Monday, February 21, 2011

Doh Shambeh / My Last Night in Tehran

A few notes from yesterday:

1) Before the final ceremony, I meet with a young Iranian theatre maker, S.B. A short but memorable meeting. She speaks of being a woman in Iran trying to make theatre, of troubles with censors, of the challenge of being a feminist in such a place, of not being allowed to stay in a theatre for her own technical rehearsal because women should go home at night. We chat about technology and theatre - she has just made the first real-time interactive high-tech show in Iranian theatre, and wants to send me the DVD for notes ("Be cruel", she says, seeking honest feedback). She speaks of her generation (she is about 29), of being born during the Iran Iraq war, and how that has produced a generation unlike any who came before - how she had an ulcer as a 4 year old, how she wondered anytime her father left their house, if she would see him again. This is the generation in the audiences I sit with, this is the generation using social media, and taking to the streets. 

2) I also hear a story of the regime's secret police or militia, going into Tehran University and terrorizing the students - even hitting a Mullah who came to the students' aid. They were rounded up, and moved away as another group of young people was brought in - actors, impersonators. From this group were selected fake spokespeople who testified for TV cameras that they knew the student who died very well (Saneh Jaleh), and that he would never have been involved with the opposition. All this while the real friends, the real students, the opposition, were held at bay.

3) I attend the final ceremony. There is no sign of the demonstration happening tonight - it is raining, and the demonstration is not close to the theatre we are at. Only after do we hear of tear gas and attacks and potentially one dead. But in the giant and beautiful opera house - no longer used for opera, since opera is a decadent form of the West - are dignitaries and cameras galore. It's sum fancy. And, like most award shows, terrifically boring. Although one usually doesn't see an act about the birth of the prophet Mohammed, it still feels like the Doras… A couple hours in, I give my award (for best playwright). Then we get back in the bus, and go back to the hotel. We ALL want a beer, but alas…

The Opera House interior - at the final ceremony for 
the 29th Fadjr international Theatre Festival

 Jurors Andrea, Lambros and Mashoud

One of the acts at the final ceremony

4) Goodbyes are said. I am quite fond of the jurors I've been traipsing around Tehran with - Andrea Porcheddu and his wife, Daniela, from Italy; Prof. Lambros Liavas from Greece; Mashoud Raygan, from Iran. The other juror, Sayeed Kashanfallah, is never with us, socially. He is, I believe, pro-regime, or at least is able to work with them. Most of my time, in fact, is spent with the cool Italians and the learned Greek. Good people. 

Andrea, Mashoud, Lambros and me

5) Off to pack. Off to sleep.

6) In the morning, I travel to the city of Isfahan. My companion for this trip is Manuel Jose Alvarez, the programming director of the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogata - the largest curated theatre festival in the world. 

7) At the airport, I sit beside a young man who speaks to me in broken English. His father was a hero of the Iran Iraq war, and so has managed to get him a short military service (4 months instead of 2 years). The young man clearly loves his family, and misses his mother. He is about to spend a two-week vacation together with them, and he is very happy. He speaks of America - I love America - so many people love america. When i say i am from Canada, he says "James Cameron". He loves the Terminator movies and Avatar. We speak of Ridley Scott. And we speak of Iran. He also is no fan of the regime. He speaks of the ancient history of Persia. He speaks of the potential of the country, and how he hopes things will get better. He himself has a degree in mechanical engineering, and he clearly loves that, too. He is a sweet, sweet man. 

 Mehrabad Airport, Tehran - for domestic flights, and, it seems, Mexican corn

 Mehrabad Airport, Tehran

 Mehrabad Airport, Tehran - good vibrations, by the prayer rooms

on the tarmac, Mehrabad Airport, Tehran

8) We fly - after a loooooong wait in Tehran. Manuel and I are met by a soft-spoken guide named Iraj Honoraju.

9) Isfahan is astonishing - the opposite of Tehran (which Iraj calls a "garage"). The feeling is relaxed, the mosques and bridges and palaces and the bazaar are all breathtaking. This is a different Iran, and Iran of space and beauty. I will be here for part of tomorrow, then will begin the trek back to Toronto. I will fly to have dinner with N. in Tehran, and then catch a 3am flight to Frankfurt. I will bring many things back with me, among them a play White Rabbit/Red Rabbit - a play I hope to do in Toronto.

Once I'm out of the country, I'll blog a bit more about some of what happened to me, and others, in Tehran. And I'll add more photos, once I have a high speed connection. Thanks for reading.

And now, to sleep...

A preliminary poster design for the show

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