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Syrian Drama: The Plays of Sa’dallah Wannous

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Mar 3, 2014
Mar 3, 2014
Segal Theatre


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

Monday, March 3 at 6:30pm. Syrian playwright Sa’dallah Wannous (1941-1997) was a central figure in the Arabic theatre of the late twentieth century.  His most important works began to appear in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and were focused on positive social and political change in the region.  The evening celebrates his first collection of works in English translation, Four Plays from Syria, published by the Segal Center (co-edited by Marvin Carlson & Safi Mahfouz, with translations by Marvin Carlson, Safi Mahfouz, Robert Myers, and Nada Saab). The evening will include excerpts of Wannous’ acclaimed play Rituals, the first Arab play in repertory at the Comédie Française. Followed by a discussion with co-editor GC CUNY Professor Marvin CarlsonRituals translators Robert Myers (Professor of English, American University in Beirut) and Nada Saab (Assistant Professor of Literature at Lebanese American University), as well as Beirut-based actress and director Sahar Assaf (Lecturer in Theatre, American University in Beirut). Myers, Saab, and the Chicago-based theatre company Silk Road Rising received a MacArthur grant to translate Rituals in 2012. Reading produced by Arab-American company Noor Theatre.


Robert Myers (www.robert-myers.com) is the author of over a dozen stage plays, including Atwater: Fixin’ to Die (Helen Hayes Nominee, directed by George Furth); The Lynching of Leo Frank (Joseph Jefferson Award, Best New Work) and Dead of Night: The Execution of Fred Hampton (both directed by Jonathan Wilson); Painting Persia; Mesopotamia, about Gertrude Bell, presented at Yale with Kathleen Chalfant (directed by Evan Yionoulis); Unmanned, about drone pilots, at the Blank Theatre (staged reading, directed by Kirsten Sanderson), which he adapted as Drone Pilots for BBC’s Radio 4, broadcast in September 2013 (directed by Judith Kampfner); and Twilight Country, read at Theatre Row with Tonya Pinkas and Lisa Pelikan.  He also co-translated Baghdadi Bath, by Iraq’s best-known director, Jawad Al Assadi, with Nada Saab, produced at LaMama (directed by Zishan Ugurlu) and as a staged reading with Asiif Mandvi and Sean Krishnan at Dartmouth with the New York Theatre Workshop. He received a MacArthur grant with Silk Road Rising Theatre and Nada Saab to co-translate Rituals of Signs and Transformations, by Sa’dallah Wannous. In 2013, he produced the English-language world premiere of the play at Babel Theatre in Beirut, directed by Sahar Assaf. The translation appears in Four Plays From Syria: Sa’dallah Wannous, published by CUNY’s Martin Segal Theatre Center, for which he wrote the introduction. He has a PhD in literature from Yale, is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at the American University of Beirut, and former director of the University’s Center for American Studies.  He has received a Franke fellowship from Yale, two Fulbright fellowships, a Mellon grant and a New York State Individual Artist’s grant. He has written on theatre and culture for The New York Times, PAJ, TRI, Folha de São Paulo, Middle East Critique and other publications.


Nada Saab (nada.saab@lau.edu.lb) is Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies at the Lebanese American University. Her publications focus on Sufism and its embodiments in Arabic literature, both medieval and modern, and critical editions of medieval Sufi manuscripts. Her collaboration with Robert Myers has resulted in the translation of Wannus’s Tuqus, a translation of Hammam Baghdadi (Baghdadi Bath) by Jawad Al-Asadi (published by PAJ) and al-Diktatur (The Dictator) by ’Isam Mahfuz (forthcoming).



Sahar Assaf is a Lebanese theatre actress and director who completed her Fulbright fellowship in Theatre Studies at Central Washington University, in the U.S. She is the co-founder of Beirut 8.30 Theatre Company and teaches acting and directing at AUB. She directed the world premiere of the English-language version of Saadallah Wannous’s Rituals of Signs and Transformations at Babel Theatre in Beirut in December 2013. She also recently co-directed From the Bottom of my Brain (with Zeina Daccache), a play performed by the residents of Al Fanar Psychiatric Hospital at Al Madina Theatre in Beirut in July 2013. She is currently pursuing a degree in Drama Therapy through NADTA Alternative Track Program and working on developing her research and video work on Women Fighters of the Lebanese Civil War into a documentary theatre piece.


Safi Mahmoud Mahfouz is an Associate Professor of Modern American Literature, drama and theatre, Comparative Literature, and Middle Eastern Literature. He is the Head of the Department of English Language and Literature at the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Arts at UNRWA University in Amman, Jordan. He is a former Fulbright postdoctoral visiting scholar and a fellow at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (2012/2013). His research and teaching interests cover a wide range of topics including modern American literature, American canonical drama, American ethnic theaters, Arabic drama in translation, Middle Eastern literatures, world literature, comparative literature, literary theory and contemporary poetics, postmodernism, ethnicity, diaspora, and postcolonialism.

Marvin Carlson is the Sidney E. Cohn Professor of Theatre, Comparative Literature, and Middle Eastern Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His research and teaching interests include dramatic theory and Western European theatre history and dramatic literature, especially of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. He has been awarded the ATHE Career Achievement Award, the George Jean Nathan Prize, the Bernard Hewitt prize, the George Freedley Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been a Walker-Ames Professor at the University of Washington, a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Indiana University, a Visiting Professor at the Freie Universitat of Berlin, and a Fellow of the American Theatre. In 2005 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Athens. His best-known book, Theories of the Theatre (Cornell University Press, 1993), has been translated into seven languages. His 2001 book, The Haunted Stage won the Calloway Prize. His newest book is the Theatres of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia with Khalid Amine (Palgrave 2011).

Co-Editors Marvin Carlson and Safi Mahfouz in Roman theatre in Amman, Jordan (February 2014).

Co-Editors Marvin Carlson and Safi Mahfouz in Roman theatre in Amman, Jordan (February 2014).