Al-Bassam’s RIII coming to Kennedy Center

Announcement via The Associated Press. Watch how Sulayman’s play is again appropriated as the “bridge” between cultures or even “two great civilizations.” Both the Kennedy Center’s president and the Arab League ambassador do it. (I am trying to write an article on this phenomenon.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
WASHINGTON: A retelling of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” set in the contemporary Arab world of desert palaces and oil-rich kingdoms, is among the highlights of a three-week Arab arts and culture festival that will mark the 2008-2009 season of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The “Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World” festival — a name inspired by a calligraphic style from ninth-century Iraq — was announced Tuesday. It will feature artists from all 22 Arab nations in February and March 2009, and will be the largest presentation of Arab arts ever in the United States, Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser said.
Themes from “Richard III,” for example, take on new meanings in the Arab context and can help bridge cultural divides, he said. “In this world of tribal allegiances, family infighting and absolute power, the questions of leadership, religion and foreign intervention are at the heart of Shakespeare’s play,” Kaiser said.

[Sulayman’s familiar quote, of course, but look at the “cultural divides” stuff -ML]

The programming slate also includes dance ensembles from Lebanon and Syria as well as traditional belly dancing, [we hasten to reassure people] while exhibits will feature Arab photography, sculpture and fashion. Theater and musical offerings include diverse religious sounds of the region, and the more provocative “Alive From Palestine: Stories Under Occupation,” a play produced by the only professional theater in the Palestinian territories.

. . .

The Arab festival in 2009 follows similar international events focused most recently on Japan and China. The festival is being coordinated with the League of Arab Nations, though still a “daunting” task to bring together 22 different nations, said Alicia Adams, vice president of international programming. She said the visa and customs process alone would probably be most challenging. [You think?-ML]

Arab League Ambassador Hussein Hassouna said the festival will promote
better understanding between Americans and countries ranging from Iraq to Sudan and Somalia. [Hmm, especially Sudan. -ML] “It shows that the Arab world belongs to a great civilization that wants to be interactive with other cultures,” he said.
Kennedy Center officials continue to search for more artists to join the festival, though planning for the project began four years ago after the center brought the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra to perform in Washington.

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