Damascus Theater Laboratory

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With these words, the last of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, actress Nawar Youssef ends the Damascus Theater Laboratory production, entitled It Happened Tomorrow, in the midst of actress Amal Omran’s sobs, and the tears of some of the audience that filled the abandoned roasting house in the old city of Damascus. Director Oussama Ghanam used the venue as an alternative space to perform his play, comprised of texts from Franz Xaver Kroetz, Dario Fo, Franca Rame, and Mark Ravenhill.

It was the fall of 2010, and the audience came out of this unusual play suffocating and euphoric, touched by the sensibility it instilled in them. Now, however, our sensibility has irremediably changed. It Happened Tomorrow was the first show produced by the Damascus Theater Laboratory, founded by Oussama Ghanam in the fall of 2010. But the story of the laboratory dates back to a slightly earlier time, to 2008 precisely, when Oussama Ghanam worked as the theatre curator for “Damascus, Arab Capital of Culture.” Thanks to his personal efforts, and to favorable conditions, he brought to Damascus showcases of some of the best of the world stage and international artists such as Peter Brook, Johan Simons, Arpad Schilling, Josef Nadj, Neville Tranter and several others. All of these were presented for the first time in the Syrian capital. In that exceptional year, a burgeoning sensibility was forming, particularly among a young enthusiastic group of students and graduates of the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus. Ghanam, through his work as a professor at the Institute, in addition to his role as a curator of an event that ran over the course of a year in the city of Damascus, and through his artistic practice as a dramaturg on Sławomir Mrożek’s well-received Emigrants, managed to shape the spirit that would preside over the creation of the Damascus Theater Laboratory a few months later. It began with the performance of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. Ghanam worked with a talented actor, Mohammed al- Rashi to present a monodrama that offered to the Syrian audience a relatively new artistic sensibility. The production split the audience in two: strong enthusiasts, touched by its sensitivity, and restless skeptics, dissatisfied by the use of literary Arabic instead of Syrian dialect, as it was the case in the Emigrants.

Damascus Theatre Lab

Amal Omran, Nawar Youssef, It’s Happened Tomorrow, 2010

Fall of 2010

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