Al-Bassam at BU

Excited that this informal event at BU is actually happening!

The “Arab Shakespeare Trilogy”:
Staging a Region in Tumult, 2002-2011

A conversation with dramatic examples:
Kuwaiti theatre director Sulayman Al-Bassam
and Prof. Margaret Litvin (MLCL)
Born in Kuwait and educated in Britain, Sulayman Al-Bassam founded the Sulayman Al-Bassam Theatre (SABAB) in Kuwait in 2002. He has directed his Shakespeare adaptations on four continents, including at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Kennedy Center, and BAM. SABAB productions are characterized by a radical approach to text, bold production styles, and playful, provocative combinaons of content and form. The Speaker’s Progress, the final play of Al-Bassam’s “Arab Shakespeare Trilogy,” opens at ArtsEmerson in Boston on October 12.

   Wednesday, October 12, 12-2pm
The Castle, 225 Bay State Road
Lunch will be served before and during the talk

Sponsored by the Peter Paul Development Professorship, the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, and the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College

Trailer: Richard III: An Arab VIP

When I saw Sulayman Al-Bassam at the Kennedy Center in March 2009, there was a documentary film crew hanging around. Their presence was just another comic detail in the backstage buzz: technical glitches, dressing-room jokes, a bit part Sulayman had to play because a Kuwaiti cast member couldn’t get excused from his day job as a Ministry of Education employee even though Kuwait’s government had given $1 million as sponsors of the Arabesque festival, etc. etc.  So then there were these random guys with movie cameras.  Anyway, here’s the lovely trailer for the film they’ve made (I’ve already posted one review):

Documentary about Al-Bassam’s Richard III

A documentary about the international tour of Al-Bassam’s Richard III: An Arab Tragedy premiered last month.  Would love to hear from anyone who has seen it. Press release here, film website here.

Co-directed by Kuwaiti businessman and arts producer Shakir Abal with British TV director Tim Langford, Richard III “An Arab VIP” is a topical and timely documentary that melds Middle Eastern politics with onstage drama and offstage reality. In the film, the camera follows a pan Arab troupe of actors as they travel the world between the USA and the Middle East rehearsing and performing a highly acclaimed version of Shakespeare’s Richard III as conceived from a contemporary Arab perspective by renowned Kuwaiti dramatist Sulayman Al-Bassam. In addition to the highly dramatic performances by the exemplary troupe of actors, the 70 minutes film also includes interviews with the cast and crew as well as behind-the-scenes footage that shows what it is like to tour a top-notch stage play in sometimes less than perfect circumstances. The film is in English and Arabic with subtitles.

Al-Bassam on Speaker’s Progress in The Guardian

Sulayman Al-Bassam has a little article in The Guardian on how his current show, a very pessimistic frame story incorporating an Arab adaptation of Twelfth Night,
IMG_8786
has changed in production because of recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, etc.
speakers_progress-0139
More photos from the production previews here.
The show is coming to BAM in New York next fall.

Brooklyn June 11

Brooklyn June 11 was a lot of fun. The audience was pretty big, and full of people who asked smart questions and seemed really to like the show. So did NYT’s Ben Brantley. (And wrote a really perceptive review, I thought.)

Here is also my backgrounder, written in a big hurry at the Asia Society’s request. Most of this will be news to no one who reads this blog. Except maybe this nugget:

In 1935, Egypt’s future president Gamal Abdel Nasser starred in a production of
Julius Caesar put on at his Cairo high school. He played Caesar as a liberating
nationalist hero who defeated Great Britain.

It’s true! Check Georges Vaucher or Joel Gordon or any good Nasser biography.

Al-Bassam hits New York

Theatre preview capsule by Ben Brantley (NYT 6/5/09)
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/arts/07weekahead.html
Winters of discontent occur in even the sunniest climes. The Kuwaiti-born director SULAYMAN AL-BASSAM has relocated Shakespeare’s demonic Richard III to the Middle East, and this bloodiest of monarchs apparently feels gleefully at home in his new surroundings. Part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Muslim Voices: Arts and Ideas” festival, “RICHARD III: AN ARAB TRAGEDY,” which opens Tuesday at the Harvey Theater, was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of its 2007 Complete Works Festival. It has now arrived in the States (stopping off at the Kennedy Center in Washington this year) with its message of the utterly contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s tale of a country raped and paralyzed by a charismatic sociopath. Mr. Bassam has written that “Richard III” has always fascinated him more as history than tragedy. The emphasis in his production, set in an unnamed Gulf emirate, is accordingly less on the psychology than the society of the crookback who would be king (who first appears under the name of Emir Gloucester, if you please). He is, Mr. Bassam says, “the twisted child of a demented history.” Arab music and ritual infuse this “Richard III,” which is performed in Arabic with English titles and seems guaranteed to summon images of the reign of Saddam Hussein and its chaotic aftermath. Tuesday through Friday, 651 Fulton Street, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, (718) 636-4100, bam.org; $25 to $45.
[Will I see BB at the show? Will be sure to keep you posted. -ML]