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World Premiere of Arabic Drama at Cornell

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Photo Credit: Rebekah Maggor

Photo Credit: Rebekah Maggor

 

The characters in Haydar’s play, Guy A and Guy B defy such easy categorizations.  They are complex human beings, trapped in a situation which brings out all the conflicts and contradictions of their characters.  They are both Palestinian refugees, trapped in a huge and teeming refugee camp outside of Damascus  Shortly after the war began a number residents in the Yarmouk camp offered support and refuge to fleeing families from other besieged areas in Syria. The government opposed the Yarmouk residents’ attempt to aid these people and, in retaliation, bombed the camp. Following this attack in late 2012, anti-government militants entered Yarmouk to fight the regime. Some of the Palestinian residents in Yarmouk joined these anti-government forces while others aligned with pro-government militant Palestinian groups.  A state of siege followed, with a virtually complete blockade, government checkpoints, and constant bombardment.  By early February 2013, when the play takes place, thousands had fled, hundreds had been killed or died of starvations, and some 18,000 remained trapped in the camp, among them friends of the playwright and the two fictional characters Gay A and Guy B.

Their conversation is bitter, angry, gritty, and wide-ranging, viewing with contempt politicians and rulers on all sides who have served their own interests, used the Palestinians merely as a rhetorical tool, and left the actual  people to suffer in continually worsening conditions both at home and abroad.  Thus the play is distinctly in the powerful tradition of engaged political theatre, which has characterized much Middle Eastern and especially Syrian and Palestinian theatre for decades.  Haydar’s work, however, in its gritty realism of action and language, is very much representative of the approach to these topics found in the young dramatists of today, such as Syrian writer Mohamed Al-Attar and Palestinian-Syrian writer Yasser Abu Sharqa. The former now working in Beirut and the latter in Turkey.

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