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The Yacoubian Building Onstage: An Interview with Kareem Fahmy

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The Yacoubian Building, Rough Draft Festival 2018, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center.

I was taken with Al Aswany’s ability to depict these characters with such honesty and compassion and excited to learn that Arab theater artist Kareem Fahmy was adapting The Yacoubian Building for the stage.  I had the pleasure of attending the first public reading of the play during the Rough Draft Festival (curated by the remarkable Handan Ozbilgin) at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center.  Kareem had assumed the huge task of telling this sweeping story in a theatrical setting, having engaged wonderful actors and an excellent Egyptian dramaturg, Salma Zohdi, and he used his time working at LPAC to further develop the text further. I followed up by interviewing Kareem, to find out more about the challenges and joys of adapting this story, and where it’s going next:

Catherine Coray (CC): How did you first encounter The Yacoubian Building?  Did you first read the book, or see the film?

Kareem Fahmy (KF): I’ve been working on a project (working title: The Triumphant) about the gay community in Egypt for a few years now and nearly two years ago I was talking about that project with someone who suggested I read the novel, as one of its many narratives involves a gay relationship between two Egyptian men. While on a retreat with New York Theater Workshop I read The Yacoubian Building as research for that project and fell in love with it. I knew instantly it was something I wanted to develop for the stage. I was lucky enough to get the option.

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