Monday, October 8, 2007

Saudi Theater Grows, but Women are Still Sidelined

"An official of the Ministry of Culture and Information said that the ministry is pushing to have theatrical plays year-round instead of just during Eid and other special occasions. But some are pointing out that Saudi theater is still a predominantly man’s world. [...]

"Riyadh and other cities host cultural events for Eid for which plays are a large part of the programs. But for the rest of the year, plays are few and far between, despite the demand. 'Saudis will drive 100 miles to attend a play', said Mohammed Alahmed, deputy director at King Saud University’s College of Fine Arts, which performs 15 to 20 plays each year. [...]

"Saudi theater was born in 1960 with the play 'Fateh Makkah' ('Capturing Makkah'), but for the most part the art form has, like many fine arts in the Kingdom, been sidelined despite the social demand. And unlike movie theaters, plays are more or less socially acceptable, even among the most conservative members of society — provided of course that the themes and dialogue are acceptable and in deference to male audience members and gender segregation is upheld.

"Abdullah Alamer, producer of the women’s play 'Newsan Net', which is showing at King Fahd cultural Center this Eid, said to Arab News that plays for women are increasing. ('Newsan Net' revolves around the theme of women using the Internet as a venue for social interactions.) 'The plays receive remarkable response among women', said Alamer, adding that the success of these plays reflects Saudi women’s hunger to see their issues played out on stage.

"Saudi actress Agadeer Alsaead believes women need more venues for acting and attending. 'Our goal is to talk to women', she said, underscoring the point that as of yet women are still not given equal chances to perform to attend theatrical performances. For example, out of the 10 plays being scheduled in Riyadh for Eid, seven are for men only and two are being performed for children. Only one of the plays is for women."

Source: Arab News (Saudi Arabia), October 9, 2007 by Najah Alosaimi