The Cultch’s Executive Director Heather Redfern is in Tehran, Iran to attend the 29th Fadjr Theatre Festival. It’s an interesting time indeed in that part of the world. Here is her second dispatch from the festival. You can read her first post here, with more to come tomorrow.
Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011
Friday afternoon we were briefed by the festival and finally had an opportunity to see a bit of Tehran. We went to the north part of the city which is much brighter than the grey quality the streets have near our hotel. There are stores selling chain store chic clothing, people walking together in the streets, neon signs and for us a stop at a pomegranate stand where you can get all things pomegranate. On the advice of our translator we all had the pomegranate ice cream which was truly wonderful despite the chilly weather. This morning it snowed hard but the sun is out and the snow melted this afternoon. People think of Tehran as being hot but in fact it is in a bowl surrounded by mountains and can be very much like Vancouver in the winter.
This morning at the festival we had our first encounter with the young Iranian theatre artists whose work it is we are here to see. At the “marketplace” in the foyer of the beautiful opera house, they made video presentations and invited us to speak with them. The atmosphere was very formal but the artists are eager to share their creations with the world so we are keen to learn about them.
Beginning tonight we will see their performances on stage. There are several international guests here including Peer from Germany, Shahin from One Light Theatre in Halifax, and Levon from Toronto. They have worked on co-productions with Iranian companies and their familiarity with the culture, language (Farsi) and some of the artists is very helpful to all of us in the International delegation as we try to decipher the program and get to know the work of these artists. I truly believe that this kind of artistic sharing and exchange is very important to international diplomacy. It is by seeing contemporary art being made by artists that we begin to understand a culture and develop a view of a people that we don’t see on the television news.
Some random observations:
There is a big difference between public and private life here. There is a formality to being in public. People are very nice to us but there is definitely a protocol. Though I have yet to experience it, I understand that when people are in their homes they lead a more relaxed life than we see.
There is one station on the television with English subtitles and the news out of Egypt is being compared to the Iranian revolution and celebrated as the beginning of Egypt’s Arab revolution.
The traffic in Tehran is wild and the air pollution is very bad. We have been grateful for the wind and snow showers that help to clear the air.
For lunch I had a most wonderful stew made with pomegranates and walnuts. This was a welcome change from the diet of rice and kebabs (meat and fish) that we have been offered at every lunch and dinner. I am now determined to seek out these interesting stews that are traditional Iranian fare but are not as widely available as the kebabs.