Ella Weed Room, Milbank Hall, Barnard, New York, US
Leading Arab playwright and theatre director, Sulayman Al Bassam, will link his work, adapting ancient texts -- The Lament for the Destruction of Ur and the Medea myth -- to the modern Arab context, with his experience of building an interdisciplinary centre for the new creation on Failaka, a depopulated, historically rich island in the Persian Gulf. He will examine themes of civilisational transience and explore models of cultural production that challenge the status quo of carbon dependency and resource extraction, introducing what he is calling "The Post-Petroleum Society."
Sulayman Al Bassam (Playwright & Director) is widely recognised as one of the world's leading contemporary Arab theatre makers. Al Bassam's work explores themes of identity, war and individual sovereignty often set against the backdrop of civilizational overlap and tension between the Arab-Islamic world and the West. Collaborating with multinational performers and creative teams, Al Bassam's productions are characterised by a radical approach to text and provocative combinations of content and form.
Writing in English and directing in Arabic, English, French and German, Al Bassam’s work has been presented by leading international venues (i.e. BAM, Tokyo International Festival, Sydney Festival).
The 2007 premiere of Richard III: An Arab Tragedy, his adaptation of the eponymous play at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and his 2013 Ritual for a Metamorphosis by Syrian playwright Saadallah Al Wannous for La Comedie Francaise in Paris marked historic moments in the presentation of Arabic language texts to world audiences.
Al Bassam was invited as Artist-in-Residence as part of NYU Gallatin’s Visiting Global Faculty Program (2015 & 2017) and to the Sundance Director’s Retreat (Arles, 2016). He gave the keynote address at NYU’s Theatre Without Borders conference (2015) and was a speaker at the World Economic Forum (Davos, 2012). He regularly acts as a juror for international arts grant-making bodies like the Rolex Mentor Program and Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. Study of his work forms part of curricula at universities in the USA and the Middle East.
A defining element of Al Bassam's work is his adaptive transposition of classic texts into the landscape of present-day politics and identity. Between 2001 and 2011 the plays that form The Arab Shakespeare Trilogy (Bloomsbury, 2014) were developed by Al Bassam with his theatre company SABAB (www.sabab.org). More recently, his work has focused on the development of original texts exploring physical and imaginary borders, and a new cycle of plays inspired by ancient texts.
Recent work includes: UR, a contemporary adaptation of the Sumerian lamentation, co-produced by Rezidenztheater, the State Theatre of Bavaria, in Munich in 2018; Petrol Station, premiered at Kennedy Center in Washington DC in March 2017; the series of female monologues, In the Eruptive Mode (International tour 2015-17). Future projects include his contemporary version of The Medea, iMedea, premiering at the National Opera House of Kuwait in March 2020. Al Bassam’s English language play texts are published by Oberon Modern Plays and Methuen/Bloomsbury.
In 2020, Al Bassam launches a new model for artistic production ‘The Post Petroleum Society’; a think tank and cross disciplinary artistic production platform that seeks to usher the world beyond its current dependencies on carbon models and resource extraction.