Founding Director of Masrah Ensemble
In a world of screens and speeds so great, theaters are padlocked and threatened with demolition. Live public dialogue, as a literary and artistic practice, remains a luxury – if not an impossible cultural phenomenon – in the Arab Middle East. Decades of invasion, occupation, and internecine conflict have ruptured the intangible and tangible infrastructure requisite for theater. And yet, despite the stifling forces of dictatorship and colonialism, theater endures.In this talk, Houssami narrates the emergence of alternative infrastructures of and for theatrical artistry in such difficult contexts and discusses the opportunities and challenges of establishing an international, multilingual theater company based in Beirut, Lebanon. The interactive presentation incorporates video, excerpts of performances and plays, and extracts from “Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre” to share a story about contemporary theater today.
Eyad Houssami makes and writes about theater. He is the founding director of Masrah Ensemble, a nonprofit theater organization in Lebanon, and the editor of English and Arabic editions of “Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre” (Pluto Press and Dar Al Adab 2012). He has performed in dead Byzantine cities in Syria; directed bilingual theater productions that mingle migrant workers with traditional audiences in Lebanon; produced a monodrama in a 13th century Damascene mansion only to be banned from performing; and his play Mama Butterfly received a staged reading at Between the Seas festival (New York 2010). He is the managing editor of Portal 9: Stories and Critical Writing about the City, a bilingual cultural journal published in Beirut. His theater research efforts have culminated in invitations to present at conferences in South Africa and Korea and publication in peer-reviewed journals. He is the recipient of Rotary, Fulbright, Prince Claus Fund, and Young Arab Theatre Fund grants. He studied theater at Yale.