Drama in yemen behind the scenes at world theater day

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A minister of the Yemeni government was whisked away by underlings from his front-row seat and out a side door. The assembled crowd quickly dispersed, some nervous, others titillated by the unexpected disruption. The tribesmen exited in triumph, leaving the central participants in the evening's presentation stunned, angry and bereft of an audience. Theater in Yemen is the polar opposite in every respect. Performance spaces in Yemen have none of the Gulf's elaborate resources and equipment. The Cultural Center in Sanaa, where most of the capital's performances take place, was designed as an auditorium rather than a theater; it possesses only the most basic of lighting and sound equipment, and the smallest of wings. The Yemeni government has sponsored national theater festivals for the last quarter-century. Originally conceived as a means of promoting pan-Yemeni understanding after the hurried unification of north and south, in the early 19905 these festivals brought together troupes from every province to compete for awards for best director, best acting and the like.

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This chapter provides a historical survey of performances of Shakespeare in Yemen and the Arabian Gulf in the twentieth century. Among the productions considered are Yemeni adaptations of Julius Caesar and Hamlet (the former performed in 1948 as a commentary on the British colonial occupation of Aden, the latter as a reflection upon the violence of northern forces’ occupation of Aden in 1994); stagings of the Merchant of Venice in Qatar and Oman; Yemeni and Omani rewritings of Romeo and Juliet; and a Saudi appropriation of Hamlet. The author argues, among other things, that though twentieth-century Shakespeare performances are sporadic they are not random. Rather, they occur at moments of local or national transformation, often critiquing or meditating upon those moments’ significance.
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