Thursday, August 27, 2015

Academic article on Arab Shakespeares for British audiences

Happy to report that three years after the theatre festivals it analyzes, the article I co-authored with Saffron Walkling and Raphael Cormack for the Routledge journal Shakespeare is live: 
Margaret Litvin, Saffron Walkling & Raphael Cormack (2015): Full of noises: when “World Shakespeare” met the “ArabSpring.” Shakespeare.

We look from various angles at Ashtar's Richard II, Monadhil Daood's Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad, and APA's Macbeth: Laila and Ben--A Bloody History.
First 50 readers can download an eprint here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Arab Shakespeares at WSC 2016

The World Shakespeare Congress has posted its program for next summer's WSC, to be held in Britain.We have an amazingly diverse set of topics (translation, performance, film, plays, sonnets, sources...) on our Arab Shakespeares panel, and I'm happy to see some dynamic younger scholars joining the conversation.

“Re-Casting Shakespeare: Translations, Adaptations, and Performances Across the Arab World”
Katherine Hennessey (University of Warwick/Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom), Margaret Litvin (Boston University, United States), Graham Holderness (University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom), Rafik Darragi (University of Tunis, Tunisia), David C. Moberly (University of Minnesota, United States), Noha Ibraheem (Cairo University, Egypt), Paulo Horta (New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)

Monday, August 3, 2015

In Unfair Palestine (Romeo, Juliet, and localization)

Here is the first book I was ever asked to blurb: Tom Sperlinger's just published memoir Romeo and Juliet in Palestine. He was at Al-Quds University in the West Bank for just five months in 2013. It's a pretty good read and (most importantly) tries to be honest about its limits. The Guardian liked it too. A good excerpt was published at Mondoweiss back in 2013.

I find it interesting that most of the students aren't interested in Arab-Jewish Romeo-and-Juliet combos. Their minds run more toward a union between two Palestinians, one with Jerusalem ID and the other with West Bank ID. Isn't that star-cross'd enough?

On the subject of Palestinian adaptations, here's a 2008 film called In Fair Palestine made by high school students at the Ramallah Friends School. Also an intra-Arab story. You can buy it online and watch a clip here:

Of course, there have also been lots of adaptations that take the play in an Arabs-and-Jews direction, including a just-post-Oslo bilingual co-production in Jerusalem by the (Jewish) Khan Theatre and the (Arab) Kasaba Theatre (see, e.g., this admiring Baltimore Sun writeup).

[Update  9/8/15: I just found a video with some excerpts online. Enjoy!]

It has even been done in a comic vein, as in the short falafel musical West Bank Story.

Translator and theatre scholar Avraham Oz, with whom Parviz Partovi and I are co-writing an article on Shakespeare in the Middle East, makes a good point about Romeo and Juliet as a vehicle for Israeli-Palestinian issues:

Whereas Shakespeare makes a point to emphasize that none remembers the origin of the ancient feud between the Montagues and Capulets (not fortuitously omitting the one vague reference to that origin in Brooke’s poem), the cause of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is far from being unknown. If that be the rationale of reading the Shakespearean text, a play such as Troilus and Cressida would better fit the symbolic analogy.
He adds:
When, however, the latter was mounted at the Habima in 1980, Rumanian director David Essrig revived in it his successful production formerly created in Bucharest, and what could have served a topical political allegory for the Middle East conflict reminded one of an East European fable, which was missed by the Israeli audience and removed from stage after a few performances.
So it goes.