World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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Theatre Performance (252) - Panel
 

· Date: WED 21, 2.30-4.30 pm

· Language: English

· Description: Paper presenter: Alexander Kolbitsch, M.A. (Ph. D. Student, University of Wales, Lampeter, UK), “The Relationship between Religious Theatre and Collective Identity: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Study of the Relationship between the Iranian Ta'ziyeh and Shi'ite Collective Identity”
This paper introduces a new approach to the investigation of the mutual interaction between ritualistic theatre and collective identity, with the aim of creating an appropriate framework for the investigation of the Ta'ziyeh in Iranian social history since the seventh century AD. With possible adaptations it is applicable to other forms of religious theatre. Victor Turner's (cultural anthropology) and Richard Schechner's (performance studies) description of the relationship between stage drama and social drama is incorporated, as well as Jan Assmann's investigation of cultural memory, which is a crucial component of collective identity. As a whole the approach is introduced as a functionalist (Émile Durkheim) one, since the function of religious ritual in society is at the centre of interest. The paper is structured into four parts. The first part is concerned with the introduction and definition of Ta'ziyeh (ritual or theatre?), collective identity, culture, and cultural memory. The second part deals with functionalism in sociology, social anthropology, and ethnomusicology/ethnodramatology. In the third part Turner's and Schechner's description of the reciprocal interaction between theatre and society is introduced. The fourth part (result) presents the various ways in which collective identity influences ritualistic theatre and vice versa: The impact of collective identity on ritualistic theatre: Constitution and alteration of condition, ontology, characteristics, and performed content. The impact of ritualistic theatre on collective identity: Expression (including exteriorizing grief and projection of emotions), providing rhetoric/figures of speech/imageries, redress/reinterpretation, meta-commentary, facilitation of experience with the supernatural, creation and initiation, dispensing origin, didactics and mnemotechnics, structuring and organizing, enabling understanding (sensualization). This paper is part of the methodological background of the author's developing Ph.D. thesis with the title, Drama of Oppressed Heroes: The Iranian Ta'ziyeh as Cultural Performance of Shi'ite Collective Identity. Various studies about the Ta'ziyeh have been conducted, but never before has it been introduced as means of constituting and perpetuating Shi'ite cultural memory and collective identity. This is surprising, since the Ta'ziyeh re-enacts the origins of the Shi'ite group, the battle of Karbala, which resulted in the schism between Shi'ites and Sunnies, and as such has enormous mytho-motoric power.

Paper presenter: Maria Isabel Panosa (Professor and researcher, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and ICAC, Spain), “From Archaeological Research to Performing Creation. Egypt”
The music and the dance make possible the survival of ancient cultural legacy. This approach is integrated in a general project dealing with Performing Arts in Antiquity and especially concerning Mediterranean Cultures. Present approach intends to create a space to explore the ancient Egyptian legacy and bring it into the present through a performance platform that raises both aesthetic enjoyment and recognition of cultural roots of all times. This research focuses on analyzing and interpreting archaeological resources (iconography, music instruments, literary texts, architectural spaces, symbolic objects, etc) to find ideological and expression patterns from ancient Egyptian culture. That research is followed by a script that transmits those contents and patterns into a performing proposal starting from archaeological remains but above all aiming to evocate and relive ancient situations in our world today; and this through a new contemporary creation that involves choreography, music composition and theatrical expression. Thus, Egyptological information can provide clues for conceiving a dramatic narrative based on meanings more than chronologies and translating them into a sequence of shapes and movements of then seen by our eyes of now. Therefore, through performing on historical roots a universal space of the human condition can be created. As an example of this research arose the performance: ''Seven Movements- Egypt''. It was premiered in Badalona (Barcelona, Spain) on 15th December 2009. This was produced by the Cultural Association Travellers in the Time and involved scholars and professionals of archaeological and performing disciplines from the Institute of Performing Arts of Barcelona, the Music Conservatory of Badalona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona. This paper will present the research methodology and the process of creating the play. It also will exhibit the first outline of a starting cooperation with colleagues from Egypt dealing with Egyptology and Performing Arts.

Paper presenter: Cafer Sarikaya (Ph.D. Candidate, Bogazici University, Turkey), “An Arabic Performer in the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition: Ahmad Abu Khalil al-Qabbani”
The Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 was organized in the United States for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. The Ottoman Empire participated in this exhibition with the theatrical amusements and musical performances including also those from its Middle Eastern regions. The Ottoman entertainment in the Chicago Exposition of 1893 was composed of three main sections; the Turkish Odeon Theatre performances including the plays the Kurdish Drama, the Kalamounic Drama, True Manhood, An Oriental Wedding in Damascus, the Drama of Antar the Son of Sheddad, the Drama of Haroun Al-Raschid, the Turkish Bride and the Prodigal Son that were performed in 'the Street of Constantinople', ‘the Street of Cairo’, in which daily performances of local spectacles such as the Return from Mecca and the Wedding Procession and 'the Bedouin encampment' were given and Arab horsemen presented an Oriental Show. The Ottoman theatre was directed by Pierre Butros Antonius who was a Christian Arab from Mount Lebanon. The performers were assembled from all parts of the Middle Eastern regions by the theatre managers who had spent a large sum of money by sending some of their agents to different parts of these regions to study the customs, manners and costumes and to engage the players from different cities of the Middle Eastern lands. The performers presented their shows to the American audience in the Arabic language with simultaneous English translations. The Syrian-born Ahmad Abu Khalil al-Qabbani (1835-1902) as a pioneer of Arabic theatre had a theatre troupe in Egypt. Al-Qabbani and his troupe, apart from a four-year gap between the years 1890 and 1894 performed in Egypt. During this four-year gap they attended the Chicago Exhibition and gave performances before an Arab-American audience for several months. We have only one of his theatre plays in text format which was performed in the World's Columbian Exposition, and that is entitled the Drama of Antar the Son of Sheddad, an Arabic play in four acts. In my paper, I will explore the Drama of Antar within its historical and political contexts.

Paper presenter: Dr.Guseynova Dilyara (The State institute of Art research, Russia), “Phenomenon of ‘Ta'zie' Theatre in Shiit Countries”
'Ta'zieh' theatre was the most popular one in the Arab East, Iran, Azerbaijan, India. Religious mystery of ta'zieh occupies its special place even within such traditional moslem arts as the art of story-tellers, theatre of shadows and theatre of vagrant actors. On the face of it, the phenomenon of theatre mystery is in contrast with the common knowledge that Islam prohibits to perform human beings. 'Ta'zieh' is also unique because the actions itself was born thanks to Islam, that is based on the mourning of Shiit saints going back to 7-8 centuries and having Arab origin. The analysis of ta'zieh mystery convinces us that there are three separate parts in it, that is, mourning recital, procession and 'ta'zieh' performance itself. When staging 'ta'zieh' one should not think in terms of European theatre. 'Ta'zieh' did not have professional actors. The exaggerated emotions could be explained by traditions of masterly performance. Following the laws of three-part popular performances, that is, drama-interlude-drama witch common for Arab countries, 'ta'zieh' performances were interrupted by episodes of Fatima and Casem marriage. This episode helped to interrupt the chain of battle scenes and to eliminate some tension. 'Ta'zieh' has combined a lot of elements of century-old Moslem East cultural heritage staring with rituals on to religious and philosophical shiit's doctrine, from epic manner of plot interpretation to its sacral character.

Paper presenter: María Dolores Tena Medialdea (Dr. Universidad de Valencia, Spain), “The Cabaret at the Turn of The 20th Century: Feminine Bodies, Urban Identities and Transculturalisme in Middle Eastern Dance”
This paper is a multidisciplinary approach from the Gender Studies perspective to the emergence of cabaret venues in the Middle East, as transnational and non-official culture producers. Its aim is to analyze the transformations of the bodily image of professional dancers towards a more sexualized and exclusively feminine form, the Oriental dance. These changes went together with the socio-political attainments of women in modern societies, conquering civil rights and public spheres. However, the reproduction of these modern dance conventions, during the 20th century, has silenced former traditional dance expressions performed by male dancers. The development of cabarets as countercultural leisure places, by the end of 19th century, was a worldwide phenomenon that linked to the growth of modern urban centres. These venues, embracing intellectual and dissident positions, allowed marginal individuals to find a way to build up new urban identities. Hence, cabaret dancers embodied models of the ‘new woman’ that overcame the normative roles of mother and wife, as well as images of desire and sexual freedom within a differing social construction of pleasure. These patterns challenged the hegemonic puritan discourses of Western countries that had been adopted by some urban elites of the occupied territories in their assumption of bourgeois trends. As a result, professional dance forms in Middle Eastern capitals were evolving in order to adapt to Imperial conventions that questioned the artistry of indigenous traditions, considering these conflicting with progress on behalf of its lewd sensuality. However, within Muslim societies, social events have traditionally been gender segregated thus, in the case of dancing, allowed the expression of the sexualized body. Dances where intersexual encounters were performed could involve more mocking social conventions than seducing. The misunderstanding of these cultural expressions by the Western gaze resulted in assumptions of these dance performances as immodest or, even, homoerotic. Consequently, cabaret venues as mixed gender spaces allowed developing new forms of professional dance that, assuming modern heterosexual standards, fetishized female dancing bodies for their erotic appeal and shaped the exclusively feminine form of dance, namely Oriental dance.

Paper presenter: Maryam Nemat Tavousi (Assisstant Pr., Iranian Traditional Theatre, Iran), “Iranian Comic Female Plays”
From the beginning of Safavid dynasty (1501/1502-1722) till the end of Qajar dynasty almost all major Iranian plays including Taziyeh, Taghlid (Iranian Comic play), Kheymeshab Bazi (Iranian Puppet show), were formed and reached their zeniths. Although Female dancers and musicians had attended in entertaining troupes even before Safavid era, none of Iranian theatrical troupes endured the presence of female performers. Consequently Iranian plays were performed exclusively by men. Either they were defined just for male characters or men played female roles. Under this condition Iranian comic female plays were shaped. These plays are outstanding in forms and structure. They produced by women to be watched by just female audiences and dealt with women's issues. These plays happened behind closed doors and no men allowed, consequently they have been treated like an attractive secret. However, sometimes mixed audiences asked comic troupes to perform one of these plays. This research focused upon Iranian comic female plays to explain their common features in form and themes. Twenty nine titles were recorded. However, there is just actually twenty two plays for a number of them were addressed with different titles in different cities. In most big cities located in central Iran (excluding Alborze range and Zagros range), these plays were performed in female feasts. The occasion determined which play should be performed. Performers were ordinary women who were talented in singing, dancing and acting, they had strong sense of humour and the ability of improvisation in unpredicted situations. These playful plays built upon simple plots with two or three characters. The plays were accompanied by rhythmic music with the help of small drums, bells, castanets, etc. The woman themselves played instruments. Usually audiences were part of the play by repeating several verses, asking pre-planed or improvised questions or just hand clapping. Their themes can be divided in two groups: those that were taboo to talk about in public, like women's love issues, and those that were women's problems including the second wife of a married man, the common conflicts between women. These performers shed light on women challenges in a sharp witty manner and made fun of them. These plays not only entertained women and satisfied their artistic demands but gave them chances to behave against social ethics for several hours without being blamed. Media development and blurring social genders division suppressed these performances to history.