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BAM Presents THE SPEAKER'S PROGRESS, 10/6-8

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A totalitarian state somewhere in the Arab world where all forms of theater have been banned is the setting for SABAB Theatre's The Speaker's Progress. Presented in its US premiere as part of
the 2011 Next Wave Festival, this latest work from the Kuwait-based SABAB Theatre is a dark satire on the decades of hopelessness and political inertia that have fed recent revolts across the Arab region and a daring theatrical metaphor for the mechanisms of dissent.

A condemned 1960s staging of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night has become the focal point for political resistance blogs and underground social network movements. The state, eager to suppress this dangerous mixture of nostalgia and dissent, commissions The Speaker, a once-radical theater producer now turned regime apologist, to mount a forensic reconstruction and public denunciation of the work. As The Speaker and his group of nonacting volunteers delve deeper into the "reconstruction" they find themselves increasingly engaged with the material they are supposed to be condemning. They soon discover-in the act of performance and the growing participation of their audience-a solidarity that transforms the gathering itself into an unequivocal act of defiance towards the state.

The Speaker's Progress is the final part of writer, director, and performer Sulayman Al- Bassam's Arab Shakespeare Trilogy; the second, Richard III: An Arab Tragedy, was presented at BAM's Muslim Voices festival (Spring 2009). Created along with a core team of actors and artists from across the Arab world and Europe, this unique body of work charts a decade of Arab and Western political and social upheaval following the events of 9/11 to the current leaps for reform made by millions across the region.

SABAB Theatre is an independent, international touring theater company led by celebrated Kuwaiti writer-director Sulayman Al-Bassam. Based in Kuwait and working internationally across state and cultural boundaries, SABAB Theatre uses theater to engage issues of identity, history, language, and culture, establishing new spaces of action and reflection inside the contemporary Arab world and beyond. Working alongside UK artistic producer Georgina Van Welie, with an ensemble of pan-Arab and international actors, musicians, and designers, SABAB Theatre's productions are characterized by a radical approach to text, boldproduction styles, and playful, provocative combinations of content and form. Recent work includes: Richard III: An Arab Tragedy (commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company RSC for the Complete Works Festival), The Mirror for Princes/ Kalila wa Dimna (co-produced by the Tokyo International Arts Festival, Barbican bite06, and Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah, Kuwait), and The Al-Hamlet Summit (co-produced by the Tokyo International Arts Festival).

Sulayman Al-Bassam was born in Kuwait in 1972. His plays have been published in variouslanguages and are included in the curricula of universities in the US and Middle East. Al- Bassam lives and works in Kuwait where he also leads The Culture Project, a private arts development agency aimed at developing the infrastructure and quality of the performing arts in Kuwait and the Gulf region.

About BAM's 150th anniversary celebration: Beginning in September 2011 and continuing for 16 months, the sesquicentennial celebrates BAM's unique and resonant contribution to the artistic landscape of New York with commemorative events, special programs, and the publication of BAM: The Complete Works (Quantuck Lane)-a narrative and visual chronicle of the institution and its artists. In 2012 BAM looks forward to its exciting future with the unveiling of the newest addition to the BAM campus-the BAM Richard B. Fisher Building, the first new BAM venue since the Majestic Theater (now the BAM Harvey Lichtenstein Theater) opened in 1987.


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