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Arab Theater Today – Seminar Amsterdam

Program with readings, lectures, short performances, debates, and films

Arab Theater Today consists of a two-day seminar in Amsterdam, with shorter versions of the program in The Hague, Utrecht, and Rotterdam. Expanding on subjects raised in the book Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre, edited by Eyad Houssami (Syria), Arab Theater Today includes presentations by festival artists and experts in theater and dance from the Arab World.
The book, a collection of essays by writers and artists tracing the history of contemporary Arab theater and its relationship to social change, is one of the first English language volumes on Arab theater. Houssami himself participates as both presenter and co-moderator. With special thanks to Prince Claus Fund and Hivos.

Day One: Cultural Practices in Times of Revolt: Questions of Engagement and Representation
After an introduction to Doomed by Hope by editor Eyad Houssami (Syria), artists living and working in Syria, Tunisia, and Egypt present and share their work. Participants include playwright, actress, and festival director Leila Toubel from Tunisia; widely produced playwright Mohammad Al Attar from Syria; and young Syrian dance talent Hussein Khaddour, who also performs his solo For Me. The day concludes with discussions about engagement and representation. Key questions include the following: Which theatrical forms are vital and relevant in these times of change? Is retrospective distance from a tumultuous present requisite for making work that reflects on such historical moments? Do plays and performances that reflect on these historical shifts have an expiration date? Do artists and audiences tire of revolution? What are the demands and expectations of Western audiences, and does this influence the way artists work? Who is the audience anyway, and does it matter in a globalized world?

Day Two: Working Outside the Box: Theater As an Agent of Change
Rafat Al Aydeh, a member of Theatre Day Productions, presents together with his colleagues Jan Willems and Jackie Lubeck the work of this youth theater company and training center in Palestine. He also performs a short monologue about his choice to pursue a life of theater as a way of resistance. Artists and organizations that bring art to the streets, such as street performer Kassem Istanbouli (Palestine/Lebanon) and El Madina for the Performing Arts from Alexandria (Egypt), also share their work.

With youth in the Arab world searching for change and new identities, what is the significance of professional youth theater? How do companies working ‘outside the bubble’ of normal theater audiences and the in-crowd reach out to new audiences? How might we compare and contrast such theater-community dynamics in the Arab world today to the situation in The Netherlands or in countries such as Iran?

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