Monday, October 27, 2008

Shakespeare and experimentation

Attending the Cairo festival gave me a new, very obvious idea about why directors all over the world experiment so obsessively with Shakespeare. (In addition to the Sudanese Lear already mentioned, and a middle-school-quality version of Romeo and Juliet by a Greek company, there were three Macbeths this year: a no-men Slovak version, a beautiful Ukranian dance piece, and one other that I'm forgetting right now.)
This is speculative, but one reason may have to do with the (increasing) internationalized festivalization of the world theatre scene. Often there are no surtitle translations at these festivals, or only very poor ones. This fact would seem to privilege either 1) theatre that reworks well-known texts, or 2) "post-dramatic" theatre where the text is demoted and becomes only one component of the performance, perhaps secondary to scenography, costumes, movement, etc. (I was pulled in to interpret for a member of the jury, Chinese playwright and scholar William Huizhu Sun, as he complained about this anti-text bias in an interview with a very minor Egyptian newspaper.) Best of all fare the plays that do both, e.g. the (not very imaginative, to my eye, but well-liked) adaptation of Antigone performed at CIFET by the Italian Mistral Modern Dance Company, which adapted a classic script AND augmented the text (not really dialogue) with interpretive dance.
So... the expedient of sliced-and-diced Shakespeare!
(This posting just confirms that the "how" question in international Shakespeare studies is more interesting than the "why" question.)

Sudanese Lear at Cairo Festival

Several Shakespeare adaptations at this year's Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre. One of them was a two-person Sudanese Lear, reviewed here by Kristin Johnsen-Neshati.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Panel discussion planned at Kennedy Center

I had a meeting with the folks at the Kennedy Center back in July to suggest some scholarly "sideshow" events to their 3-week-long Arab performance festival. Did it work?

Shakespeare in the Arab World
This discussion examines Arab-Islamic interpretations of Shakespeare and why the Bard's stories work so well within a cultural context so seemingly far removed.
Mar 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM
Millennium Stage, 1 hour

Wisely (I can't claim credit for this one), they've also enriched their festival with two staples of DC life: international food and embassy parties. I ought to say something snarky about this program, but it actually sounds great!:
A Taste of the Arab World
This three-part mini-immersion takes you on a journey into the various regions of the Arab world, learning about the land, the people, and the culture of each region.
Feb 28 - Mar 14, 2009
Rehearsal Room, 5 hours, $100.00 - $270.00
A Unique Series Over Three Saturdays: Feb. 28; Mar. 7; Mar. 14
Each Saturday of the ARABESQUE: Arts of the Arab World Festival, this mini-immersion takes you on a journey into the various regions of the Arab world. Your journey begins at the Kennedy Center with a lecture about the land, the people, and the culture of each region. Next, visit embassies where you will hear the music, taste the cuisine, and explore the arts of each of the featured countries.
Regions include the Gulf, the Levant/Mashriq, and Northern Africa/Maghreb. Patrons may purchase the complete three-part series at a discounted price, or any individual Saturday session at single ticket prices.