A Step Towards Arab Dramaturgies

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I was motivated by the symposium’s mission statement that read: “Contemporary theatre and performance in the Arabic world is a diverse and contested set of practices that are unfolding in a fast-changing political and culturally complex region. In this situation, the performing arts are under pressure to independently produce new work, uphold traditions— and simultaneously to speak about contemporary lives, nationalism, class, race, religion, gender and new forms of theatre. In this symposium, we ask how theatre can continue to grow, develop artistically and continue to be a voice in the future of the Arabic world. How can the theatre in the region thrive?” I was thrilled to be part of the organizing team. For the reason that this mission fully aligned with my ongoing interest in defining (and possibly theorizing) Arab dramaturgy and practices that of the past, present, and future.

The resources provided by the partnering institutions paved the way to put together a successful academic event that explored theatre practice and process, presented by a diverse array of Arab, Western, and Arab-American voices. To meet our mission, we were adamant in creating programming that compliments both theory and practice. The sessions, panels, and papers presented at the convening were decided based on submissions by theatre academic colleagues, and through discussions held with contemporary Arab theatre practitioners that have thriving careers in the US, Arab world, and Europe.

Towards Arab Dramaturgies symposium, which took place on the 27th-28th of September, 2018 at the Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, had a line-up that was broken down over two days. The first day primarily focused on the academic aspect of the event. We were particularly honored to inaugurate the event with internationally acclaimed Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal’s keynote speech, Participatory Art, Multiple Platforms. The international gathering also gave us the opportunity to take the time to make a tribute to Hazim Azmi, an Egyptain theatre researcher and critic, who had passed unexpectedly in the July prior while attending an international theatre congress organized by the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR). The tribute was read by his colleague, Dalia Bassiouny, who also participated in the symposium’s presentations and panels. The second day of the event was dynamic in its nature, as it incorporated both theory and practice conversations. Papers and panels presented discussed a wide range of subjects, such as Theatre of the Real, Dramaturgies of the Revolution, Alternative Arab Dramaturgies, Arab Dramaturgy in Medieval Cairo, Arab Dramaturgies on the European Stage, Arab American and Arab Artists in conversation, and many more.

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