We join the long rank of cars. I will blog more later about what happened - i.e. when i'm out of Iran. But we all get safely through a bit of sheer fear and insanity, and go to possibly one of the worst productions I have ever seen in my life. So we risked our lives for this? we think. 

6) The next route, to theatre three, is easy. We see many police - but we are now not near the demonstration. We arrive in time for a meal in the theatre restaurant. The cell phones work again. We see a wonderful Iranian bouffon piece - Strange Creatures - looking at the cycling of regimes and the effect of such a cycle on these strange grotesque beings. 

7) We return to the hotel. We hear that three Estonian theatre artists were taken in for photographing in the street. Several of the foreign theatre artists here have had run-ins with the secret police or the Sepah (Islamic Guardians - an almost all-powerful private army) about camera use. 
8) I run into Peter Stein in the hallway, and thank him for his show last night. We chat a bit, auf Deutsch. He says he had a good writer (that would be Goethe). 

9) In my room, i get online. I read in Al Jazeera about the demonstration today, trying to find out what happened. Here's the article: The Ottawa Citizen has reported on the demonstration:
. And the New York Times report echoes what I am myself seeing and hearing:
According to Al Jazeera, it seems some people lost their lives today.

10) I go to bed. I feel the adrenaline still in my system. I hope for calm tomorrow. I think about arrests and deaths and Faust and Bouffon. This is a surreal trip.

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