Flag Piece © Rania Khalil
Volume 2

Flag Piece by Rania Khalil

Rania Khalil's Flag Piece Description
by Dalia Basiouny and Marvin Carlson
 Arab StagesVolume 1, Number 2 (Spring 2015)
 ©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

This description of  Flag Piece appears in Current Trends in Arab-American Performance, by Dalia Basiouny and Marvin Carlson, Performance, Exile, and “America,” ed. Silvija Jestrovic and Yana Meerzon (Palgrave, 2009).

Few Arab-American dramas were presented outside their home communities before 9/ll, but since that time a combination of the desire of Arab-American artists to speak out and of non-Arab audiences to understand the Arab world better has led to a major flowering of Arab-American theatre and performance, especially in New York. One of the first Arab-American performance pieces to be presented after 9/11 remains both one of the most unconventional and also most moving of such productions.  This is Egyptian artist Rania Khalil’s short solo performance Flag Piece, which is presented entirely without words.

It is a response of an Arab-American woman to the ubiquitous flag displays and patriotic fervor following 9/11.  The piece lasts only about three minutes and was inspired by the performer receiving the gift of a small flag from a store owner as a sign of “solidarity,” assuming that she was in fact not an Arab but a “patriotic American” like himself.  Khalil, with much more ambiguous feelings about such patriotic display, and feeling “in disguise” with the shopkeeper, took the flag back to her studio and created the piece.  She begins the piece by removing her “disguise” as a Western woman, by pulling her sweater up over her body and wrapping it around her head as a kind of  Arabic headwear.  In this costume she salutes a small American flag which she waves high over her head.  She then gradually moves the flag closer to her face, first covering her eyes, then her mouth, serving as a veil that both conceals and silences her. At the end of the piece the pole goes through her face, pushing her lips and deforming her face, with its head forcing one of her eyelids to open.  Khalil first performed this piece during the intense period of flag display in New York in various art galleries and performance centers and has continued to perform it a various arts festivals and universities in the United States and abroad.  Its graphic presentation of the oppression felt by Arab Americans after 9/11 to demonstrate their commitment to patriotic ideals has proven extremely powerful and effective. 

Dalia Basiouny is an Egyptian writer, theatre artist, activist, academic, and translator. Her theatre work includes directing eighteen plays performed in Egypt, England, USA, Morocco, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Germany. Basiouny’s PhD from CUNY Graduate Center, under the supervision of Professor Marvin Carlson, explores the political theatre of Arab-American Women after 9/11. She is a recipient of many awards including the Fulbright Arts Grant (USA), and the British Council Chevening Scholarship (UK). Basiouny’s first play as a writer Solitaire received the theater award from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC). Solitaire which presents the world of an Egyptian American woman from 9/11 to the Egyptian revolution, had its world premiere in Cairo, March 2011, before touring internationally. Basiouny was commissioned to write Magic of Borlous which examines the role of powerful women who explore rituals and alternative spirituality in the Egyptian patriarchal society. This play opened in March 2012, and toured nationally. She teaches theatre in Egypt, translates, writes fiction, and tends a small farm in the western dessert. She is currently preparing a film about artists during the revolution.

Marvin Carlson is the Sidney E. Cohn Professor of Theatre, Comparative Literature, and Middle Eastern Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Editor-in-Chief of Arab Stages. His research and teaching interests include dramatic theory and Western European theatre history and dramatic literature, especially of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. He has been awarded the ATHE Career Achievement Award, the George Jean Nathan Prize, the Bernard Hewitt prize, the George Freedley Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been a Walker-Ames Professor at the University of Washington, a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Indiana University, a visiting professor at the Freie Universitat of Berlin, and a Fellow of the American Theatre. In 2005, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Athens. His best-known book, Theories of the Theatre (Cornell University Press, 1993), has been translated into seven languages. His 2001 book,The Haunted Stage won the Calloway Prize. His newest book is The Trilogy of Future Memory: Jalila Baccar & Fadhel Jaïbi (Martin E. Segal Center Publications, 2015).


Arab Stages
Volume 1, Number 2 (Spring 2015)
©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Founders: Marvin Carlson and Frank Hentschker

Editor-in-Chief: Marvin Carlson

Editorial and Advisory Board: Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Dina Amin, Khalid Amine, Hazem Azmy, Dalia Basiouny, Katherine Donovan, Masud Hamdan, Sameh Hanna, Rolf C. Hemke, Katherine Hennessey, Areeg Ibrahim, Jamil Khoury, Dominika Laster, Margaret Litvin, Rebekah Maggor, Safi Mahfouz, Robert Myers, Michael Malek Naijar, Hala Nassar, George Potter, Juan Recondo, Nada Saab, Asaad Al-Saleh, Torange Yeghiazarian, Edward Ziter.

Managing Editor: Joy Arab

Table of Content

  • Science Fiction in the Arab World: Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Voyage to Tomorrow (Rihlatun ilal-ghad) by Rani Bhargav
  • Tawfik al-Hakim and the Social Responsibility of the Artist by Majeed Mohammed Midhin
  • Junūn: Poetics in the Discourse of Protest and Love by Rafika Zahrouni
  • Ritual and Myth in Dalia Basiouny’s Magic of Borolos by Amal Aly Mazhar
  • Staging the Self: Autobiography in the Theatre of Sa`dallah Wannous by Ali Souleman
  • The Arab Theatre Festival by Jaouad Radouan
  • France’s Théâtre d’al-Assifa: An Arab-based Alternative Theatre Model by Magdi Youssef
  • A Dramatic Anticipation of the Arab Spring and a Dramatic Reflection Upon It by Eiman Tunsi
  • Rania Khalil’s Flag Piece by Dalia Basiouny and Marvin Carlson
  • Silk Road Solos: A Three-Thread Performative Stitch by Jamil Khoury

Short Plays

  • Excerpts from Jihad Against Violence: Oh ISIS Up Yours! by Fawzia Afzal-Khan
  • Alternative Dramaturgy for Jihad Against Violence: Oh ISIS Up Yours! By Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Nesrin Alrefaai, Katherine Mezur
  • ReOrient Theatre Festival 2015:
    Bitterenders by Hannah Khalil
    Lost Kingdom by Hassan Abdulrazzak
    Picking Up The Scent by Yussef El Guindi
    The House by Tala Manassah & Mona Mansour


  • Edward Ziter’s Political Performance in Syria – A Book Review by Safi Mahmoud Mahfouz
  • The Gap Between Generations: The Revolt of the Young: Essays by Tawif al-Hakim– A Book Review by Michael Malek Najjar


  • Malumat: Resources for Research, Writing/Publishing, Teaching, & Performing Arts compiled by Kate C. Wilson


Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
Frank Hentschker, Executive Director
Marvin Carlson, Director of Publications
Rebecca Sheahan, Managing Director

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