Middle Eastern Theatre Photo Exhibition

Although we might all know about the diversity in the Middle East, our knowledge of its colourful performing arts culture is limited. We know more about its anti-theatrical prejudices and political suppression of the performing arts than about its diverse performance traditions, multiplicity of theatrical practices and the credibility of its artists’ socio-political commitments. The journey offered by this exhibition is an attempt to share and celebrate the diversity and audacity of the dramatic arts created by artists of Arab, Persian, Turkish and many other ethnicities.

As a teacher and student from the Middle East (Iran), I am surprised by the lack of theatre artists of the region found in the undergrad and graduate curricula of drama and theatre programs in North America. Yet my extensive research shows that the region has vibrant and various theatrical visions and productions. Academically speaking, the exhibition is a diversifying intervention to enhance students’ active learning about the performing arts in the region.

The first edition of the exhibition featured 80 photos, play programs, portraits and books from 7 countries in the Middle East (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey).

The exhibition had four sections:

  • Traditional Performances (ancient and modern renditions)
  • Original Plays (1950-1970)
  • Adaptations (1950-1970)
  • Women Pioneers

As the first of its kind in North America, the exhibition was admired by theatre historians and scholars (Richard Schechner, Frank Hildy, Stephen Johnson, and Don Rubin) and my curatorial journey of collecting and exhibiting this rare collection enabled me to tie my playful approach to research with my worldmindedness vision. The collection constitutes the core corpus of my future digital curation project.

Contributing Entities:

  • Director of Theatre Research Centre, Ministry of Culture, Iraq
  • Theatre Department, College of Fine Arts, University of Baghdad
  • Centre for Dramatic Arts, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Iran
  • Theatre Department, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran
  • Department of Theatre and Cinema, University of Lebanon
  • Higher Institute for Theatre Arts, Damascus, Syria
  • State Theatres’ Refik Ahmet Sevengil Theatre Library – Digital Play Information System, Turkey

Special Thanks to:

Alyson Doyle (editing), Rahaf Fasheh (publicity), Yasser Qorashi (Journey photography), Dina Amin (Egypt), Ruhollah Ja’fari, Ali Hossein-pour, and Hassan Moosavi (Iran), Amir Al-Azraki, Suha Salim, and Sa’d Aziz Abdol-Saheb (Iraq), Deniz Başar (Turkey), Meisoun Ali (Syria), Machhour Mustapha and Majdi Bou-Matar (Lebanon), Samer Al-Saber and Kamel El-Basha (Palestine), Stephen Johnson (University of Toronto), Bahman Koosha, and all the student-volunteers.

Financial Sponsors: Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto, Good Ideas Fund (Hart House), and Stephen Johnson.

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