Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yvette Khoury on Akhir Yom

Akhir Yom (The Last Day): A Localized Arabic Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

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

Al-Bassam's RIII coming to Kennedy Center

Announcement via The Associated Press. Watch how Sulayman's play is again appropriated as the "bridge" between cultures or even "two great civilizations." Both the Kennedy Center's president and the Arab League ambassador do it. (I am trying to write an article on this phenomenon.)

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.