Doomed by Hope Theatre Series: March 27-30, 2013

Doomed by Hope Theatre Series

March 27-30, 2013



The nonprofit theatre organization Masrah Ensemble (Lebanon) is organizing an international series of events and activities featuring leading playwrights, directors, cultural administrators, and scholars from the Middle East and the United States, whose work is featured in Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre. The series of events will include conversations about the ideas at the core of the artists’ work; readings from their plays; lecture performances; workshops for theatre students; and screenings of films and documentaries.


ABOUT Doomed by Hope

Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre

Edited by Eyad Houssami with a foreword by Elias Khoury Pluto Press, 2012 (English) – Dar Al Adab, 2012 (Arabic)


In this unprecedented collection featuring original photography, vanguards of the stage reflect on the legacy of the late Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous, whose monumental plays incited audiences to rise up against tyranny decades ago. Doomed by Hope is a collection of fourteen essays in which playwrights, directors, and scholars capture the zeitgeist of Arab theatre as revolts unfurl across the Middle East. The book maneuvers from intimate memoir to incisive analysis of dramatic literature. From the bowels of Lebanon’s most notorious prison to the drama school of Damascus to the theatres of Cairo and Sanaa, Arab theatre artists are propelling the collective imagination of this pivotal historical moment.



Program of Events

Thursday, March 28, 2013

9:45 AM  |  Classroom Workshop  | Open to all Theatre Studies students


Dalia Basiouny and Margaret Litvin will be guest speakers in Dominika Laster’s Performance Studies seminar.  Basiouny will  perform extracts from Tahrir Stories.  Litvin will share her response and present on the “instant memorialization” of the revolts in Arab performing arts. For the first time, the theatre practitioner and author ofTahrir Stories will be able to discuss the political and social factors that have shaped her work on the stage with theatre scholar Margaret Litvin. Eyad Houssami and Dominika Laster will moderate the session.  To register contact Dominika Laster at


4 PM  | Master’s Tea at Pierson College  | Open to all Theatre Studies students

Doomed by Hope: Theatre in Beirut, Damascus, and Cairo Today 

by Eyad Houssami with Dalia Basiouny and Mohammad Al Attar


In a world of screens and speeds so great, theatres are padlocked and threatened with demolition. Live public dialogue, as a literary and artistic practice, remains a luxury – if not an impossible cultural phenomenon – in the Arab Middle East. Decades of invasion, occupation, and internecine conflict have ruptured the intangible and tangible infrastructure requisite for theatre. And yet, despite the stifling forces of dictatorship and colonialism, theatre endures. In this talk, Houssami narrates the emergence of alternative infrastructures of and for theatrical artistry in such difficult contexts and discusses the opportunities and challenges of establishing an international, multilingual theatre company based in Beirut, Lebanon. The interactive presentation incorporates video, excerpts of performances and plays, and extracts from Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre to share a story about contemporary theatre today.


8 PM  |  Film screening |  Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Room 101  | Open to the public

There Are Still So Many Things Left to Say



The film was based on an interview with the late dramatist Saadallah Wannous a few months before he died of cancer. Wannous narrates his somber and relentless reflections – an adieu to a generation for whom the Arab-Israeli conflict has been the source of all disillusion. The playwright recounts, with some regret for the lost opportunities that resulted, how the Palestinian struggle became a central part of intellectual life for an entire generation.


Followed by a discussion with Mohammad Al Attar, Dalia Basiouny, and Eyad Houssami with Ronald Gregg.


Friday, March 29, 2013 | 4 PM 

Yale Drama Coalition (YDC) Theatre Workshop:  The Personal Revolution 

Dalia Basiouny (with Eyad Houssami and Mohammad Al Attar)  — Open to all Yale students.  Advance registration required.  For more information, please contact Kate Heaney:




Basiouny is a writer, theatre director, translator, and university professor in Egypt. She has directed 18 plays in Egypt, United Kingdom, and the United States, and her plays have been performed in Morocco, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Germany. She is a contributor to Doomed by Hope.


Playwright and dramaturg, Al Attar is a graduate of the Faculty of English Literature – Damascus University and the Faculty of Theatre Studies – High Institute of Dramatic Arts. He received his MA degree in Applied Drama from Goldsmiths College. In 2006, Al Attar joined the Studio Theatre Company in Damascus, participating in projects in rural and impoverished areas as well as in a juvenile institute. His play Withdrawal has been adapted for stages in London, New York, New Delhi, Berlin, Tunisia, and Beirut. His play Online premiered at Royal Court Theatre. Could You Please Look into the Camera? premiered at the National Theatre of Scotland’s Traverse Theatre, and his recent short play “A Chance Encounter” debuted with Theatre Uncut 2012 at the Young Vic.


Margaret Litvin is assistant professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Boston University and the author of Hamlet’s Arab Journey: Shakespeare’s Prince and Nasser’s Ghost (Princeton, 2011). Her current research (working title Another East: Arab Writers, Moscow Dreams) explores Russian-Arab and Soviet Arab literary and cultural ties, tracing their effects on Arabic cultural production. She also writes about contemporary Arab drama and intercultural theatre.


Houssami makes and writes about theatre. He is the founding director of Masrah Ensemble and the editor of the English and Arabic editions of Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre. He has performed in dead Byzantine cities in Syria; produced a monodrama in a 13th century mansion only to be shut down by the government; and his play Mama Butterfly received a staged reading at the Between the Seas Festival (New York 2010). A recipient of Rotary and Fulbright grants, he also co-founded and served as President of the Yale Arab Alumni Association.


Mama Butterfly

by Eyad Houssami

How do war and diaspora fragment the meaning of family and reshape the experience of loneliness? In Mama Butterfly, a lonely widow conjures up ghosts of her past, holding her family together in the face of the centrifuge of history. It is he story of a woman, from French-occupied Damascus, who falls in love with a man from Beirut and adopts the city as her own.  Globalization, war, and occupation dismember her city and launch her and her family into a state of

migration. Bereaved of her husband, going blind, and left with two children in the Gulf and no family in Beirut, she withstands the pressure to leave and, instead, chooses a life of fixed solitude in Beirut, the city she calls home. In so doing, she and the city together become the axis of family.  The text, originally authored in Arabic and French, is based on a series of interviews conducted in Beirut in 2007. The performance runs 50 minutes. Although the inaugural production was shut down by the Syrian government, the play enjoyed a reading in Between the Seas Festival (New York, 2010).



by Dalia Basiouny

Solitaire is a play by Egyptian writer and director Dalia Basiouny. This production is a multi-media performance that connects the events of September 11th in the United States to the Egyptian Revolution, highlighting them as two main catalysts in the change the world is experiencing in the 21st Century.  It opened in Cairo March 2011 and was presented in Iraq in April and Morocco in June. It toured the US in summer 2011.


Tahrir Stories

by Dalia Basiouny


Tahrir Stories was among the first performances to document the Egyptian revolution through testimonies of the demonstrators and to honor those who fell during the revolution.



Sarab Al Ani, Arabic Lector, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and Council on Middle East Studies

Dominika Laster, Postdoctoral Associate, Lecturer, Theatre Studies

Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater and English, Theatre Studies



Council on Middle East Studies, Frank Griffel

Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale, Joseph Roach

Arab Students Association, Hana Muasher

Yale Drama Coalition, Katherine Heaney

Film Studies Program, Ronald Gregg

Pierson College, Harvey Goldblatt and Susan M. Anderson


February 5 – Discussion of the film: John Frum: He Will Come

During World War II, America arrived for the first time in Vanuatu and impressed the natives with their advanced technology and generous gifts of cargo. Instead of threatening them or forcing religious ideologies upon them, American soldiers treated the Tannese with dignity and respect and donated medical supplies, food, clothes, and other necessities. In addition, the Tannese were amazed to see black officers among the ranks of soldiers.

America became their beacon of hope against the European occupiers and a resistance movement that had begun before the war assumed religious dimensions that now included America. A mysterious deity named John Frum emerged who embodied these sentiments. After the war, the United States left and the John Frum spirit also departed. A prophecy arose that John Frum would return to Tanna with an abundance of American goods and lead them to salvation from the Christian missionaries. Believers were thrown into prison by the British and French for blasphemy until they were granted religious freedom in 1957. The John Frum followers patiently wait for their American savior to return.

Upon discovering the existence of the John Frum Movement, Cevin Soling, a Harvard graduate student and filmmaker, traveled to Tanna with an abundance of American goods in the hopes of fulfilling the John Frum prophecy. “John Frum, He Will Come” chronicles Mr. Soling’s attempt at becoming an island god.


David E. Guinan is a writer, producer, and director who works in the world of converging media. He studied artistic applications of emerging technologies and comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin, as well as the Sorbonne.  In 1998, he joined MTV Networks to develop and produce original multimedia programming.  He went out on his own in 2001 and began an intense exploration of more experimental types of filmmaking. David produced and directed John Frum, He Will Come a feature length documentary about cargo cults that worship America on the island of Tanna in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.  John Frum, He Will Come had its world premiere and headlined the 20th annual Hot Springs Documentary Festival.  He also produced Freeloader, a narrative feature that premiered opening weekend at Rooftop Films and was featured in the New York Times, Time Out, and New York 1. He also continued his collaboration with artist Liz Magic Laser producing Flight and I Feel Your Pain, both of which received glowing reviews in the New York Times, Art Forum, Modern Painter, and New York Magazine.  He continues to work with other notable artist including Frances Stark, Michelle Abeles, Simone Leigh, and Ryan McNamara.

Cevin Soling  is a writer, director, producer, artist, and academic.  He produced and directed The War on Kids, which illustrates how American public schools are now modeled after prisons and why they cannot be reformed.  The film was honored as the best educational documentary at the New York Independent Film and Video Festival and received accolades from The New York Times, Variety, and The Huffington Post.   Soling has been a guest on numerous radio shows including “The Lionel Show” (Air America), “The Joey Reynolds Show” (WOR), and “The Leonard Lopate Show” (WNYC).  Additionally, he has appeared on national television on the RT network, “The Dr. Nancy Show” (MSNBC), and as a featured guest on “The Colbert Report.”  Soling is currently enrolled in graduate school at Harvard University.

Film Screenings and Dialogue with Polish Laboratory Theatre Actors

Thursday, November 8, 2012 – 7:00 PM 
One of Jerzy Grotowski’s major theatrical productions, Akropolis transports the action of Wyspiański’s drama from Wawel Hill to Auschwitz.
Followed by a discussion with the actors moderated by Marc Robinson (Professor of English and Theatre Studies)
Friday, November 9, 2012 – 7:00 PM
Based on Calderón de la Barca’s play, The Constant Prince features Ryszard Cieślak in the role that came to be known as the embodiment of Grotowski’s notion of the ‘holy actor.’
Followed by a discussion with the actors moderated by Paige McGinley (Assistant Professor of Theater Studies, American Studies, and African American Studies)
DAVENPORT AUDITORIUM,  248 York Street, New Haven
Events are Free but seating is limited
RSVP here
Saturday, November 10, 2012 – 10AM – 2 PM
Workshop with Mieczysław Janowski and Andrzej Paluchiewicz, Actors of the Polish Laboratory Theatre
220 York Street, Ballroom  — Email Dominika Laster for more information:

Mieczysław Janowski worked in the Laboratory Theatre for eight years, playing in the theatre’s core productions, including Faust, Akropolis, and The Constant Prince.  After the Laboratory Theatre’s dissolution in 1984, Janowski continued acting in the Dramatic Theatre in Wałbrzych and the Wspołczesny Theatre in Wrocław.  Janowski’s acting was not limited to the theatre; from 1962 to 1986 he appeared in over 85 feature films.  In 1999, the President of Poland awarded Janowski with the Golden Order of Merit for his entire artistic oeuvre.

Andrzej Paluchiewicz worked with Jerzy Grotowski from 1966 to 1976.  He was an actor in the Laboratory Theatre and took part in the paratheatrical activities, which followed the Theatre of Productions phase.  Paluchiewicz was also the ensemble’s resident photographer. He is the author of some of the most iconic images of Grotowski’s productions.


This program is presented by Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale (IPSY) and the Theatre Studies program at Yale University. The events are part of the Poland-U.S. Campus Arts Project, a program of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw, Poland.




Saturday, March 2nd — Symposium:  Poetry as a Practice of Encounter

11 AM – 1 PM  Workcenter’s Open Program director Mario Biagini in dialogue with New Haven Review Editor Donald Brown

2-4 PM:  Roundtable discussion of Workcenter’s Open Program performances with Associate Dean for the ArtsSusan Cahan, Associate Professor Magda Romańska, Joshua Safran, film director Borys Lankosz, and Mario Biagini.

Electric Party

March 3, 2013 at 4 PM  – BAR

254 Crown Street, New Haven, CT


Electric Party is a stream of dramatic elements – songs, rhythm, dance, poetry – that emerge from a seemingly casual atmosphere of a party in which the poetic word intersects with the present circumstances in which we are living. This experiment in the potentialities of a party as a form of art explores the edges of theatrical and social behavior, and plays with the sometimes ambiguous division between the two.  Electric Party is an articulated game that unfolds throughout the night:  songs, poems, dances and actions appear and disappear without resolution, continually playing with the rhythms of the party, riding its waves. While guests eat, socialize, drink and dance, the gathering arrives to moments of high intensity through structured and precise sequences of action performed by the Open Program Team.


Electric Party Songs

February 21 & 22, 2013 at 8 PM – Calhoun Cabaret

189 Elm Street  New Haven, CT 06511


Electric Party Songs created by the Workcenter’s Open Program under the direction of Mario Biagini, is a flow of songs and actions based on the poetry of American poet Allen Ginsberg (1927-1997). Members of this international group elaborated and composed all of the songs, approaching the meanings, rhythms and sounds of the spoken texts as the seeds of musical and dramatic creation. Their varied backgrounds generate a stylistically diverse body of music, drawing inspiration from blues, rock, pop, opera, punk, and traditional sources. The team weaves into Electric Party Songs its investigation of traditional songs from the Southern United States and the possibility of catalyzing contacts and interactions.

I Am America

February 28 & March 1, 2013  –  Whitney Theater

53 Wall Street,  New Haven, CT 06511


I Am America, directed by Mario Biagini, brings the poetry of Allen Ginsberg to life in a visceral performance with language culled from Ginsberg’s poetry as well as calls, shouts and traditional songs from the American South.  Original compositions by members of the Workcenter Open Program, developed in intensive collaboration over a period of three years, complement and build upon these sources.

Meeting with Mario Biagini

Friday, April 6, 2012  – 7:30 PM 

220 York Street

Biagini will discuss modalities of performance research developed by Jerzy Grotowski and the new directions which this embodied research is taking within the Workcenter’s current praxis.  Biagini will also talk about his present work with the Workcenter’s Open Program, which he directs.  Open Program performances are based on the work of Allen Ginsberg as well as traditional songs from the south of the United States.  Biagini’s research with the Open Program investigates the living aspect of the poetic word as a tool for contact and action, its rhythmical and sonic qualities, and the complexity of its meanings.

Saturday, April 7, 2012  10:00 AM – 2:00 PM   [220 York Street, Theatre Studies]

Workshop with Mario Biagini

This works session will investigate essential elements of the performer’s craft such as organicity and impulse, and explore the fundamental difference between movement and action. Under the direction of Mario Biagini workshop participants will work on ancient songs from the Afro-Haitian tradition and elements of the physical training developed at the Workcenter over the past twenty-five years.

Workshop is limited to 15 participants.

Those interested in participating please send a short letter of interest to:

Grotowski and the Workcenter

Considered one of the most important and influential theatre practitioners of the 20th century, Jerzy Grotowski revolutionized contemporary theatre in multiple ways.  Grotowski changed the way Western theatre practitioners and performance theorists conceive of the audience-actor relationship, theatre staging and the craft of acting.  Perhaps best known for his notion of ‘poor theatre,’ Grotowski’s practice extends beyond the confines of conventional theatre assuming a long-term and systematic exploration of the possibilities of the human being in a performance context.  In practical terms, Grotowski’s praxis explores the ways in which specific performance techniques unlock forgotten potentialities in the human being.  Drawing most significantly on the traditional songs and ritual movement of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, Grotowski’s latter work deploys performance techniques as an instrument in the work on oneself.  Termed “Art as vehicle,” this final phase of work culminated in an intense thirteen-year-long research at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards.

Before his passing in 1999, Grotowski designated Thomas Richards and Mario Biagini as the sole legatees of his Estate including his entire body of written work.  Since that time, Richards and Biagini, respectively the Workcenter’s director and associate director, have continued to develop the essential investigations initiated by Grotowski.  The Workcenter’s rigorous, long-term practical investigations constitute an important and singular paradigm of embodied research operating continuously for a quarter of a century.