School of the Arts Faculty, Alumni, and Students Celebrate Arab Classic Plays

March 21, 2017

Numerous Columbia faculty, students, and alumni join with other New York theater-artists for an event at the Martin Segal Theater Center celebrating Arab Classic Plays on April 19. The day will consist of readings of plays by Yusuf Idris, Issam Mahfouz, and Sa’dallah Wannous—three celebrated Arab writers whose work is not yet widely known in America—followed by a panel discussion.

Arab Classic Plays is curated by Producing student Joy Sarah Arab ‘18 in collaboration with Marvin Carlson, with dramaturgy by Salma S. Zohdi ‘16. Carlson, Arab, and Zohdi will be joined on the panel by two Columbia community members: director and playwright Kareem Fahmy ’07 and Theater Department Chair and Dramaturgy Concentration Head Christian Parker

“These plays have recently been translated into English and I am delighted to share them with American audiences,” said Arab. “For some, this may be the first exposure to the work of these extraordinary writers. It is my hope that our re-examination of their poignant texts will foster deep and meaningful understanding of Arab culture and its theatrical traditions.”

At 2 pm The Adventure of the Head of Mamlouk Jabir, written by Syrian author Sa’dallah Wannous in 1971, translated by Robert Myers and Nada Saab, will be directed by Rania Khalil. The play uses a hakawati, or a traditional Arabic storyteller, to tell a story within a story.  

At 4:30 PM The Dictator, a classic absurdist play by Lebanese playwright and poet Issam Mahfouz, translated by Robert Myers and Nada Saab, will be directed by Sara Rademacher ‘16. The play was revolutionary when it was written in the 1960s, and a 2012 revival production was named  “Best Arab Play of 2012” at Sharjah’s Theater Festival in the United Arab Emirates.

At 6:30 PM The Flipflaps (1964) written by Egyptian playwright and novelist Yusuf Idris and translated by Trevor LeGassick, will be directed by NJ Agwuna ‘18. The play, which is a dialogue between a master and slave, caused a public uproar when it was written in 1964 and was subsequently banned.

Arab Classic Plays is free and open to the public. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The  Martin Segal Theater Center is located at 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016.