Monthly Archives: March 2014

Pertti Lintunen

The Black and White Theatre Festival – The International Festival celebrates 10 YEARS anniversary.

Black and White Theatre Association was established in 2003 in Imatra . The original intention of founders and creators of the entire theater festival – Kamran Shahmardan and Katrin Lätt was at that time in particular to develop and promote both adults and children oriented puppet theater activities. Before In Finland puppet theater was mainly regarded as a children’s theater as art , but in many other countries puppet theater has a long tradition in particular adult theater offerings.

For this thoughtful attention to the children, we are particularly grateful to the organizers of the festival as this is the only way to ensure the growth of theater friends in the future.

In 2007, the program was expanded with puppet theater festival in addition to the main program including dance theatre, pantomime , traditional drama and circus arts . From this year Black and White Theatre Festival has developed into a more versatile theater arts festival, where spectators have been enjoying with countless national and international , often experimenting with and bold theatrical representations of the groups most diverse areas at the streets and other public places. However, always one of the main festival program have also been targeted to children. For this thoughtful attention to the children, we are particularly grateful to the organizers of the festival as this is the only way to ensure the growth of theater friends in the future.

For 10 years Black and White Theatre Festival developed into one of the biggest South Karelia international cultural events. Its always diverse, experimental, and the revised program has already received a huge number friends outside the province. Therefore, at the end of May, theatre festival is more and more starting to be interested for visiting our city by international guests. Over the past ten years, the festival performances are followed by more tens of thousands of passionate theater art amateurs .

For this tireless work the great thanks are due to the festival creators and developers – Kamran Shahmardan and Katri Lätt .

Imatra city’s cultural events, including the Black and White Theatre Festival stands out specifically for the internationalization and continuously emerging.  For this reason, it is an excellent example of how hard work, and a strong personal commitment is achieved by a significant and respectable cultural work . For this tireless work the great thanks are due to the festival creators and developers – Kamran Shahmardan and Katri Lätt.

From whole Imatra, I wish to congratulate the Black and White Theatre Festival on 10-th anniversary. I wish the festival every success for the coming years and continue to develop the festival with the enthusiasm and fire as a sound of international basis which the festival was built as the result of hard work over the years.

Pertti Lintunen, Mayor of Imatra                                                                                                                             





Sinikka Hurskainen

For the past ten years the Black and White Theatre Festival has been offering high standard international theatre in Imatra at the culture center, the pedestrian street, schools, restaurants and the theatre. The Black and White Theatre Festival has charmed the spectators time after time. The amount of theatre groups has been growing such as the amount of spectators.

The roots of the festival go into the Katri and Kamran’s vision, the will to offer people multiple, high standard international theatre.

In order to carry on, you need a good idea and the people that believe in the idea and are ready to make sacrifices. In the beginning the festival was mainly about puppet theatre, both children and adults.

Through years the scale has been expanding and the groups of performancers has come from more and more countries. This year we can enjoy the performances from twenty-one groups 18-25.5, some of them in Lappeenranta.

The Black and White Theatre Festival is based mainly on voluntary labour, the help of enthusiastic supporters of the theatre.

The festival has been growing and developing into a high standard event, that’s earned it’s place in Imatra. Therefore it’s durability must be ensured also in an economical sense.

Congratulations for the ten-year-old festival!


Sinikka Hurskainen, protector of festival


Matti Saarela

One sees clearly only with the heart .

April 2002 we saw something special at the small stage of Theatre Imatra. I wrote a review on what I had seen. I discovered that the Puppet theatre play Little Prince directed by Kamran Shahmardan was a beautiful and a touching play. In it everything was in place. Little bit over one and a half years later Little Prince was taken on to the Mistelbach Puppet  Festival in Austria. The Mistelbach Puppet Festival, that locates 60 kilometers from Wien, was then and still is one of the biggest and most appreciated theatre events in Europe. February 2003 In the Irti Theatre Shahmardan made the  Kamengo’s Song, which was influenced by African village theatre. I Still remember the play very well. It was just that rare kind, that makes the spectator smile and feel good afterwards.   The puppets of Kamengo’s song were made by Dmitri Derjagin from St Petersburg, lighting by Finnish Risto Paasivirta and music by Austrian Herman Rechberger. In this play was forming the model of making theatre, that Shahmardan used to start creating Imatra an international theatre festival of it’s own. But first a new theatre needed to be founded; that happened in the beginning of may 2003. The just founded theater took itself a name The Black and White Theatre. An association was founded for administration of the theatre. The first chairman of the association Laura Tiainen justified the need for the new theatre among that Imatra resident Shahmardan and his group can execute their own productions from start to finish, and the founders of the association wanted to give him a chance to carry out his unique ideas. Still at first the idea of organizing a puppet theatre festival in Imatra sounded totally crazy. Mission impossible! I was a nonbeliever my self. I wrote that “A Finn can go through solid rock” but organizing an International puppet theatre Festival at Imatra was a far more tougher achievement. I assumed that “it takes some azerbaidzhanese persistence”.  But the “azerbaidzhanese persistence” was of a very cheerful sort back then, and the same optimism is still there, ten years since the first  Black and White theatre Festival was held. Before the first festival in spring 2004 I asked Shahmardan “what makes a man put all his time and money into a project like this?” Shahmardan’s answer was simple “A man should do what he loves”. Although he admits that he is a hopeless romantic. In this world, beauty and love will eventually win.

At the first Black and White Theatre Festival were groups from Germany, Russia and Finland. That time, in June 2004 Shahmardan believed that after ten years The Black and White Theatre Festival would be as well-known as the Theatre summer of Tampere. Shahmardan’s prediction did not hit badly off target. It might well be, that Black and White Theatre Festival is already as well-known as Theatre summer of Tampere, if the matter is measured not just by the view of us Finns, but by all the people in the world. Groups from so many different countries have visited the festival. The Festival has been made mainly with volunteer forces and with a shoelace budget. Despite the difficulties the theatre has established itself and in the year of celebration 2013 the Black and White Theatre got by it’s side the Neva-Saimaa Teatterisilta Festival. Kamran Shahmardan and his wife, the soul of the festival organization, Katri Lätt, have become very close to me. Lots of admiration and genuine respect is included in this friendship. Organizing  five days theatral festival in Imatra is an accomplishment, that you can only admire. Two years ago in my column I doffed my nonexistent hat to the duo. An international theatre festival in Imatra is a miracle and the founders and creators of the festival, Katri Lätt and Kamran Shahmardan have not done this miracle only once, but then, on may 24th in 2011, already the eighth Black and White Theater Festival kicked off. Every professional of theatre and every event organizer must know how totally demanding job it is to run this kind of circus, especially when everything needs to be done with a shoelace budget. I am also thinking about how much people moving to Finland from elsewhere can give us. Katri and Shahmardan are both immigrants. Many times I have been thinking about them when I have bumped into immigration conversation that still flows in the web and newspapers. We should get more of this kind of talented, hard working and creating people in here. I do not know Kamran very well, but I have seen all his directions he has made in Finland. In them, longing of beauty springing from strong emotion and intellectual pondering always meet. You can get a good image of Katri’s social skills by visiting her Facebook pages. A network forming of hundreds of friends reaches many countries. Probably this network is the one to give thanks for, that in may 2011 it was possible to see Iranian, Czech and Romanian theatre in Imatra. Long over twenty performing groups from 11 different countries.

For me The Black and White Theatre Festival was a reason to be astonished for a long time. In the year 2005 I wrote that the festival is kind of like The Lion of Ruokolahti; way too funny, way too wonderful and way too unbelievable. However it is true. In may 2005, a dragon and two lions were moving around on the field of Imatrankoski. The image is from an occasion that summer in which Shahmardan led the rehearsal of the final number. It might be that all south carelians still do not comprehend how significant matter the Black and White Theatre is. To myself the matter finally clarified in the spring 2005. I wrote a main scripture about it on the article page of Etelä-Saimaa. The names Finlayson, Gutzeit, Fazer, Sinebrychoff and many others tell about the roots of Finnish large companies. Often they have been founded by immigrants who have ended up in Finland. They have been brave and skilled people, who have, perhaps better than us Finns, in their time understood the possibilities the country’s nature and it’s people have had to offer. Same applies on the field of culture. Friendships and family relations breaking boundaries also open the kind of gates which otherwise would not even be bothered to knock on. I believed then, and now I am certain, that Black and White Theatre Festival fits well in the chain of wonderful summer events in Imatra. In spring 2005 Iranian Rain Puppet Group came to Black and White Festival through Prague. Home of the group was Teheran, a city of 17 million people.

Group leader Narmin Namzi praised sauna and swimming in the cold lake water as unequaled experiences. In Imatra the group performed Afshin Hashemin’s play The Wedding Gift. It combined modern storytelling with ancient tradition. Rain Puppet Group was according to themselves put together especially to perform this play. The Wedding gift (directed by Roshanak Roshan) was able to arrive in Imatra soon after the premiere in Teheran. Here in Finland we had read about the wrongdoings of Iranian conservative theocracy. Roshan told us then, that Iranian government had a positive stand about theater as an art form. Trips to Prague, Imatra and St Petersburg were financed by the art council of the government of Iran. In Iran the highest power also in culture was in that time, and still is, in the hands of the conservative theocracy.

According to Hashem, religion placed certain boundaries to the people making theatre. There were rules that you were not allowed to break. Hashem did believe that this was probably the case elsewhere too. In January I had the pleasure of making a wide personal interview about Shahmardan. The man told me how he had adapted in Imatra over the years. Silence had begun to ring and snow to sing in the immigrant’s soul. Based on the first meeting, Shahmardan may be  considered as an edgy and artistic character. There is a lot of temperament, but under the surface there is a sensitive and a humane person. Black and White Theatre Festival has demanded a lot from it’s makers, and it has given a lot to us. I hope that after the following ten years I can write about the happenings and the success of the festival again.

Matti Saarela

Katri Lätt


The basic idea on the Black and White Theatre Festival is that theatre and art do not know boundaries in between countries and cultures, therefore they are a wonderful way of bringing people together. By getting to know the festival program anybody can see that everyone, children or adults, any language or culture can understand the language of theatre. One of the causes to be selected to perform at the festival is that the performance contains as few words as possible. The performances are very high standard audio-visually – the views of the world and different cultures honor cultural traditions.

The purpose of the festival is to develop the city internally, offer theatrical experiences to both children and adults and bring new kind of modern cultural-travelling attraction in Imatra.


Katri Lätt , President of Assosiation                                                                                                                                                              


Kamran Shahmardan


Absolutely blank sheet of paper has no particular value, but if one draws a dot on it, the life will appear on the paper. The conflict of black and white that  happened when God created the world is implied here. This became the first, the most ultimate and the most divine drama. Based on this premise we have created the Theatre of Black and White. For me theatre is a mystical space that I am trying to explore. The actor and the spectator live in this space emphasizing to each other, and everyone makes his own choice. My theatre might be sometimes paradox and grotesque so that the magic powers of the actors could be revealed more. The theatre in traditions of Jerzy Grotowski and Antonin Artaud appeals to me. Systems of Michail Chekcov and Jerzy Grotowski are directed towards the development of actor’s psychophysics and his feature to work with his inner energy.


 The Black and White Theatre Festival celebrates its 10 years anniversary. During these 10 years Katri and me brought up this project like our child. Now I can certainly say that our Festival stands on its feet and it makes the decisive steps in a world of theatre.


10 years  – is it much or little? From the viewpoint of the theater’s history it is a short interval, but with the viewpoint of human life it is relatively long. This number seems to be even more substantial when looking on those past ten years which we have devoted to theatre.  


Kamran Shahmardan, Art-director