On March 3rd, 2014, the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center in New York presented staged readings from “Rituals of Signs and Transformations” (Tuqus al-Isharat wa-al-Tahawwulat) by Sadallah Wannous (1941-1997), Syria’s foremost playwright. This commerated the publication of “Four Plays from Syria: Sadallah Wannous,” co-edited by Marvin Carlson and Safi Mahfouz, with translations from Marvin Carlson, Safi Mahfouz, Robert Myers, and Nada Saab.
Sadallah Wannous, 56, famed Syrian playwright, died in mid-March, 1996. The cause of his death was cancer. In the June's issue of Al Jadid we celebrated his selection to give the keynote address to observe the International Theater Day.
Amin: What is your opinion on the current state of theater in the Arab world, and do you think that there is indeed a theatrical decline?
In an auditorium packed with students and professors, Elmaz Abinader, Lebanese-American poet, author, and performance artist, recently presented a selection from her latest play — “Under the Ramadan Moon.” Each semester Mills College invites one prominent member of the artistic or cultural community for their Colloquium; this year Abinader, a faculty member at Mills, was chosen for this honor.
Translators Notes: While readers of Al Jadid have been introduced to Sadallah Wannous, his importance as one of Arab world's most prominent playwrights cannot be overstated. Not much academic work has been done on Wannous in the United States even though he was chosen to deliver the 1996 keynote address celebrating International Theater Day (See Al Jadid, Vol. 2, No 8,June 1996). The only play to be translated in Arabic is “The King is The King” in Roger Allen and Salma Khadra Jayyusi's anthology of Arabic drama.
The Syrian playwright Sadallah Wannus died on the 15th May 1997 , after a long battle with cancer. He left behind 21 plays and four books in addition to many articles and essays concerned with aspects of culture and theater. Born in 1941, he published his first play, “ Midoza Tuhadiq fi al-hayat” (“Midos Stares at Life”) at the age of 22.
Ali al-Rai, a major intellectual and champion of theater, died in Egypt on January 18, 1999 at the age of 78. An avid supporter of young and new talent and an independent-minded critic and nationalist, he was a modest person who shunned the spotlight and was not given to exaggeration. Al-Rai leaves behind a rich legacy, mainly in Egyptian theater.
In 1959, at 18 years of age, Sadallah Wannous received his Baccalaureate degree in Tartus, Syria, and then headed for Egypt to study Journalism at Cairo University. During his stay in Egypt, he became interested specifically in theater, voraciously reading works by European and American playwrights. His readings included plays in existentialist traditions and the theater of the absurd; he was also attracted to critical literature about theater.
Sa'dallah Wannous, famed Syrian playwright, was chosen to deliver the keynote speech celebrating the International Day of Theater. His speech was distributed and read in all world theaters on March 7, 1996. Wannous chose as his theme the "Hunger for Dialogue," a discussion he feels "starts on theater, than roams vastly, growing until it encompasses the world in all its different peoples and diverse cultures."
Selected by UNESCO and the International Institute of Theater, the Syrian playwright Sa'dallah Wannous presented this year's address to the world theater community during its celebration of International Theater Day on March 27. This was the first selection of an Arab writer since the organization started this tradition in 1963, indicating the organization's recognition of the Syrian playwright's achievements, and those of Arabic theater in general.