Good Chance in Paris. Photo: Raphael Hilarion.
Articles, Essays, Volume 8

Contemporary Arab Diasporic Plays and Productions in Europe and the United States

Contemporary Arab Diasporic Plays and Productions in Europe and the United States
By Marvin Carlson
Arab Stages, Volume 8 (Spring, 2018) 
©2018 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

During the twenty-first century, with an increasing interest in the Arab World among Western nations, the number of theatrical performances dealing with that world and created by artists from Arab nations has significantly and steadily increased on Western stages. A marked increase in such work has occurred during the past three to four years, and this has clearly been inspired by the enormous increase in emigrants and refugees from the Arab World, particularly from Syria and Iraq, an increase which has had an enormous impact on Western societies politically, socially, and economically. In 2015, the German chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany had a “national duty” to grant asylum to victims of the war-torn Middle East, and during the following two years more than a million refugees arrived in Germany and more than half of that number, mostly from Syria, have now been settled in that country. No other Western nation has accepted as many refugees during these years, but almost all have felt some impact from this enormous migration, and not surprisingly, one can see on many stages the impact of this new diaspora in many works by and about persons involved in it.

Not surprisingly, the greatest impact of this movement can be seen today in Germany, the Western nation that has been most welcoming to the new refugees and asylum seekers. At the center of this new movement is one of Berlin’s major state-operated theatres, the Maxim Gorki, which has been centrally concern with immigrant matters since the arrival of a new director, Sermin Langhoff, in 2013. Langhoff came to Berlin as a child with her parents from Turkey and became involved with the long active Turkish theatre community in that city. In 2008, she became director of the small Berlin experimental space the Ballhaus Neuenstrasse, which was located in an emigrant neighborhood and which became a major Berlin theatre under her leadership. Her special interest began with what she called “post-emigrant theatre,” that is, a politically oriented theatre created by the children and grandchildren of emigrants.   Her success at the Ballhaus gained her the invitation to direct the Gorki, and she began at once to turn this traditionally conservative and classically oriented theatre toward contemporary social concerns, particularly those of minority groups.

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