Friday, November 14, 2008
Audio is here: http://www.cornell.edu/mediavolume/events/2008/20080228_litvinMargaret.mp3
That's Shawkat Toorawa (thanks, Shawkat!) giving the very gracious introduction.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Arabic Shakespeare Project is hoped [sic] to bring together no artists from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Morocco in a unique performance piece that will premiere in Morocco 2009 as part of the 1st Moroccan Winternachten International Literary Festival. It will then be offered to festivals in Morocco in 2009 before moving to Europe.
The Project has its roots in a project I created in Russia on a Fullbright Fellowship in 2000. There I worked at VGIK (The All Russian State Institute of Cinematography) under master cinematographer Vadim Ysouf to make a film with the theme “Shakespeare in Translation”. That work illustrated the complicated poetic tensions experienced by Boris Pasternak when he was forced by the Soviet government to translate Shakespeare in a form that was alien to his- and the work’s- poetic nature.
The Arabic Shakespeare Project will present live performances of Dhakirah, a script created by Mervyn Willis, utilizing Shakespeare in an equally groundbreaking context.
The Production is built around Shakespeare scenes forming a narrative arc of the army truths and paradoxes transparent in romantic love. These scenes are punctuated and woven together into seven sections driven by a narrative derived from the works of the Syrian poet Nizar Kabbani and contemporary Moroccan writer Youssef Amine Elalamy. The piece is performed in English, Arabic, and French, with a cast of four Moroccan actors, composer Karim Machdoud, and a highly visual style designed by Moroccan designer Abdelmajid Elhaouasse, all under the direction of British director Mervyn Willis.
The Arabic Shakespeare Project is planned to rehearse Spring-2009 and premiere in Rabat in mid-2009 and then tour to festivals and other cultural centres in Morocco in 2009. In the planning stages subsequent tours in 2009/10 are envisaged in France, the United Kingdom, and Holland, and other European centres of culture.
Monday, October 27, 2008
This is speculative, but one reason may have to do with the (increasing) internationalized festivalization of the world theatre scene. Often there are no surtitle translations at these festivals, or only very poor ones. This fact would seem to privilege either 1) theatre that reworks well-known texts, or 2) "post-dramatic" theatre where the text is demoted and becomes only one component of the performance, perhaps secondary to scenography, costumes, movement, etc. (I was pulled in to interpret for a member of the jury, Chinese playwright and scholar William Huizhu Sun, as he complained about this anti-text bias in an interview with a very minor Egyptian newspaper.) Best of all fare the plays that do both, e.g. the (not very imaginative, to my eye, but well-liked) adaptation of Antigone performed at CIFET by the Italian Mistral Modern Dance Company, which adapted a classic script AND augmented the text (not really dialogue) with interpretive dance.
So... the expedient of sliced-and-diced Shakespeare!
(This posting just confirms that the "how" question in international Shakespeare studies is more interesting than the "why" question.)
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Shakespeare in the Arab World
This discussion examines Arab-Islamic interpretations of Shakespeare and why the Bard's stories work so well within a cultural context so seemingly far removed.
Mar 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM
Millennium Stage, 1 hour
Wisely (I can't claim credit for this one), they've also enriched their festival with two staples of DC life: international food and embassy parties. I ought to say something snarky about this program, but it actually sounds great!:
A Taste of the Arab World
This three-part mini-immersion takes you on a journey into the various regions of the Arab world, learning about the land, the people, and the culture of each region.
Feb 28 - Mar 14, 2009
Rehearsal Room, 5 hours, $100.00 - $270.00
A Unique Series Over Three Saturdays: Feb. 28; Mar. 7; Mar. 14
Each Saturday of the ARABESQUE: Arts of the Arab World Festival, this mini-immersion takes you on a journey into the various regions of the Arab world. Your journey begins at the Kennedy Center with a lecture about the land, the people, and the culture of each region. Next, visit embassies where you will hear the music, taste the cuisine, and explore the arts of each of the featured countries.
Regions include the Gulf, the Levant/Mashriq, and Northern Africa/Maghreb. Patrons may purchase the complete three-part series at a discounted price, or any individual Saturday session at single ticket prices.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Mamede works on the sources of the 1001 Nights and has published (rather, is publishing; a third volume is in progress) the first Arabic-to-Portugese translation of the Nights. Safa teaches Arabic and writes on linguistics, contemporary Arab poetry, and Hermes Trismegistus' Treasure of Alexander. They are two of the people behind TIRAZ, a new USP-based interdisciplinary journal of Arabic studies.
Friday, May 30, 2008
In her second letter, Anav Silverman from Sderot writes a long screed about politics and history. At the end she adds:
Outside the conflict, I was wondering what English books you like reading? This year, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, is one of my favourites. I can't decide if Heathcliff is truly a villain!Mona Yousef responds:
Best wishes and keep well,
Heathcliff is a victim of his tyrannical society, but when he is in power, he becomes a victimiser himself. Do you notice, the victim always becomes the bully when he has control?
And her letter ends:
My favourite English novel is Heart of Darkness for Joseph Conrad. Don't you think, colonialism in all ages has the same ideology?
Do you like Shakespeare? Hamlet is one of my favourites. Every time I read it I discover that he has a new problem.
In the third round of letters, Anav responds:
I read your second letter with interest, noting that your comparison of Heathcliff with Israel is inaccurate and does not reflect the complete reality of the conflict.
I like Shakespeare too. King Lear is my favourite play. I love how Shakespeare explores the meaning of morality and truth through characters like King Lear.
It is now exam season at my university so I've been quite busy studying. I have an exam next Sunday on Milton's Paradise Lost. I only hope to pass!
Mona's last letter ends:
I would like to know after our three letters, what we have in common to share.
We have opposite ideologies and sometimes contradicting versions of the same history, yet one land to fight on. Again and again we forget that we are human beings. . . . Since this will be the last letter, I would like to say that this exchange with you has been one of the most interesting experiences of my life.
I hope you did well in the Milton exam.
First Nu`aymah goes after Mutran for various inaccuracies and misunderstandings that suggest he translated from a French translation rather than Shakespeare's original. (This claim is now widely accepted, though nobody seems to have a specific theory of which version/s Mutran used: please contact me if you do.) Next he attacks Mutran's use of rarified Arabic vocables "dug up from the lexical graveyard" - these archaisms, he says, are designed mainly to make the Arab reader feel he does not know his own language well enough. He hates Mutran's intralingual glosses. (Strikingly, Mutran's footnotes do not elucidate difficult points in Shakespeare, but rather explain Mutran's own recherché words and expressions.) The unstated assumption behind both critiques is that translations of Shakespeare should be accurate and transparent: the great master's words and thoughts are so important that the translator should try to convey them as accurately and clearly as he can, without drawing attention to his own style. As though he were translating Scripture. (Translations should also be actable, he says.)
Here's the interesting thing about Nu`aymah: he both does and doesn't accept that Shakespeare's sacred status is culturally constructed. He starts his essay by observing that to translate Shakespeare is a uniquely difficult task. Shakespeare is the literary equivalent of "the summit of Mount Everest"; "The son of literature approaches Shakespeare with the same piety as that with which a son of religion approaches the saints of his religion." He explicitly refuses to discuss whether Shakespeare deserves this veneration or not. Yet two paragraphs later he is doing it himself: claiming that to mistranslate even a phrase of Shakespeare is to betray "the link between his thoughts and their linguistic reflection" where Shakespeare's unique genius lies. Nu`aymah insists this is not true of translating Hugo or Tolstoy.
Don't all scholars in our field end up doing this? Historicizing and analyzing Shakespeare's prominence, then accepting and subtly reinforcing it?
(The photo is Mutran... see how serious he is! For more on him, see Sameh Hanna's article in Critical Survey 19:3.)
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The play’s the thing… and so is a president in the audience
President Bashar Asad and his beautiful wife Asma, a former investment banker, are frequently seen on Damascus’s cultural circuit.
Recently, Shakespeare’s Richard III was brought to the Damascus stage after the city was named the Arab cultural capital of 2008. The Kuwaiti director, Sulayman al Bassam, reworked the play...
A good friend of mine related this anecdote to me after he watched the play. It was due to begin at 8pm but the crowd grew restless as an hour went by without any sign of the play starting.
“Two seats were being kept empty, obviously for someone senior,” he related. Finally who should walk in but Mr Asad and his wife. The president gave a gangly wave of the hand before sitting down. My friend was quite nervous at what he would make of the play. But he followed it intently and visibly cowered when a pistol was pointed at “Emir Gloucester”.
The audience waited expectantly during a sarcastic scene near the end when Gloucester, with mock reluctance, accepts the crown after a vote in which 99 per cent of the population endorses him. “What happened to the other one per cent?” someone asks. “Oh,” came the dry reply, “they were trying to vote by phone or online but ran out of credit.” Mr Asad – endorsed by 97 per cent of the vote in the last referendum – laughed heartily.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The poem is titled (slightly less decorously than the collection as a whole) "Calm down Hamlet, inhale Ophelia's smell." It was written in January 2006 (before the most recent Lebanon war, which he also writes about). On a very cursory first reading, not quite sure what it has to do with Hamlet (and it does not seem to be Adonis' best work, not that I am any kind of expert).
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Yvette K. Khoury
theatre research international · vol. 33 no. 1 pp 52–69
International Federation for Theatre Research 2008
This paper is an exploration of the 2004 Arabic adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , which premiered in Casino du Liban in Beirut. The Last Day was created by Oussama al-Rahbani, who also composed the musical scores. The play shows how local Shakespeares resonate with the wider global field of study, which in turn echo East–West cultural interactions. The Last Day challenges our perception of the Other in Arabic drama as it questions intraculturalism within the conflict-ravaged Middle East. It prompts us to ask how we should address local Shakespeares in a global context, and how local knowledge illuminates our understanding of Shakespeare’s reception. This paper emphasizes the fluidity of the field of Shakespearean studies and the instability of East–West cultural divides.
An earlier version was given at the VII World Shakespeare Congress in Brisbane, 2006.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
WASHINGTON: A retelling of Shakespeare's "Richard III," set in the contemporary Arab world of desert palaces and oil-rich kingdoms, is among the highlights of a three-week Arab arts and culture festival that will mark the 2008-2009 season of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The "Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World" festival — a name inspired by a calligraphic style from ninth-century Iraq — was announced Tuesday. It will feature artists from all 22 Arab nations in February and March 2009, and will be the largest presentation of Arab arts ever in the United States, Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser said.
Themes from "Richard III," for example, take on new meanings in the Arab context and can help bridge cultural divides, he said. "In this world of tribal allegiances, family infighting and absolute power, the questions of leadership, religion and foreign intervention are at the heart of Shakespeare's play," Kaiser said.
[Sulayman's familiar quote, of course, but look at the "cultural divides" stuff -ML]
The programming slate also includes dance ensembles from Lebanon and Syria as well as traditional belly dancing, [we hasten to reassure people] while exhibits will feature Arab photography, sculpture and fashion. Theater and musical offerings include diverse religious sounds of the region, and the more provocative "Alive From Palestine: Stories Under Occupation," a play produced by the only professional theater in the Palestinian territories.
. . .
The Arab festival in 2009 follows similar international events focused most recently on Japan and China. The festival is being coordinated with the League of Arab Nations, though still a "daunting" task to bring together 22 different nations, said Alicia Adams, vice president of international programming. She said the visa and customs process alone would probably be most challenging. [You think?-ML]
Arab League Ambassador Hussein Hassouna said the festival will promote
better understanding between Americans and countries ranging from Iraq to Sudan and Somalia. [Hmm, especially Sudan. -ML] "It shows that the Arab world belongs to a great civilization that wants to be interactive with other cultures," he said.
Kennedy Center officials continue to search for more artists to join the festival, though planning for the project began four years ago after the center brought the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra to perform in Washington.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
This article addresses the writing and performance work of Anglo-Kuwaiti director Sulayman Al-Bassam, tracing the development of his various adaptations of Shakespeare's Hamlet into English and Arabic 'cross-cultural' versions between 2001 and 2007. Al-Bassam's work presents English as a 'language in translation'. His works move from early modern to modern English, from Arabized English to Arabic, from one linguistic and geographical location to another, their forms moulded and remoulded by complex cultural pressures. The study focuses on specific examples from three adaptations to show in practice how in these works English is 'constantly crossed, challenged and contested'.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Anyway, here's the link:
When the Villain Steals the Show: The Character of Claudius in Post-1975 Arab(ic) Hamlet Adaptations JAL 38:2, 196-219.
Periodically when you're talking about Arab Shakespeare appropriation some mischievous soul will ask: "So, what do they do with The Merchant of Venice?" It's a good (if not nice) question. Now we can refer it to Mark Bayer's article in the current issue of Comparative Drama:
Mark Bayer, "The Merchant of Venice, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the Perils of Shakespearean Appropriation," Comparative Drama Volume 41 (Winter 2007-08 ), No. 4. See Project Muse for PDF and HTML.
Haven't read it yet, but Bayer's SAA paper on the same topic (2006) was interesting.The Arab League translation of MV (nice cover art, folks):
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Shakespeare key to understanding the Gulf region, says expert
Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare is a major influence on the Arab World, a leading academic will demonstrate in a public lecture.
Professor Bryan Loughery, a special guest of The British University in Dubai, will be discussing 'Arabesque: Shakespeare in Arabia'. Loughery has set himself the ambitious task of explaining how a country boy from Stratford-Upon-Avon authored works for the entire world, including the United Arab Emirates.'It's a tale of trade, empire and globalization, linking the Yemen, the Great Mughal, Arabic versions of the Bard, and performances of Twelfth Night in Doha,' said Loughery.
'Shakespeare is unique in that his work appears to influence and rise above the needs of particular eras, cultures and languages', he added.
Dr. Loughery, Director of Oakleigh International management consultants, first proposed some of these ideas to the most recent World Shakespeare Congress. He is keen to discuss the Bard's relevance to the GCC region, bringing a novel and subtle theme to the development of a knowledge economy in the United Arab Emirates.
A bit more here.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
And here are the nut grafs:
Included in the Complete Works Festival, Richard III: An Arab Tragedy was billed as a "response" to the main RSC production. It was an inspired commission. The Kuwaiti-British Al-Bassam oversaw a new Arabic translation of Shakespeare's text and assembled a gifted pan-Arab cast. He
worked with costume designer Abdulla Al Awadi to reproduce (and parody) a variety of regional fashions, dressing Queen Elizabeth (Carole Abboud) in Qatar-esque "sophisticated hijab" and punctuating Lady Anne (Nadine Joma'a) with a pink handbag in the shape of a poodle. He recruited Kuwaiti musicians to perform a powerful score that drew on a range of Gulf Arab musical styles, offset with eerie post-modern compositions by Lewis Gibson. And, as he had done in his earlier Shakespeare adaptation, The Al-Hamlet Summit (staged in English in 2002 and in Arabic since 2004), Al-Bassam sought out contemporary Arab and Muslim
correlatives for Shakespeare's treatment of rhetoric, religion, family, and politics.
However, Al-Bassam's take on Richard III went a step deeper than allegory. Tickets were originally sold under the title "Baghdad Richard," but Al-Bassam wisely decided against producing an adaptation centered on Saddam Hussein. Instead Richard III: An Arab Tragedy used Shakespeare's play to orient Western viewers to some traits of Gulf Arab culture and politics. It also commented (pessimistically, I thought) on the chances that such an orientation could somehow make sense of the violence and suffering in the region. In fact, by showing how the very tokens of cultural exchange (traditional costumes, music, prayers, food rituals, rhetorical tropes, etc.) were cynically theatricalized and exploited by those in power, the production undercut its own ethnographic lessons even as it imparted them.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
To my knowledge, this is the first essay collection in any language to be devoted to Arab appropriations of Shakespeare. Studies of international Shakespeare appropriation have mushroomed over the past 15 to 20 years. Excitement began to build in the 1990s, as several lines of academic inquiry converged. Translation theorists found in Shakespeare’s plays a convenient (because widely known and prestigious) test case. Scholars in performance studies, having noted how sharply local context could influence a play’s staging and interpretation, saw a need to account for ‘intercultural’ performances of Shakespeare in various languages and locales. Marxist scholars became interested in the fetishization of Shakespeare as a British cultural icon
which, in turn, was used to confer cultural legitimacy on the project of capitalist empire-building. Scholars of postcolonial drama and literature explored how the periphery responded. The “new Europe” provided another compelling set of examples. All this scholarship has developed quickly and with a great sense of urgency. Shakespeareans in many countries have contributed. By now there is a rich bibliography on Shakespeare appropriation in India, China, Japan, South Africa, Israel, and many countries in Latin America and Eastern and Western Europe.
Until recently, scholars of Arabic literature and drama were mainly passive participants in this growing Shakespeare conversation. The Arab world went unnoticed in the numerous edited volumes on international Shakespeare reception and appropriation. Though often aware of the major congresses on the subject, Arab scholars were rarely represented there. The World Shakespeare Bibliography Online, which catalogues materials in 118 languages, has had only
one active Arabic-speaking contributor in the past decade. Interesting studies of Shakespeare reception written in Arabic have not been translated. In English, a handful of articles and dissertations has represented the field. When scholars in Europe and the United States have occasionally mentioned ‘Arab Shakespeare’ to their colleagues, they have presented it almost as a novelty. Sometimes they have not hesitated to draw easy laughs by invoking the old legend
or joke that Shakespeare was really a crypto-Arab, ‘Shaykh Zubayr’.
However, this situation is changing quickly. In 2006 and 2007 the World Shakespeare Congress and the Royal Shakespeare Company, respectively, welcomed contributions by Arab playwrights. Shakespeareans and scholars of Arab drama and literature are getting better at talking to each other. (I should note that Graham Holderness has personally done much to help this trend with his involvement and encouragement over the past two years.) And as the essays in this issue will attest, Shakespeareans and Arabists alike are taking a variety of approaches to the question of what Arab readers, translators, rewriters, producers, directors, critics, and audiences do with Shakespeare.
Articles by Mark Bayer, Sameh F. Hanna, Khalid Amine, Rafik Darragi, Graham Holderness and Bryan Loughrey, Holderness, and me.