Loading Events

Re-Reading Oppression: One-act plays by Amiri Baraka, Harold Pinter, and Salah Abdul-Saboor

« Back to Events
This event has passed.
Apr 30, 2018
Apr 30, 2018
Segal Theatre

Photo by Salma S. Zohdi


Monday, April 30
Segal Theatre

5:30pm, 6:30pm, 7:30pm Readings + Discussion

FREE + Open to public. First come, first served.

With oppressive regimes regenerating themselves by applying practices commonly undertaken by dictatorships, the power of art remains an essential force that motivates the masses to resist and fight against the normalization of such abusive practices. Join us for a mini-festival that aims to analyze and track the dynamics of oppression, discrimination, and abuse when portrayed by three significant playwrights from the U.S., England, and Egypt. All readings will be followed by a brief conversation, and the event will conclude with a panel discussion and a Q&A with the directors, Marvin Carlson, and others. Discussion moderated by Frank Hentschker. Concept and dramaturgy by Salma S. Zohdi.

5:30pm LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman (1964)
Directed by Kareem Fahmy

A powerful one-act drama, Dutchman is set on a New York subway train, the play is a searing two-character confrontation that begins playfully, but builds rapidly in suspense and symbolic resonance.

“Dutchman” is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.

6:30pm Harold Pinter’s One for the Road (1984)
Directed by NJ Agwuna

Considered by Frank Rich as Pinter’s “statement about the human rights abuses of totalitarian governments”. The play is set in a room, during the course of one day, where family of three–a father, mother, and a child–are interrogated and tortured.

“One for the Road” is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.

7:30pm Salah Abdul-Saboor’s Night Traveller (1969)
Directed by Robin A. Eriksen & translated by M.M. Enani.

A black comedy set in a train heading to an unknown destination with three main characters: Narrator, Passenger, and Conductor. Throughout this absurdist narrative, the Conductor manipulates the Passenger’s identity by playing mind games and exerting oppressive practices.

Roles in all three plays are performed by Jordan Bellow, Ali Nasser, and Vanessa Vaché.

Stage directions read by Mohamed El Batran.

This event is curated by dramaturg and Segal Center’s 2017/18 Next Generation Fellow Salma S. Zohdi, in collaboration with director Robin A. Eriksen.

Special thanks to Ira Dworkin, Walid El Hamamsy, M.M. Enani, and Moataza Salah Abdel Sabour.


About the playwrights: 

Salah Abdul-Saboor is a pioneer of modern Arabic poetry, he and other Arab poets laid the foundation of a new school of Arabic poetry. They formulated their own experience in new authentic, creative patterns. In his early youth, he tried to find a new significance beyond rhetoric eloquent expression, attending to approach other realms of arts such as music and painting. In 1957, his first collection of poems People in my Country was published, shooting the poet into fame. Abdul-Saboor’s literature was not confined to poetry, but rather extended to poetic drama. Within a period of ten years, he had five poetic plays published. The first was The Tragedy of Al-Hallaj (1965), for which he was granted the State Incentive Award for Theatre in 1966. In addition to poetry and poetic drama, the great poet also practiced critical writing. Abdel Sabour was a follower of the free art which viewed art as an expression of unbridled imaginativeness and true, vehement emotions, within a highly romantic context. He believed that genuine poetry could be written only through absolute self-communion; he remained faithful to his own principles all his life until his death on August 14, 1981.


Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) is one of the most respected and widely published African-American writers. With the beginning of Black Civil Rights Movements during the sixties, Baraka explored the anger of African-Americans and used his writings as a weapon against racism. He is also the author of over 40 books of essays, poems, drama, and music history and criticism, a poet icon and revolutionary political activist who has recited poetry and lectured on cultural and political issues extensively in the USA, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as the founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. The movement and his published and performance work, such as the signature study on African-American music, Blues People (1963) and the play Dutchman (1963) practically seeded “the cultural corollary to black nationalism” of that revolutionary American milieu.


Harold Pinter was a Nobel Prize-winning British playwright, screenwriter, director and actor. Harold Pinter is generally seen as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century. That he occupies a position as a modern classic is illustrated by his name entering the language as an adjective used to describe a particular atmosphere and environment in drama: “Pinteresque”. Pinter made his playwriting debut in 1957 with The Room, presented in Bristol. Other early plays were The Birthday Party (1957), at first a fiasco of legendary dimensions but later one of his most performed plays, and The Dumb Waiter (1957). His conclusive breakthrough came with The Caretaker (1959), followed by The Homecoming (1964) and other plays. It is said of Harold Pinter that following an initial period of psychological realism he proceeded to a second, more lyrical phase with plays such as Landscape (1967) and Silence (1968) and finally to a third, political phase with One for the Road (1984), Mountain Language (1988), The New World Order(1991) and other plays. Since 1973, Pinter has won recognition as a fighter for human rights, alongside his writing. He has often taken stands seen as controversial.


About the creative team: 

Photo courtesy of the artist

NJ Agwuna (Director) is a freelance theater/ film director and actor from central Maryland, currently working on her MFA at Columbia University. She has worked on a national and international scale exploring classic text, developing new plays, devising, and investigating new ways to reach audiences. Some of NJ’s credits include The River Rouge (Director),  Freedom Train (Director), The Tempest (Director), Endangered: the Eco Musical (Associate Director), Love and Information (Director), Good Man(Director), Town Hall (Director), Truth or Lie (Director), What She Found (Director), Then She Fell (ASM), Amazing Spider-Man 2, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones. More at: www.njagwuna.com


Photo by Matthew Dunivan

Robin A. Eriksen is a Norwegian director working both in the US and Norway. He’s a trained actor from the American Academy of Dramatic arts, has a bachelors degree in Theatre Studies from the University of Oslo, as well as an MFA in Directing from Columbia University. After years working in theatre he’s found his passion in directing for the stage; deep diving into different dramatic texts, composing living images, and communicating with actors and designers. This spring he will be working on four new plays, as well as directing and leading the design process for a new show at Dyreparken i Kristiansand, Norways largest tourist attraction.


Photo courtesy of the artist

Kareem Fahmy is a Canadian-born director and playwright of Egyptian descent. He is a 2017-2018 National Directors Fellow (The O’Neill/NNPN). He has directed and co-conceived a number of world premiere productions including Sevan K. Greene’s This Time (Rising Circle, New York Times Critics’ Pick), James Scruggs’s 3/Fifths (3LD, New York Times 5 Must-See Shows), and Nikkole Salter’s Indian Head (Luna Stage). Other work: Rohina Malik’s The Mecca Tales (NY & NJ premieres), Adam Kraar’s Alternating Currents (world premiere). Kareem has developed plays with New York Theatre Workshop (where he is a Usual Suspect), MCC, Second Stage, Soho Rep, New Dramatists, The Lark, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Sundance, The Civilians, Noor Theatre, Silk Road Rising, and Berkeley Rep. He is a founder of Maia Directors, a consulting group for organizations and artists engaging with Middle Eastern stories. He is currently adapting the beloved Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building for the stage. MFA: Columbia University. www.KareemFahmy.com


Photo by Annabel Guevara

Salma S. Zohdi is an Egyptian Dramaturg based in New York City. She is the 2017/2018 Next Generation Fellow at The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center. Salma is a recipient of two international fellowship awards from the American Association for University Women. When she lived in Egypt she worked as a producer, teaching artist, stage manager, playwright, dramaturg, translator, and assistant director. Credits at Columbia University include: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Disposable Promises. New York City credits: Nathan the Wise at CSC, The Mecca Tales, an evening of “Arab Classic Plays”, and American Dreams & Arabian Nights at the BRICLab. Salma is also a collaborator on a work-in-development of a theatre adaptation of Alaa El Aswany’s acclaimed Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building. At the Segal’s spring 2018 season, she is a co-curator and dramaturg of “Re-Reading Oppression,” an evening of a curated reading series of one-act plays that chronicle oppression, discrimination, and abuse. MA: The American University in Cairo – English & Comparative Literature. MFA: Columbia University – Theatre (Dramaturgy).


About the actors: 

Photo courtesy of the artist

Jordan Bellow is a New York based actor originally hailing from California. He was most recently seen in a production of Jeremy O. Harris’ The Feels as part of the #americanAF Festival at the New Ohio Theatre. He played the title role of Macbeth and was also seen in Alkestis as part of Columbia Stages’ MFA thesis productions at the Connelly Theatre. Other Columbia credits include Balm In Gilead and Ward Six at the Schapiro Theatre. He has also performed in readings for MCC’s Youth Company at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and at Dixon Place. Regionally, he just closed a co-production of A Raisin In The Sun at Indiana Repertory Theatre and Syracuse Stage. Other regional credits include All The Way, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Christmas Carol at South Coast Repertory and Fly at Florida Studio Theatre. Television credits include Gotham, Orange Is The New Black. He received a BFA in Theatre Performance at Chapman University.


Photo courtesy of the artist

Ali Nasser began his acting career in Egypt, where he played a recurring role on ‘Lahazat Harega’, the Egyptian adaptation of the hit TV show ER, and served as a voice actor for the Disney Channel in the Middle East. After studying theatre and film at the American University in Cairo, Ali helped found ACT, a non-profit theater organization that staged multiple English-speaking productions in Cairo. His theater credits include: Angels Among Us, Gasping, Guys and Dolls, Celebration, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Advertising copywriter by day, Upright Citizens Brigade student and kettlebell kickboxer by night. Learn more at www.thealinasser.com


Photo courtesy of the artist

Vanessa Vaché
is a New York based actress originally from Prescott, Arizona. She is graduate and former company member of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Recent NY theatre credits include “The Way Back” (Theatre For One), “Summertime” (Columbia Stages), “Strange Country” (Access Theatre), “Utility”* (Rattlestick, *NYIT award winner Best Premier Production 2016) “Rantoul and Die” (Cherry Lane Theater), “The Bad and The Better” (Playwrights Horizons) and “HotelMotel” (Gershwin Hotel). Upcoming this summer 2018: “Solitary” produced by Dutch Kills Theatre Company.Thank you to Robin for the opportunity to be a part of such a special event!