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