Arabs and Muslims on Stage: Can We Unpack Our Baggage?

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This is the ideal. And given this ideal, expressed by many theatre mission statements, I wonder why there aren’t more plays by and about people who come from the Middle East. Never has any one area of the world had more impact on the U.S. than the Middle East. Repeatedly. Every year for as long as most of us can remember.

In every decade of my life, Arabs and Muslims have made headlines in some capacity (almost always in a negative light). One gets a little punch drunk during some news cycles dealing with this (from my perspective) battery of biased reporting, in which Arabs and Muslims end up always coming across as seemingly genetically prone to mindless violence, wars, the oppression of women, etc. The go-to images are always large mobs of angry Arab men, veiled women, bearded Muslims in prayer, bombed sites, and so on. I have spent most of my life being gobsmacked by all this, contrasting what I see in mainstream American culture with what I live and know when I travel back to Egypt and hang out with friends and family and imbibe the culture around me. 

Quite naturally, in a desire to make sense of all this, I turn to the arts as one potential source to put some of these Middle East happenings in perspective. I want to step away from the objectionable “objective news” and the biased pundit class with their conservative think-tank opinions, and see how the culture around me processes these events.

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