TWB Digest #341

Quote of the week
Old man
“And the truth will set you free 
Even if the master don’t.”
Father Comes Home From the Wars. (Parts 1,2 & 3) by Susan-Lori Parks 

Dear friends,
first, take a look at Artists at Risk Connection. An organization committed to brining to your attention to Artists from around the globe whose Artistic Freedoms are under threat.

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Lebanon Prison Theatre and Women

 Lebanon Prison Theatre and Women

Zeina Daccache has a theory: ‘Theatre can live in the most forgotten places and grow in the most difficult situations.’ As an actress and drama therapist who has worked in Lebanon’s prisons and psychiatric hospitals, she knows what she’s talking about. However, nothing proves her hypothesis more than her recent work, ‘Scheherazade in Baabda’.

The ‘self-revelatory performance’ was based on 10 months of drama therapy with 20 female inmates in Baabda prison, west Lebanon. Through exercises with objects, images and storytelling, Daccache gently guided a creative process that empowered ‘murderers of husbands’, ‘adulterers’ and ‘drug felons’ to share stories of violence, betrayal and abuse that led to their life behind bars.

The finished product was the first-ever theatre performance inside an Arab women’s prison (and an award-winning documentary titled ‘Scheherazade’s Diary’). Comprised of monologues, short scenes and flamenco, ‘Scheherazade in Baabda’ sharply interrogates whom the Lebanese justice system is really defending.

‘In Lebanon, there is no law to protect women from domestic violence, and in most of the rural areas here, divorce is considered a “bad thing”, so any woman suffering from domestic violence has no big choices,’ Daccache explains. ‘She’s threatened by her husband and her own family if she decides to divorce or escape, and if she goes to the police, they will tell her: “excuse us, but there is no law to protect you”.’

She describes the result: ‘Many of the oppressed women end up being the oppressor’; in the most extreme cases, by killing their abusive husbands. The women at Baabda have suffered years of domestic violence, forced child marriages and sexual abuse; instead of sharing wonderful tales of adventure like the original Scheherazade did, their stories hold an unforgiving mirror up to the patriarchal society that has shaped their fate.

On a mission

Due to an overwhelmed and under-funded justice system, many of Baabda’s inmates are still under arrest rather than serving sentences. According to Daccache, ‘you are presumed guilty until proven innocent, which leads to overcrowded prisons, slow tribunal appointments and procedures’. Inside the prison, women spend long days sitting on plastic chairs in concrete rooms, waiting for updates on their cases.

However, Daccache is on a mission: to alter the public’s perception of prisoners and tackle the social problems that drive people onto the wrong side of the law. In 2007, she founded Lebanon’s first drama therapy centre, Catharsis, which uses theatre to empower disadvantaged people and lobby for policy change.

Instead of sharing wonderful tales of adventure like the original Scheherazade did, their stories hold an unforgiving mirror up to the patriarchal society that has shaped their fate

‘Theatre is a tool for anyone and everyone,’ she explains. Catharsis works with marginalized populations, including Syrian refugees, domestic workers and people in rehabilitation centres. Her work with prisoners is ‘changing how the public perceives prisoners: to see them as human beings, combating stereotypes and misperceptions that limit the prisoner to a sinner, criminal, or loser’.

Daccache’s tragicomic documentary about the play, ‘Scheherazade’s Diary’, appears to have the same goal. Simultaneously moving, lively and funny, it exposes the personalities, fears and yearnings of the socially vulnerable yet strong-willed women at Baabda. Their voices had until now been excluded from public debate.

‘At first, most of the women inmates had apprehensions in showing themselves to people, cameras, stage. We totally respected that, and ethics is the first rule that we commit to… but slowly they started asking to show and perform. The audience got a lot of awareness because few of them knew why a woman would end up in jail in Lebanon.’

After seeing the play and witnessing the tough living conditions at Baabda, audience members offered legal assistance and social support, helped improve hygiene facilities and even gave jobs to women leaving the prison.

Advocacy initiatives

Catharsis frequently holds meetings in parliament with judges and ministers to communicate prisoners’ issues, and also advocates on behalf of specific cases. One of the Scheherazades, Afaf, had been imprisoned for four years for suspected murder before being tried: ‘We pushed for a trial, found her a lawyer… and 10 days later she was out innocent.


On stage at the prison theatre. Dalia Khamissy

‘As soon as we have a performance open to the public, and the performance on DVD in the market, and a film such as ‘Scheherazade’s Diary’ or ‘12 Angry Lebanese’, the advocacy starts.’ Catharsis invites governmental figures and judges directly into the prisons to watch the performances and meet the performers afterwards.

‘12 Angry Lebanese’ was the product of a drama therapy project in 2009, in Roumieh men’s prison, the largest in Lebanon. An adaptation of ‘12 Angry Men’, it directly led to the implementation of Law 463 (reduction of sentences based on good behaviour). Daccache is proud: ‘For the first time, society started paying attention to this forgotten place… before that, you’d only hear about prison because there’s a riot… no-one listened to the inmates’ needs.’ She describes prison theatre as an ‘artistic, peaceful, constructive riot’.

‘Scheherazade in Baabda’ served a similar function. In April 2014, less than two years after the play was first performed, Lebanon passed its first law on domestic violence. Catharsis had joined forces with other advocacy initiatives in Lebanon to push for this change. Daccache states: ‘the most important thing is that these ladies added their voice to the other voices claiming for a law to prot
ect women from domestic violence.’ However, she sounds sceptical about its impact: ‘Now we need to see if the bill will be applied in a manner that protects women.’

Daccache believes there are still vast changes to be made for women’s liberation in Lebanon. Discriminatory personal status laws, which are determined by religious affiliation, put women at a considerable disadvantage compared to men when it comes to issues of marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.

Child marriage is a persistent problem in the country, as she describes: ‘Many girls are being married still at the age of 12 or 15, not really knowing where they’re heading to.’ In Lebanon, there is no civil law on the minimum age of marriage, which is instead determined by religious sects. According to Human Rights Watch, all sects permit the marriage of girls below 18.

Though her efforts are relentless, Daccache denies being anyone’s advocate: ‘I give the tools of drama therapy and theatre to people to lobby and advocate for themselves.’ This is why it reaps such powerful results. Unlike policy briefs, theatre empowers the most vulnerable members of society to directly stare lawmakers in the eye and dare them to share their pain.

– See more at:


EFA announces Ateliers for Young Festival Managers 2013/2014: express your interest.

Following the intense experience of five Ateliers for Young Festival Managers  in Görlitz (2006), Varna (2009), Singapore (May 2011), Izmir (October 2011) and Ljubljana(October 2012), the European Festivals Association (EFA) is delighted to announce the next three editions in: Beirut, Lebanon, in autumn 2013; Edinburgh, UK, in spring 2014; and Kampala, Uganda, in autumn 2014.

The Atelier for Young Festival Mangers is a high-level 7-day training programme focusing on the artistic aspects of festival management. It brings together two generations of festival makers: 45 young festival managers and 10 renowned festival directors from all over the world. 

To name just a few of the mentors and presenters who will take part in these Ateliers under the coordination of Hugo De Greef (Former EFA Secretary General, General Manager Bruges European Capital of Culture 2002, Founder and former Director Kaaitheater): Robyn Archer (Creative Director The Centenary of Canberra (2013), Artistic Director The Light in Winter – Australia), Bernard Faivre d’Arcier (President Biennale de la Danse de Lyon, former Director Festival d’Avignon – France), Rose Fenton (Director Free Word, Co-Founder LIFT, London – UK), Nele Hertling (Vice-Chair of the Academy of Arts Berlin, former Director Hebbel-Theater, Germany), Ching-Lee Goh (Executive and Artistic Director CultureLink Singapore, Former Director Singapore Arts Festival – Singapore), Gerard Mortier (General Director Teatro Real de Madrid, former Director Salzburger Festpiele, former Director Ruhr Triennale – Belgium), Jonathan Mills (Festival Director and Chief Executive Edinburgh International Festival – UK) and many more.

Each of the three editions will be hosted by an excellent international festival in a unique cultural setting. The hosting city will offer an inspiring and challenging context which will enrich the Atelier content and participants. 

The Atelier BEIRUT 2013 will be hosted by the Beiteddine Art Festival from 5-12 October 2013. The Atelier EDINBURGH 2014 will be held from 3-10 April 2014 and hosted by the Edinburgh International Festival. The Atelier KAMPALA 2014 will take place from 21-28 September 2014, hosted by the Bayimba International Arts Festival

The open call for application for the Ateliers BEIRUT 2013 and EDINBURGH 2014 will be launched in January 2013: deadline of application for Beirut will be 31 March 2013 and deadline of application for Edinburgh will be 31 May 2013. The open call for the Atelier KAMPALA 2014 will be launched in September 2013. 

EFA invites motivated young artistic festival managers to express their interest in this unique training programme and its next promising editions in 2013 and 2014. Write an email to EFA at and you will be among the first ones to receive the application forms.

Young festival managers from all over the world: get ready to apply! Please feel invited to spread this announcement broadly in your network to anybody who might be interested. To find out more about the Atelier and the previous editions, please visit

Announced: Gent, Monday, 17-12-2012

One Night Only: Syria in Revolt, on a Beirut Stage

Sunflower Theater

Nanda Mohammad played Noura in “Could You Please Look Into the Camera,” which was staged last month at the Sunflower Theater in Beirut, Lebanon.


There was only one performance of Mohammad al-Attar’s play in Beirut, and some playgoers came from Damascus, Syria.

The fear endures, but the type that kept Syrians cowed into silence for decades has morphed into something different, he said over a beer in a Beirut cafe. “Fear is a human instinct, but the fear is no longer preventing people from doing things,” he said.

That is one theme he explores in his play about the uprising, “Could You Please Look Into the Camera,” which was staged last month at the Sunflower Theater in Beirut.

It was a remarkable event for several reasons: There was only one performance. It aired its accusations of torture and other abuse by President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Beirut, where a small clandestine community of Syrian activists lives in dread of the long arm of his secret police. A chunk of the audience came from Damascus.

Many playgoers emerged electrified by the experience of seeing the uprising examined publicly in a work of art. “It was cathartic because it was no longer kept inside everybody, or a whispered conversation,” said one woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was going back to Damascus. “I could imagine other people were having the same conversation, but I had no real idea — everyone is keeping their circles tighter because everyone is afraid.”

The Syrian government has struggled to give the impression that life in Damascus remains serenely unaffected by the upheaval throughout much of the country. “You turn on state TV and it just talks about the issue of Palestine constantly, or that normalcy is being undermined by outside actors,” the woman said. “We are all bit players in the government’s facade.”

The play focuses on the lives of four young Damascenes. Noura, a divorced woman whose well-to-do family has long flourished because of its government connections, decides that her part in the uprising will be filming the testimony of tortured activists. Her brother, Ghassan, a prosperous lawyer like their father, considers the project madness. Zeid and Farah are the two activists participating in her film.

The play’s director, Omar Abusaada, staged a complicated piece that included video testimonials from other activist characters. They were projected onto the walls of the set, with an empty former law office on one side and a small jail cell on the other.

Mr. Attar, a handsome, unshaven 31-year-old with a black ponytail, said the play started as verbatim testimonials drawn from about 10 people who had been jailed. “I was listening to their stories, and I was obsessed by them,” he said.

But as a Damascus native with a theater degree from England, he let his instincts to produce a drama rather than a documentary take over. He created the conflict between the two siblings as Noura edges away from her family, a difficult step in the Arab world, to find a role in the opposition.

“No more fooling around anymore; the whole country is sitting on a boiling volcano,” Ghassan barks at Noura at one point. “Believe me, if they learn about this project it won’t go away peacefully. Neither me nor Father can do anything then.”

Noura shoots back a little later in the argument: “This is what we’ve always been good at all our lives. As long as our business is doing well, nothing should bother us, not even for a moment. Nothing can affect our lives.”

Ghassan warns that the events have gone beyond that. “I’m talking about issues bigger than me, you and the family,” he says.

Long stretches of the play still resemble a documentary. Among the most stomach-churning parts come when Zeid and Farah describe what happened to them in jail, although there are injections of humor.

Social media have played an enormous role in the uprising, so Zeid’s torturers want his Facebook password. He jokes that he would have happily given it up for a cup of coffee, but even after he tells it to them, his jailers rough him up repeatedly because it is a complicated English word that they cannot type correctly.

Farah was arrested when government supporters told the security police she was distributing antigovernment pamphlets in their neighborhood. She is Christian, a choice for the character Mr. Attar made to underscore that not all minorities support Mr. Assad. “I am already thinking that everyone should see who I am; some people are still dormant, and maybe they’ll wake up,” Farah says in deciding to be interviewed. “Show my face.”

When the inevitable happens to Noura as well, she frets about what silly remarks others might be writing about her on Facebook. In reality, when activists are arrested, their friends put up a “freedom page” for each on Facebook.

Nanda Mohammad, the actress who played Noura, laughed in a telephone interview about how some comments had been repeated to the point of parody, like “They stole our light” and “Will you ever see our smiles again?”

Ms. Mohammad thought moments like that were the play’s strength. “It seems like it is simple and not deep enough, but a couple hours after you hear the line, you are deeply touched,” she said from Cairo.

Not everyone agreed.

Maher Esper, 32, who was released from prison in Syria last year after serving five and a half years of a seven-year sentence for setting up a Web site critical of Mr. Assad, said he thought the play focused too much on issues like torture — an old story after 50 years of dictatorship — rather than the profound changes Syria is experiencing.

“It focused so much on pain and suffering,” he said after the performance. “I have yet to see any work of art that reflects what is really happening in Syria. This was a good attempt, but it was not profound enough. Maybe we are asking too much of art.”

The hurdles involved in creating uprising
art are part of the problem. The director and all but one actor live in Damascus, where they rehearsed for six weeks. They decided that doing it in secret would be more dangerous than hiding in plain sight, so they met at a theater and kept the script to themselves. (The play has also been performed in English on the festival circuit, in Edinburgh and Seoul, South Korea.)

The rehearsals in Damascus were “difficult and strange,” Ms. Mohammad said, but the director and the actors all decided it was worth the risk because the play distilled what they were thinking and feeling.

“We must talk about these issues and deal with it — most families have different points of view,” Ms. Mohammad said. “We will all have to live together after the regime falls, and we need a basis for our next life together.”

 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 17, 2012

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the actress who played Noura. She is Nanda Mohammad, not Mohammed. The error was repeated in a picture caption. 

A version of this article appeared in print on June 17, 2012, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: One Night Only: Syria in Revolt, on a Beirut Stage.



14th – 29th April 2012 (BIPOD 2012 video trailor)

Al Madina Theatre | Theatre Monnot | 
Babel theatre | Maqamat DanceHouse | 
The Hangar/Umam D&R | Metropolis Cinema

(full program below)

Maqamat Dance Theatre & the BIPOD Team are pleased to announce the opening of the Eighth annual BIPOD-Beirut International Platform of Dance on Saturday 14th of April, 2012 at 8pm at Al Madina Theatre.

In its Eighth edition, and in partnership with Beiteddine Art Festival, BIPOD offers once again a rich international program of contemporary dance featuring renowned choreographers, companies, and artists from around the world.

We look forward to welcoming you to BIPOD 2012.

Best regards,
Maqamat & BIPOD Team

Please click here for the detailed program in French

Please click here for the detailed program in English


The Gaza Monologues at the UN‏

The Gaza Mono-Logues

On November 20, 2010, twenty-six young actors representing twenty-one countries arrive in New York City to perform The Gaza Mono-Logues. 

(Italy-France-Belgium-The Netherlands-UK-Germany-Swiss-Hungary-Norway-Sweden-Greece-

Palestine-Lebanon-Tunisia-Jordan-Pakistan-Sri Lanka-Zimbabwe-Gambia-Trinidad-USA)

Directors Iman Aoun (ASHTAR Theatre, Palestine) and Shauna Kanter (VOICETheatre, NYC) will create with them a performance of these texts in all their different languages.

A public performance is hosted by La MaMa E.T.C on Sunday 28th at 8PM in The Club.

Two performances will take place in the United Nations for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, November 29th at 12:30PM in Conference Hall 2 right after the Special Meeting, and in the evening at 6.30PM in the public lobby around the opening exhibition of UNRWA, Summer Games in Gaza.

Olivia Magnan de Bornier: 718 974 1240
Interviews available in English, French, Arabic.

New Plays from the Arab World in NYC


This Week at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center:

Wednesday, April 28 at 4:00 p.m.:

The Royal Court's Elyse Dodgson and the International Playwrights Program

Please join us for a very special visit and presentation by Elyse Dodgson, Associate Director International for London's renowned Royal Court Theatre. Dodgson will discuss the Royal Court's International Playwrights program, which partners with and encourages the development of playwrights from around the world. Since 1993, theRoyal Court International Playwrights Program (supported by the Genesis Foundation) has fostered creative dialogue between innovative theatre writers and practitioners in countries including Brazil, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Palestine, Romania, Russia, Spain, Syria and Uganda. Playwrights mentored by the Program early in their careers include Marius Von Mayenburg (Germany), Juan Mayorga (Spain), Vassily Sigarev (Russia), Rafael Spregelburd (Argentina), Marcos Barbosa (Brazil), and Anupama Chandrasekhar (India), among many others.

Thursday, April 29 at 4:30, 6:30 + 8:00 p.m. and Friday, April 30 at 4:30, 6:30 + 8:00 p.m.:

PEN World Voices: I Come From There– New Plays from the Arab World

A British Council/Royal Court Theatre Project, presented in New York in collaboration with the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY, with additional support from the Sundance Institute Theatre Program

Join us for full readings of new plays by emerging playwrights from Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, and Palestine, all participants in the Royal Court Theatre's International Playwrights Program, plus panel discussions with the visiting playwrights, the British Council, and the Royal Court. Readings directed by Trip Cullman, Kareem Fahmy, Robert O'Hara, Lisa Peterson, and Meiyin Wang. Full schedule and details online at, or click here for more information.

Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY 
365 Fifth Ave at 34th St. 
Free! First come, first served.

Spring 2010 International / World Theatre Series also includes:




news from Americans for the Arts

Lebanon: Beirut Arts Center Aims to Bring Contemporary Art to Wider Audience, 2/2010
"In this new millennium, artists from the Arab world are starting to assert a stronger presence on the international arts scene. Lebanese artists in particular have made a name for themselves with complex conceptual works. 
And Beirut has come to the fore as a regional art hub, attracting art experts from all over the world. Nevertheless, the number of actual art exhibition venues is limited compared with other cities of similar standing. Beirut suffers in particular from a lack of exhibition spaces for non-commercial art. Even though the city's galleries occasionally show experimental art, such as Agial in the central district of Hamra, or the well-known Sfeir Semmler Gallery, a bit more out of the way in the industrial area of Quarantina, Beirut has up to now not had a space dedicated exclusively to this area of artistic endeavor."


United Kingdom: Acting Technique Used to Help Students Learn Shakespeare
The Guardian, 3/10/10
"Eleven-year-olds are to learn Shakespeare using techniques employed by Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) actors, and English teachers will be encouraged to let pupils walk around the classroom rather than reading the plays while sitting at their desks. 
Exercises devised by the RSC and the Globe Theatre in London will see children aged 11–14 mirror the methods of professional actors at rehearsal. Written and oral assessments developed alongside the lessons will show how well students have understood the texts. Following the government's announcement of the new teaching initiative, the RSC's director of education, Jacqui O'Hanlon, said focusing on how actors came to understand the playwright's language had been a vital inspiration. She said: 'Actors have the same nervousness around Shakespeare's language as young people in schools do. We looked at how they get from that to a place of utter conviction, confidence and eloquence in six to eight weeks.'"

NOH Theatre at Lebanon American University

 Lebanese American University


School of Arts and Sciences
Department of Arts & Communication
in collaboration with
the Embassy of Japan & The Arab Theatre Training Center
NOH Theatre at LAU
المطعم الإيطالي
(A performance in Arabic)
Written and Directed by
Noh Master Naohiko Umewaka
Tuesday September 8, 2009 – 8:30 pm
Gulbenkian Theatre

Free Admission



Lebanese American University International Theatre Festival – Beirut

LAU theater festival unites performers from Middle East and Europe


A scene from the opening play of the festival, the LAUproduction Mirror, Mirror


The Palestinian Circuna Troupe members show their acrobatic skills during their outdoor show on July 24.

Click on any photo above to view all ten images

August 3, 2009—

The 12th International University Theatre Festival, which took place onLAU’s Beirut campus from July 23–30, featured over 200 performing arts students and professors as well as many professionals from Germany, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Organized by the Department of Arts and Communication of LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences, the weeklong festival featured plays every night from 7–10 p.m.

They ranged in theme from Arab history and legends such as the Kuwaiti play Antar Who Protects Her — inspired by the story of an Arab pre-Islamic warrior and poet — to theater philosophy in the LAU 30-minute production Mirror, Mirror. The Moroccan production A Balance With One Plateportrayed the idea of a flawed justice system. 

“There are so many festivals organized this time of the year, but we managed to attract a lot of attention,” says Dr. Maurice Maalouf, associate professor of communication and performing arts at LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences in Byblos, and a member of the festival’s organizing team. 

“We are very pleased with the number of people coming to see the plays. The majority are university students, but we also have general audience,” Maalouf adds.

LAU’s Irwin and Gulbenkian theaters were packed during the sixth night of the festival during which audiences enjoyed productions by the Kuwaiti and Syrian Higher Institutes for Performing Arts.

The Kuwaiti The Crookbacked Bird, the story of detainees in a big prison longing for the outside world while being tortured by a sadistic guard, made a deep impression on spectators.

The same success had the Syrian students with their presentation ofThe Days of Negligence, a play in classical Arabic about student life and graduation mixed with personal stories of treason.

LAU students and graduates participated with five productions — the opening play Mirror, MirrorSex, Drugs, Rock ‘N’ RollBlack Swans,Finding the Sun and Silicon Bomb.

The event also attracted many professionals to the diverse range of presentations and workshops that included circus and clowning skills, reading skills, and poetry reading, as well as the concerts organized on campus.

“Since we have the equipment and the technique, we have to give students the opportunity to produce their plays and be in front of the audience that judges their performance,” Maalouf says. That way, “they have the chance not only to show the world what they have to offer, but also to see what the outside world has to give them,” he adds.

The participants were happy with the facilities and experience they gained during the festival. The Kuwaiti Al Jeel Al Waie Theater Troupe came to the festival after the members realized how much there is to learn from such events.

According to one of the troupe’s directors, Esam Al Kazemi, the actors were very pleased with the well-equipped room they performed in and the “helpful and efficient” LAU organizing team.

Al Kazemi says they feel close to Lebanon too and remembers that in 2006 they donated all their earnings from their theater productions to the people who lost their homes in the war.

Maalouf, who has been with the growing festival team since it began 12 years ago, says he hopes it evolves into a high-standard regional Middle Eastern event.