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Theatre is generally seen as a universal phenomenon- no matter where one goes in the world, theatre will exist in some

form. While theatre is generally seen across the globe as a form of entertainment, it is also seen as a platform for political and social commentary. This is another universal feature of theatre. Even in countries where freedom of speech may not be promoted or even respected, this reactionary aspect of theatre still exists. In these countries, artists use theatre to speak out when they can t do so otherwise. In the !iddle East, where theatre is developing towards Western standards by leaps and bounds under sometimes oppressive governments, this use of theatre for commentary is still able to exist. The history of modern "rabic drama is traced independently to #yria $present-day %ebanon&, where it was introduced by !arun al-'a((ash in )*+,, and Egypt, where -a (ub #annu brought the form in )*,.. /oth men were influenced by Italian opera, and 0rench comedy in particular. 1owever, the "rab world has its own traditional forms of drama, which can be traced back as early as the tenth century. 2ne form of early play is the 3assion 3lay, which is linked to #hia !uslims and commemorates the massacre of al1usayn, son of the fourth 4aliph, and his family.) These are seen as extensions of religious rituals, and are in fact very similar to European medieval mystery plays, which depicted various stories from the /ible. "nother early form of "rabic drama is the shadow play. These are plays where the action is represented by shadows cast on a screen by flat, leather puppets. This is considered a sophisticated art form, which used comedy to make commentary on society


!uhammad !ustafa /adawi, !odern "rabic drama in Egypt. 'ew -ork5 4ambridge 6niversity 3ress, 7..8. )

a writer.8 Even from the beginnings of modern "rabic drama. the point of which is to make the audience aware that they re watching a play. theatre became an outlet for artists to express their political ideas and share them with the general population. !odern 7 4airo 3uppet Theatre + /adawi. Eugene Ionesco. /recht. !odern )+. there was a ma. @oger "llen and #alma Ahadra <ayyusi. where political parties were banned by the regime in power. director. s. Introduction. 8 !uhammad !ustafa /adawi. and young writers were eager to experiment with language and form. developed what is known as alienation theory. where puppets were used to depict religious stories.ections on the stage.or influences from European playwrights. This effect is obtained through various elements. "lienation serves to remove the audience from the emotions of the play in order to make the audience think rationally about what they ve . and theorist.9 While modern "rabic drama is considered to have really started in the ):9. B . such as visible theatre e(uipment such as lights and wires hanging onstage. The use of collo(uial "rabic $the language of everyday speech& became very widespread in drama. <ohn 2sborne.7 The use of puppets was seen particularly in ancient Egypt. there were ma. where the use of theatre for commentary exploded. #amuel /eckett. )::8. including /ertolt /recht. Indianapolis5 Indiana 6niversity 3ress. which is related to existentialist philosophy.+ This time was also important for the development of creative theatre which could fly under the radar of censorship in various countries. Especially in Egypt.ust seen. and literally describing the action through pro. and others. 2ther playwrights writing in 7 9 /adawi. %uigi 3irandello. ed. !odern "rabic ?rama5 "n "nthology.or revival in the late fifties and sixties. #amuel /eckett is considered the founder of what came to be known as =theatre of the absurd>.at the time.

s and spread into the "rab world. Isam !ahfuC. this time displaying /rechtian influence.or elements of /recht s epic theatre and alienation effect. This theatrical practice. which allows the audience to think B . "nd if I weren t here. This is one of the ma..this style include Eugene Ionesco and 1arold 3inter. along with /recht s theories. !ahfuC s play. "t the beginning of each scene. It generally promotes the belief that life is meaningless and doesn t make any sense. "nd if I weren t here. is clearly following a faulty form of logic. none of you would be here either. +B #a dallah Wannus. follows a young man named #a dun as he goes through trial for a crime he may or may not have committed. I wouldn t be here either. he wouldn t be here. ?isplaying the upcoming action removes any element of surprise from the play. and the preceding logic. "nd if we weren t here. on a topical level. the general proceeds to give a speech detailing why #a dun is guilty5 If he weren t guilty.> !odern "rabic ?rama5 "n "nthology. by !ahmud ?iyab. This. These European influences are clearly expressed in many "rab plays.> !odern "rabic ?rama5 "n "nthology. and #trangers ?on t ?rink 4offee. This type of absurd thinking shows the influence of /eckett on !ahfuC. none of you would be needed here. #a dallah Wannus s The Aing is the Aing. detailing the action of the upcoming scene.... If he weren t here. "nd if that were the case. was very popular throughout Europe in the mid-):. a poster is displayed on stage. =The 4hina Tree. These include Isam !ahfuC s The 4hina Tree. the 4lerk and the witnesses wouldn t be here either. /ut it s impossible that nothing at all has happened. =The Aing is the Aing. *7 . none of this would exist. speech in the play breaks down or otherwise doesn t make sense.B The general continues to say that #a dun is guilty because he is on a list. In one of the courtroom scenes. #a dallah Wannus also shows European influence in his play The Aing is the Aing. 2ften.

The play explores the relationship between <ews and "rab 3alestinians.or players in this field currently are 'abil #awalha and 1isham -aness. created for 3eace 4hild Israel. and discourages the audience from getting caught up in the action. 2ne of those plays is #ix "ctors in #earch of a 3lot. looking for an author to tell their story and each character demanding to be heard. the 4haracters interrupt a rehearsal. the actors try to be heard as individuals but they also try to agree on a plot. the strangers who enter the house of the !an are very nondescript people. /oth plays leave the audience with a sense of horror. Two of the ma.ust get up on stage and say what everybody has been saying in the privacy of their bathrooms for years. In ?iyab s play. especially in recent years. is based on %uigi 3irandello s #ix 4haracters in #earch of an "uthor. and created * #tephanie Eenkin. !any "rab playwrights discuss issues of politics and society in a theatrical context. including <ordan s Aing 1ussein. . This play. "s #awalha explains.about what is happening in the play in a context of social or political commentary. by !uhammad "hmed Daher. a youth theatre organiCation.> The !iddle East. they =. They infuse controversial topics with humor and present them to the public. #trangers ?on t ?rink 4offee by !ahmud ?iyab reflects a striking similarity to 1arold 3inter s play The /irthday 3arty. often making fun of worldwide political figures. 0or #awalha and 1isham. the way to comment on politics and society is to make fun of it. In 3irandello s play. some only express their ideas in certain plays. In Daher s version.>* While certain playwrights are influential in the arena of political and social commentary. although it is not apparent through much of the action why this is so. =Taking the Taboos. which add to the sense of horror and disturbance that on the surface seems to not actually exist. <ordanian playwrights. )::+.

"li "hmed /akathir is another playwright who reworked the tale of 2edipus. published in ):+:. /akathir. was directly inspired by the ):+* defeat of "rab armies in 3alestine. The "rab 2edipus5 0our 3lays. especially about those who use religion to manipulate and control people. an Egyptian critic.controversy. !unir comments that the /ritish manipulation of the Wafd party. is related in the play through Tiresias s manipulation of 2edipus. one of the ob.ustify their claims to the land. when /ritish troops manipulated the Egyptian king into appointing a pro-/ritish prime minister.or reworking of #ophocles 2edipus the Aing. : !elissa ?ribben. a strong supporter of both Islam and "rab nationalism. different from the original Ereek play. which served in the government.>: Tawfi( al-1akim. ). was the first one to attempt a ma. #ami !unir.). they will remain at an impasse. entitled The Tragedy of 2edipus. theoriCed that al-1akim s Aing 2edipus was an allegory specifically referring to the events of 0ebruary ):+7. displays the importance of both in his play. who is a corrupt individual. ed. 'ew -ork5 !artin E. 1is version. has been noted by critics to contain specific political commentary. .8.ectives is to show =how both sides use their respective histories as weapons. 1e makes a very strong commentary about religion in his play. al-1akim s play Aing 2edipus. 7. . and that as long as they wield these stories of how their people have suffered to .. a noted Egyptian playwright. The play comments mostly on the history of the Israeli-3alestinian conflict. this time clearly creating political commentary in his reworking. and according to director /illy -alowitC. #egal Theatre 4enter 3ublications. both in the audience and in the cast. regardless of how that may affect others. =3alestinian and <ew seek insight on stage. !arvin 4arlson.> 3eace 4hild Israel.

"t one point in the play. as a tool to manipulate people to commit the worst of crimes and the most horrible sins. It is enough for the people of Thebes. of 1ellas. Tiresias brings the truth about the 1igh 3riest out to the people.. and in fact spoke out against it. the 4hief of 3olice in Thebes. tragedies and crises that would rend the heart. in a comedic manner. and complete reliance on the high leadership figure.In /akathir s Tragedy of 2edipus. but portrays many (ualities of modern times.)) /akathir. there is an amusing and also important scene between "walih. he is making it relevant to current events and current situations affecting audience members. "t this point. #alim s 4omedy of 2edipus is set a long time ago. which is one of the noblest feelings. a Theban playwright. and #enefru. it is enough for humanity to have one man who excels in this art as this priest does. particularly the moderniCation of the !iddle East.. tackles a number of issues affecting the population at the time #alim was writing.. at this point. wants to inform people of the corruption that he sees in his current continued creating the tragedy. "li #alim s play The 4omedy of 2edipus5 -ou re the 2ne Who Ailled the /east. the seer Tiresias is a priest who is thrown out of the circle of priests by the corrupt 1igh 3riest.. no. /ecause of that. shake the body and fill the heavens and earth with uproar. successfully scaring the population from talking to him. to fill the earth with evil. Tiresias was thrown out of the priesthood by the 1igh 3riest because he did not agree with the corruption. "walih is trying to explain to )) "li "hmed /akathir =The Tragedy of 2edipus> The "rab 2edipus5 0our 3lays. 7+B . the 1igh 3riest condemned him as an atheist. %ater in the play. I will reveal to you the secret so that no one after you will be deceived by a charlatan like him who abuses the sacred and trades on the faith of believers and uses Eod s love. and who goes to the atheistic 2edipus to give him guidance during his time of trouble. who had perpetuated the cycle of action that caused 2edipus to kill his father and marry his mother5 . While he is placing it in the context of an ancient Ereek tragedy. artistic censorship.

Tiresias $acting as the same persona as in the Ereek original& comments on the city s total reliance on 2edipus to kill the beast that is threatening the city... as though directly spoken from the playwright himself5 )7 "li #alim =The 4omedy of 2edipus5 -ou re the 2ne Who Ailled the /east. crafting a very effective speech.putGtingH it forward by five thousand years.> The "rab 2edipus5 0our 3lays.) )+ @oger "llen. and various other inventions.. When "walih asks #enefru to back him up by giving an example of one of his plays. ed. The last ma. #alim comments on the Egyptian people s complete reliance on 'asser as leader through the metaphor of =the city> relying on =the king. " short time after the scene with "walih and #enefru... . 7:.. 2n one end. bringing along the telephone. the (uick rush to produce everything at once isn t beneficial to the largest amount of people.F>)7 While it is an amusing scene. died. Iery early in the play. 2edipus proclaims that he will save the city from its troubles by =. #enefru responds =Which playF The one you banned.. but on the other end that same government is attempting to prevent playwrights from speaking their minds. 3resident of Egypt. 98+. the government is trying to portray an environment of free speech and openness. While moderniCation necessarily isn t a bad thing. #alim is trying to comment here about the rush of moderniCation that was occurring in the !iddle East at that time.>)+ #alim makes numerous references to this idea throughout the play. television. it also reflects the current $at the time of writing& situation surrounding censorship. !odern "rabic ?rama5 "n "nthology. The play also comments on the moderniCation of the !iddle East.or comment #alim makes in his play is the huge reliance on a single leadership figure.>)9 2edipus succeeds in doing so. )9 #alim 9.2edipus how the city of Thebes is very open and promotes freedom of speech. This play was published in ):. the same year that Eamal "bdel 'asser.

"s in The 4omedy of 2edipus. he is trying to reach out to the audience in light of 'asser s death. 1e even tries to get the people to stop placing total reliance on him. as some people had portrayed him to be.once upon a time. instead of relying on a single figure that might not always be there to fix the problems. then king. The Aing is the Aing. Through the speeches of Tiresias and 2edipus. They must find the way themselves. and tries to explain that to the people he serves. by reminding them that he is. reminding them that they shouldn t place all of their faith in one man. and in fact can t do that anymore. #alim. Towards the beginning of the play. 1e tells a tale of a community that shared everything. along with Tiresias. written by #a dallah Wannus.9 #alim 99* . 1owever. is another play that uses comedy to address a serious political issue. /ut what of the beast within youF Who is going to kill that.)B 2edipus realiCes the danger in relying on only one man to run and save a country. through the characters of Tiresias. tries to discourage the people from placing all of their faith in one man. and later 2edipus. until one day a stronger man decided to break up the community and control everything. in fact.that stupid beast that makes you forever wait for the one who will solve your problems for you. since they have blind faith in him. in return for which you will concede him anythingF)8 Tiresias. created a system of using masks to hide who people )8 )B #alim 9. they will not listen. the young man 6bayd tells a story about a long time ago. This man. 2edipus. acting as the voice of reason. Wannus warns of the dangers of one man controlling everything in the country. tries to convince the people to think for themselves and to find solutions themselves. only human and not a god. is relating to the audience the dangers of total reliance on one person.It may well be that 2edipus will solve the riddle and settle the problem of the best. who became the landlord.

In one speech. /oth of these plays deal with the treatment of women in "rab culture. The piece starts of in a moment of reminiscing. While many plays deal with political issues. he also states that =Even the 1oly Jur an has advised us to beat our wives. !any others deal with social issues.).>)* 6dwan is reflecting on the social norms of that area. understandable occurrence. L"dil. . chastises 1ani for his limited views. a young woman with a degree in electrical engineering. and can only be restored by revolt. where beating one s wife is a normal. not all of them do. 1e says. he reflects on the cultural idea of beating one s wife. )* Wannus :* !amduh 6dwan =That s %ife. except 'adia. That s %ife is a single.> !odern "rabic ?rama5 "n "nthology B+-8.that without him ). 'obody in the audience has the knowledge to help. telling him that his responsibility for getting the electricity back on was very large. 6bayd s story warns of the dangers of placing power in the hands of one man. It upsets the natural balance of things. but (uickly turns angry and resentful. =#o what if I used to beat youF I m your husband and your master. I could beat you till you were black and blue. but in a completely different manner. a devised piece by the /alalin 4ompany of <erusalem..really are. including !amduh 6dwan s play That s %ife and ?arkness.. she is prevented by her fiancK 1ani. and he expresses his anger in various speeches. When she tries to help. The husband is angry with his wife for leaving him behind. 6bayd ends the story by saying that the system that this strong man created once upon a time. a fellow audience member. a theatre group is trying to put on a show when the lights go out. long monologue given by the husband of a woman who has recently died.> %ater. In this play. who has a somewhat traditional view of what a woman s role should be. ?arkness also deals with the issue of the treatment of women.

=The /ird 1as 0lown. showing that none of the company members $since this is a created piece. specifically referencing Auwait and /ritain. and insists that -usuf leaves. discusses another social aspect. being raised in Western society. Iarious characters chastise 1ani until he relents. "fter -usuf arrives in Auwait. The /ird 1as 0lown.the cultural differences between !iddle Eastern and Western permission to 'adia to help. "fter every performance ): 7.ust as many ways as there are issues. and they are addressed in . sees nothing wrong with this situation. . sees this event as a stain on his family. "bd al-"CiC al-#urayyi. a play by "bd al-"CiC al-#urayyi. belonging to the traditional Auwaiti society. who was supposed to be married to -usuf s half-brother #alem. 3eace 4hild Israel s #ix "ctors in #earch of a 3lot addresses the Israeli-3alestinian conflict in a uni(ue way. they would all have to sit in the dark. after being raised by his mother in /ritain.> !odern "rabic ?rama5 "n "nthology 79:.> !odern "rabic ?rama5 "n "nthology ):*.): 1ani s subse(uent relenting to pressure and allowing 'adia to help shows the company s progressive views towards women. The final straw comes when it appears as though -usuf has had sex with his cousin #arah.7. This shows that while some !iddle Eastern countries are trying to moderniCe and WesterniCe. saying that the different cultures are too different to be in the same house. there are some aspects of the culture that really can t be translated well into other areas of the world. 1is father. Iarious issues are discussed in these diverse plays. the cultural differences become apparent immediately. and then provide a chance to talk after the performance. =?arkness. the 0ather s eldest son -usuf is moving to Auwait to be with his father. -usuf. The /alalin 4ompany of <erusalem. created by all members of the company& agrees with 1ani s view on the proper role for women. In this play. They present the issues on the stage.

>79 4learly. 1aira.7) This allows not only the actors. The Aey is another play that addresses issues in a creative way. This play.> !odern "rabic ?rama5 "n "nthology 78.of this play. The wife in the play. This play. 79 al-"ni 7. mocked every ma.. who.B . When they return to the 1erdsman. discussed the issue of security.77 Throughout the play. controlled environment. he describes how his farm has been destroyed. the couple runs into various problems while tracking down the pieces from the old story that they need to provide security for their child. but also audience members to interact with the play and discuss it in a rational. like everyone else in the play. is 'abil #awalha and 1isham -aness s play ='ew World 2rder>. wants to have a baby but her husband 1airan refuses to have one until he can be sure that his child can have a peaceful. !any of these plays reflect the openness of the countries they were written in. stage directions dictate that =The Dionist attacks in 3alestine could be shown as a background to this scene. has a piece of the =puCCle> that they must solve. which was based off of folklore. #awalha and -aness believe that their work exceeds art. at least in the country of <ordan. secure life. produced in )::9 on the heels of the Eulf War. and that they in fact provide a signpost of <ordan s increasing liberalism since <ordan s ):*: 7) 77 ?ribben -usuf al-"ni. there is a discussion session moderated by either a psychologist or conflict resolution expert. the playwright is making a point of the destruction that the attacks in 3alestine and imperialism in general have caused in the !iddle East.. =The Aey.or political figure involved in that war. "lso scenes of imperialism and its agents in more than one of the liberated countries could be shown. 2ne play that clearly shows openness. "t this point. and others reflect ways that playwrights in more restrictive countries have managed to express their ideas..

democratic reforms. allowing freedom of speech. which do not have to go through a censor.ected at that time by the censorship in Egypt..7 it was finally produced. !any aspects of Western theatre have been incorporated into "rabic theatre. expressing it to audiences within their country and encouraging others to do the same. "rabic theatre has overcome many obstacles in the form of censorship. It has also allowed a vast number of people to express their ideas through the context of art and theatre..) had been re. While a film he had written in ):. in 7. even though there may be restrictions for doing so. s. for the end purpose of simply allowing artists to express their ideas on political and social issues. years for his work to finally be free. 7+ 78 Eenkin %enin El-@amly . %enin El-@amly is another playwright who has proven adept at gaining freedom of speech through his work. it has made great progress towards becoming . Even though modern "rabic drama has only been in progress since the mid):. #ome ways are through the use of symbolism and the historical archetype. "lso. can be used to portray political or social commentary.78 While it took over 9. progress has been made towards freedom of artistic expression. and modern theatre in the "rab world has combined Western styles with some traditional aspects of "rab theatre. he or she can find ways to express ideas and share them with the public.ust as open and free as Western theatre. If a playwright is creative enough. 1owever. Those playwrights must be very skillful in how they go about dealing with the censorship while still expressing their ideas. and also freedom of speech. it shows that over time.7+ These laws have allowed these playwrights to openly create political commentary. some playwrights must deal with censorship. scenic elements.