Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Speaker's Progress (Twelfth Night)

I came across this modernized Twelfth Night that is set in the Arab world as the citizens under totalitarian rule begin to fight for freedoms. Theater has been banned in this unnamed country, but a few brave souls are putting on a play and becoming important players on the underground blogging and twitter scene.
Here's a quote from the writer/director:
 “A new history is finding its voice among the millions across the Arab world who stood up and continue to stand—and fall—for dignity and freedom after decades of shame and oppression. This play, forged at the cusp of these two eras, has the fortune—and the responsibility—to be one of its platforms.”–Sulayman Al-Bassam

and another link to Professor Litvin's review of the production:

I think this production is an excellent example of the concept of meaning by Shakespeare that we discussed in class on Monday. While there are obvious differences in time, place, and circumstance from the original "Twelfth Night," the irrefutable desire to be who you are, express yourself, and love who you choose are still the central themes of the play. Even though the play centered around Arab issues, all people are able to relate to the agony of repression and censorship (as someone who was removed from a school paper for her political views, I can personally attest to that). Al-Bassam uses the core of Twelfth Night to express his meaning, honoring courageous dissidents in the modernizing Arab World in this tumultuous time of uprising and political discontent, but he is able to speak to me, a young girl in a comparatively free western nation whose reporting on Todd Akin and the legitimacy of rape was deemed unfit for Catholic school girls in wealthy suburb.

My point is, people have been forced to hide since the times of Shakespeare. He composed Twelfth Night based on his own views and experiences with the issue, whatever they may be. Al-Bassam is just one of the many directors able to adapt the work to convey his own socio-political message, which is part of what makes Shakespeare so successful. No matter where you search in the world, from free democracies to rigid dictatorships, people have felt repressed in one way or another and we often admire the brave few that stand up. This play provides relatable heroes in its characters that can and should inspire everyone to fight for the creation of a more accepting world, wherever they may be.

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