Silk Road Rising Presents RITUALS OF SIGNS AND TRANSFORMATIONS Staged Readings This Weekend

Silk Road Rising Presents RITUALS OF SIGNS AND TRANSFORMATIONS Staged Readings This Weekend

Silk Road Rising to present three staged readings of Rituals of Signs and Transformations, written by Saadallah Wannous, translated from Arabic into English by Nada Saab and Robert Myers, and directed by Sahar Assaf, this weekend, March 8 and 9, 2014.

SYNOPSIS: Set in Damascus in the 1880's, two rival clerics get mired in a feud that tears the city apart. Political ambition, religious fundamentalism, and sexual hypocrisy fan the theatrical flames in this blistering critique of patriarchy and power in the Arab world. Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous (1941 - 1997) has been called both the Bertolt Brecht and the Wole Soyinka of the Arab theatre. His plays are to the Arab world what Vaclav Havel's plays were to the Iron Curtain. As Wannous writes in his prologue to the play, the problems the play raises are "current and ever recurrent."

Tickets are $10 each. Tickets can be purchased online at or by phone at 312-857-1234 x201. Patrons are asked to purchase tickets in advance to guarantee a seat. The readings are set for Saturday, March 8 at 4pm; Saturday, March 8 at 8pm; Sunday, March 9 at 4pm at Pierce Hall at The Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 West Washington St, Chicago.

A COMMISSIONED TRANSLATION: This translation of Tuqus al-Isharat wa-l-Tahawwulat (Rituals of Signs and Transformations) from Arabic to English was commissioned by Silk Road Rising and funded by a grant from the The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The English translation premiered in Beirut in December of 2013 at the Babel Theatre, and was produced by the American University in Beirut and Robert Myers and directed by Sahar Assaf. The play is also receiving a staged reading in March 2014 at the Segal Theatre Center at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. CUNY Press is publishing Rituals of Signs and Transformations as part of an anthology of Wannous's plays.

ABOUT PLAYWRIGHT SAADALLAH WANNOUS: Saadallah Wannous (1941-1997) is the most significant, contemporary Syrian playwright and, along with Tawfiq Al-Hakim and Alfred Farag, one of the most important modern playwrights from the Arab world. His plays include Evening Party for the Fifth of June (Haflat Samar min ajl al-Khamis min Huzyran), The Adventure of Mamluk Jaber's Head (Mughamarat Ra's al Mamluk Jaber), The King is the King (Al-Malik Huwa Al-Malik), The Rape (Al-Ightisab), and The Drunken Days (Al-Ayyam Al-Makhmura). He is recognized especially for having used theatre--like Brecht and Boal-to address charged social and political questions. In 1996, the year before his death, he was chosen by UNESCO as the first playwright from the Arab world to give the address for World Theatre Day.

ABOUT TRANSLATOR NADA SAAB: Nada Saab is Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies at the Lebanese American University. Her publications focus on Sufism and its embodiments in Arabic literature, both medieval and modern, and critical editions of medieval Sufi manuscripts. Her collaboration with Robert Myers has resulted in the translation of Wannus's Tuqus al-Isharat wal-Tahawwulat (Rituals of Signs and Transformations), a translation of Hammam Baghdadi (Baghdadi Bath) by Jawad Al-Asadi (published by PAJ) and al-Diktatur (The Dictator) by 'Isam Mahfuz (forthcoming).

ABOUT TRANSLATOR ROBERT MYERS: Robert Myers is the author of over a dozen stage plays, including Atwater: Fixin' to Die (Helen Hayes Nominee, directed by George Furth); The Lynching of Leo Frank (Joseph Jefferson Award, Best New Work) and Dead of Night: The Execution of Fred Hampton (both directed by Jonathan Wilson); Painting Persia; Mesopotamia, about Gertrude Bell, presented at Yale with Kathleen Chalfant (directed by Evan Yionoulis); Unmanned, about drone pilots, at the Blank Theatre (staged reading, directed by Kirsten Sanderson), which he adapted as Drone Pilots for BBC's Radio 4, broadcast in September 2013 (directed by Judith Kampfner); and Twilight Country, read at Theatre Row with Tonya Pinkas and Lisa Pelikan. He also co-translated Baghdadi Bath, by Iraq's best-known director, Jawad Al Assadi, with Nada Saab, produced at LaMama (directed by Zishan Ugurlu) and as a staged reading with Asiif Mandvi and Sean Krishnan at Dartmouth with the New York Theatre Workshop. He received a MacArthur grant with Silk Road Rising Theatre and Nada Saab to co-translate Rituals of Signs and Transformations, by Sa'dallah Wannous. In 2013, he produced the English-language world premiere of the play at Babel Theatre in Beirut, directed by Sahar Assaf. The translation appears in Four Plays From Syria: Sa'dallah Wannous, published by CUNY's Martin Segal Theatre Center, for which he wrote the introduction. He has a PhD in literature from Yale, is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at the American University of Beirut, and former director of the University's Center for American Studies. He has received a Franke fellowship from Yale, two Fulbright fellowships, a Mellon grant and a New York State Individual Artist's grant. He has written on theatre and culture for The New York Times, PAJ, TRI, Folha de São Paulo, Middle East Critique and other publications.

ABOUT DIRECTOR SAHAR ASSAF: Sahar Assaf is a Lebanese theatre practitioner who completed her Fulbright fellowship in Theatre Studies at Central Washington University, in the U.S. She is the co-founder of Beirut 8.30 Theatre Company and teaches acting and directing at American University of Beirut. She directed the world premiere of the English-language version of Saadallah Wannous's Rituals of Signs and Transformations in Beirut in December 2013. Sahar has been active in the Lebanese theatre scene since 2003 as both an actress and a stage director. She acted in plays that were presented at international theatre festivals in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. Her latest appearance on stage as an actress was in Come Back to Bed, Love (adapted from Greg Kalleras' A Beautiful Spell) directed by Lina Abyad at Babel Theatre in December 2012. She also recently co-directed From the Bottom of my Brain with Zeina Daccache, a play performed by the residents of Al Fanar Psychiatric Hospital at Al Madina Theatre in Beirut in July 2013. Her theatre training includes modules with Adrian Jackson on Theatre of the Oppressed, Sue Jennings and Zeina Daccashe on Drama Therapy, Armand Volkas on Playback Theatre and Healing the Wounds of History, Guglielmo Schinina on Social Theatre, and William Esper on Meisner's Acting Technique. She also participated in training and conferences on theatre, social entrepreneurship, and leadership in Seattle, New York, France, Sweden, Latvia, Egypt, and Jordan. Sahar is currently working on transforming her research and video work on Women Fighters of the Lebanese Civil War into a documentary theatre piece.

PANEL DISCUSSION: "Dramatizing Resistance: Saadallah Wannous and the State of Contemporary Arab Theatre," Monday, March 10 at 7pm at Silk Road Rising. "Dramatizing Resistance" explores the legacy of the late great Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous (1941 - 1997), whose "theatre of politicization" project countered what is commonly referred to as "political theatre." Wannous' influence on theatre being created in the Arab world today, the role of the dissident playwright against the backdrop of government censorship, and the relationship between theatre and the "Arab Spring," are among the featured topics.

Distinguished panelists include: Director Sahar Assaf (American University in Beirut); former Syrian Minister of Culture, Riad Ismat (Northwestern University); Senior Fellow for Middle East and National Security, Nabeel Khoury (Chicago Council on Global Affairs); Professor Robert Myers (American University in Beirut); and Professor Nada Saab (Lebanese American University). The panel will be moderated by Silk Road Rising Artistic Director Jamil Khoury.

General public online reservations for the panel discussion will begin on February 17 at

ABOUT SILK ROAD RISING: Silk Road Rising creates live theatre and online videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses. In representing communities that intersect and overlap, we advance a polycultural worldview.

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