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Bou Shakra and Sany Baki. Photo Credit: Alexy Frangieh.
Volume 10

A New Dramaturgical Model at AUB

The dramaturgical model I would like to briefly describe to you today is one that I developed with Sahar Assaf at the American University of Beirut over the last five years. We believe that it is a singular model in the Eastern Mediterranean/Middle East/Levant. It began in 2013 with our first production of an English-language version of Tuqus al-Isharat wa Tahawulat (Rituals and Signs of Transformations), by the Syrian playwright Sa’dallah Wannous, which was produced by the American University of Beirut where we both teach and work. We have refined this model in more than half a dozen subsequent productions, including Wannous’s al-Ightisab, The Rape, a 2015 production which was also staged in English; Watch Your Step, a site-specific faux architectural tour of Beirut’s Khandak al-Ghamik neighborhood, performed in Lebanese colloquial Arabic, which was inspired by the Argentine Griselda Gambaro’s Museum for Foreigners; al-Malik Lear, translated to Lebanese vernacular by Sahar, Nada Saab and others, and co-directed by Rachel Valentine-Smith of the Faction Theatre in London; and our most recent production, a site-specific Lebanese vernacular version of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding, which was staged in the Lebanese village of Hammana. Marvin Carlson, Jean Graham-Jones, Ashley Marinaccio and Fabian Escalona from CUNY attended the production, which was the first event of an international conference at AUB, co-sponsored by CUNY, on “Latin America, al-Andalus and the Arab World,” tracing cultural, literary, linguistic and theatrical continuities among the three regions.

The dramaturgical model we have developed at AUB in Beirut involves using a production course simultaneously as a practicum in which students have a conservatory-style experience and work side by side with seasoned professionals and a dramaturgical course in which we engage in translation studies and practice, textual analysis, theatre and performance history, visual studies and workshop techniques guided by Sahar Assaf, who is the director of the production, and by me. I work as the producer and dramaturg, and we work closely with local professionals, including lighting designers, stage designers, costume designers, composers, etc.

My role as producer is to help conceive of projects, to raise money, oversee the business aspects and help to promote the play. My role as dramaturg includes introducing students to a range of topics associated with the play we are staging, acting as a curator for the director and designers, engaging in textual analysis and adapting the text I co-translate with Nada Saab into English for the productions we do in English. In the brief time I have here today, I’d like to give a few examples of how this process has functioned in our recent productions and make a couple of observations about what our method says about contemporary dramaturgy in the Arab world.

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