Articles, Essays, Volume 6

A Place Under the Sun: To Be or Not to Be? The Question of the “Fringe” (1990)

A Place Under the Sun To Be or Not to Be? The Question of the “Fringe” (1990)
By Nehad Selaiha
Arab Stages, Volume 6, Nehad Selaiha Memorial Issue (Spring, 2017)
©2017 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publication

Last August, when the state-sponsored Experimental Theatre Festival was abruptly cancelled on account of the Gulf crisis, a group of young theatre people met under the rallying cry: “War or no war, the show must go on!” The leader and agitator was journalist and actress Minha Al-Batrawi, who felt very angry at the high-handedness and overweening arbitrariness of the decision. “They have no right. They consulted nobody,” she bawled on the phone when she rang up to invite me to a protest and consultation meeting at the Acting Professions Union downtown. I knew how she felt; for some artists the festival is the only chance for public exposure, and they work very hard for it all year, paying dearly in terms of cash and time, even though they know they will only get a place on the outer margins.

Initially, all Minha had hoped for was to create a pressure group, to persuade the Ministry of Culture to allow a national theatre festival to go ahead if an international one proved unfeasible or politically embarrassing. It would cost nothing, she thought; an elected voluntary committee, from amongst the artists themselves, could manage the festival and do all the work; there would be no administrative, technical or publicity costs, and no travel expenses or fat hotel bills. All the government had to do was hand over a couple of theatres and their facilities for the duration of the festival.

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