"Shakespeare, friend of Arab democracy"



Thanks to all who helped organize or who attended my recent talks at Cairo U, Ayn Shams (Al-Alsun and Drama Dept), and/or AUC. It was humbling and mind-sharpening to do them in light of everything that was happening in Cairo. And is still happening. Happy (to the limited extent possible) Election Day!
Thanks also to Sameh Fekry Hanna from whose dissertation I lifted the 1912 image at left: “Shakespeare, the democratic English dramatic poet.”
One more talk coming up at Helwan U on Dec 8.

Video of our conversation at BU

BU’s media services people used a new program called Echo 360 to capture the conversation in Boston last Wednesday between Sulayman Al-Bassam, Graham Holderness, and me.  Watch it here: : http://echo360.bu.edu:8081/ess/echo/presentation/7a568a3f-fce4-45ba-b2a1-9c119488e55e
Apologies for the weird focus on the video – I think everyone is still getting the hang of the new technology.

Preview – Speaker’s Progress in Boston

“How do you make a play about an abstract idea like change?”  Sulayman Al-Bassam speaks to the Boston Globe.

Judging by the dress rehearsal I saw last night, there are still some technical things to be ironed out before tonight’s opening (never mind the idea of change – the real issue is that these guys are scrambling for provisional closure, editing to the last minute!), some meanings to be nailed down, but the play has an amazing energy.

Boston people: come see the show and any of the myriad post-show or para-show events at ArtsEmerson! Reminder: you can also see Sulayman and me in discussion with Graham Holderness at BU this afternoon, 12-2.

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

"Shakespeare After 9/11" issue of Shakespeare Yearbook finally out

A lot of events, some very sad, intervened to delay this issue.  But at least the heroic editors got it out in time for the tenth anniversary!
http://www.mellenpress.com/mellenpress.cfm?bookid=8357&pc=9
I have an article in here about Sulayman Al-Bassam, complete critical history of his work up to and including the Richard III project.

Opening of first "soliloquy" in Tanyus ‘Abdu’s Hamlet, 1901

أبتي أين أنت تنظر ما تم            صار عرصاً ذاك الذي كان مأتم
وغدت بعدك المآتم اعياداً           وذاك الثغر الحزين تبسم.

Why are the publishers having so much trouble getting this quotation to appear correctly in Arabic in the forthcoming issue of Shakespeare Studies?  Right-to-left issues are a pain.  My article on ‘Abdu will be in Shakespeare Studies Vol. 39, accessible via full-text humanities search engines as well as Google Books and the like.

Global Shakespeares electronic archive

I spent yesterday over at MIT working with Belinda Yung on the Arab world section of the  “Global Shakespeares electronic archive.  I’m the “regional editor.”  We’ve already put up skeletal production info on a few Arab productions and adaptations of Shakespeare – you can expect a lot more in a week or two, including extensive clips from Mohamed Sobhi (محمد صبحي)’s melodramatic 1970s Hamlet production with the Art Studio company. 

If you have text or video materials on more plays, please send them to me so we can get them posted!

Daily Star covers our Shakespeare conference at AUB

Under the nice headline “Was Shakespeare an Orientalist?” Beirut’s Daily Star covers  our just-concluded conference on “Shakespeare’s Imagined Orient” at AUB.  Splendidly organized by Francois-Xavier Gleyzon of AUB’s English department, the conference staged a conversation some of the most important scholars working to remap Shakespeare’s relationship to the Muslim world.  Five men were at the center of this conversation: Jerry Brotton, Dan Vitkus, Gerald Maclean, Jonathan Burton, and Gil Harris.  My talk was really marginal to the whole thing (I’m not an early modernist), but for obvious journalistic reasons (even if she is not Arab, her readers are), the Daily Star reporter seized on it.  She thus ironically supported Ferial Ghazoul’s thesis (in “The Arabization of Othello“), which my talk was trying to problematize: the idea that when Arabs look at Shakespeare, “their point of view” (many Arabs, one point of view) leads them to an immediate and almost exclusive focus on the representation of people like themselves.  Well, perhaps such narcissism is only human. Which of us can pick up a friend’s book without looking up our own name in the index?