December 30, 2013

CALL FOR PAPERS: Arabic Theatre Working Group – IFTR/FIRT 2014 at the University of Warwick

Writing about web page

The Arabic Theatre Working Group (ATWG)

International Federation for Theatre Research

ATWG Meeting in Barcelona (IFTR/FIRT 2013)

Eighth Annual Meeting at the IFTR/FIRT World Congress

University of Warwick, UK, July 28-August 1, 2014


The general theme of the 2014 IFTR/FIRT World Congress is “Theatre and Stratification”. Members of the Working Group are encouraged to submit abstracts related to this theme for the general sessions. Should enough submissions around the main theme be gathered, the ATWG may consider proposing to the organizers a special panel within the general conference on Stratification in Arabic theatre. This notwithstanding, and in view of the constantly changing political and social situation in so much of today’s Arab World, the ATWG has decided for its Warwick meeting to continue exploring the many complex connections between theatre and performance practices and their surrounding realities, an exchange of ideas already begun in previous meetings as well as in special publications with which ATWG has been involved.

Examples of the topics we encourage include, but are not limited to: performances and plays (either originally in Arabic or in translation) inspired by or commenting upon current political events in the Arab World; the impact of current and recent changes upon particular artists, groups, theatres, or theatre cultures; and the role of performance itself in ongoing political events. We are particularly eager to receive submissions that maintain an interdisciplinary dialogue with cultural, literary, translation, visual, or film studies as well papers that demonstrate productive connections with performance theory, theatre historiography, or the practical applications of dramaturgy.

In addition to formal abstract proposals, the ATWG convenors also welcome indications of interest from any new members who wish to take part in the group's discussion but do not wish to submit a paper. Graduate students and early-career researchers are particularly welcome, as well as practice-based researchers and reflexive practitioners. We invite all members to propose ideas as to how the ATWG may best disseminate its work in innovative ways and beyond the group’s meetings, especially with a view to the many creative opportunities offered by the University of Warwick’s highly regarded Arts Centre (Visit: <>).

The deadline for abstract submission is January 15, 2014. All abstracts for Working Groups should be sent through the CJO website. For instructions on how to submit an abstract, please visit: <>. Kindly note that you must be a current IFTR/FIRT member in order to send an abstract, and that you cannot present a paper within a working group and also in a general session. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words, exclusive of the title, and should be accompanied by a biographical note of no more than 200 words. The IFTR/FIRT 2014 organizers will forward ATWG abstracts to the co-conveners. Additionally, you are strongly encouraged to forward a copy of your submission to both Marvin Carlson ( and Hazem Azmy (

About ATWG

Mission Statement:

(Revised and Approved by Membership in Dec. 2009)

Established in 2007 as the Arabic Theatre Working Group, ATWG exists to broaden international understanding of the theatre and performance cultures of the ‘Arabo-Islamic World.’ In 2009, the group voted to retain the appellation ‘Arabic’ in recognition of the historically unifying role of the Arabic language. This recognition notwithstanding, the group is neither meant to be exclusive nor to promote any nationalist or religion-based agenda. Rather, it seeks to maintain its scholarly mission by holding up its key definitional terms to ongoing critical scrutiny.

Defined in strictly geographical and political terms, the operations of the group cover theatre and performance material from the member states of the League of Arab States and/or the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. However, both the operative adjectives Arab and Islamic should be understood here to demarcate, primarily, a general cultural area of scholarly exploration and negotiation. Investigations of material from the many non-Arab and non-Muslim communities located within the Arab/Muslim world are welcomed by the group. The group equally welcomes material covering the theatre and performance activities of Arab and Muslim ‘diasporic’ communities.

Subjects can be drawn from all areas of theatre activity as well as from performance work that lies outside the traditional European concept of theatre. Methodological approaches from the fields of (theatre) translation, cultural, and postcolonial studies will doubtless be represented in the work of the group, but all approaches that will provide a better understanding of this large field of studies are welcome.

The membership of the group is open to all paid-up members of the IFTR/IFTR, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or religion. Graduate students and early-career researchers are particularly welcome, as well as practice-based researchers and reflexive practitioners. In exceptional circumstances, and subject to the availability of appropriate translation arrangements, the group may consider accommodating participants who are unable to deliver their papers in either English or French.


Marvin Carlson: <>

Hazem Azmy: <>

Find ATWG’s Discussion Group on Facebook at:


December 27, 2009

On the Egyptian Cardenio Project: Wahm El–Hobb (The Illusion of Love)

Azmy and Greenblatt



From L to R: Hazem Azmy with Stephen Greenblatt; Greenblatt discussing the cultural nuances of the Egyptian production with its lead actor Tamer Abdel-Moneim (Walid) and Playwright Lenin El-Ramly


The Illusion of Love is freely adapted from Stephen Greenblatt and Charles Mee’s Cardenio, which premiered the American Repertory Theatre in May 2008. Mee and Greenblatt’s text is itself an attempt to re-imagine Shakespeare’s “lost” play which he is said to have co-authored with Fletcher in 1613, based on the story of Cardenio and Lucinda in Don Quixote (Part 1, chs. 24–8).

Since then, Greenblatt, who is regarded as one of the world's most celebrated Renaissance scholars and cultural theorists, has been engaged in an ambitious international scholarly/artistic project based on the text he co-wrote and which seeks to examine the idea of “cultural mobility” – how the selfsame text may be understood and continually re-imagined differently by diverse cultures and contexts, each according to its own needs and circumstances. (Watch this YouTube video in which Greenblatt discusses the story of his collaboration with Mee and its implications for his understanding of cultural mobility:

The Illusion of Love is renowned playwright Lenin El-Ramly’s Egyptian version of the text. As such, it should be seen, first and foremost, as an experiment in cross-cultural theatrical transfer.

Hazem Azmy’s role consisted in coordinating the Cardenio project. Inasmuch as it reveals novel insights into current Egyptian performance realities, Hazem Azmy’s experience in this production process is projected to become the topic of one of his forthcoming PhD articles. He has also been asked by Professor Greenblatt to oversee and/or undertake an English translation of El-Ramly’s play, probably for the purposes of publication and/or production in the US.

Wahm El-Hobb Poster

Poster for the Egyptian Production. Click here to download Hazem Azmy's English synopsis of the play, including pitcures from the Cairo premiere (PDF file, Acrobat Reader or Alternative Required)

October 04, 2007

CFP Arabic Theatre WG – IFTR/FIRT 2008

The International Federation for Theatre Research

La Fédération Internationale pour la Recherche Théâtrale


The Second Annual Meeting of

The Arabic Theatre Working Group

IFTR/FIRT 51st Annual Conference (Seoul, 14-19 July 2008)

The Arabic Theatre Working Group will convene during the upcoming IFTR/FIRT Annual Conference, to be held in Seoul, South Korea between 14 and 19 July 2008.

Established in 2006 and officially confirmed by the IFTR/FIRT Executive Committee in July 2007, the group seeks to broaden international understanding of the theatre and performance traditions of the Arab and Islamic world. The term Arabic is used here to indicate a general geographical and cultural area of investigation, but which is not meant to be exclusive; investigations of material from related non-Arab “Islamic” cultures (such as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, among others) and indigenous non-Arab performance traditions within predominantly Arab cultures (e.g. Berber and Nubia) are all regarded as an integral part of the group’s scope of interest. 

Subjects can be drawn from all areas of theatre activity as well as from performance work that lies outside the traditional European concept of theatre. Methodological approaches from the fields of cultural and postcolonial studies will doubtless be represented, but the group also welcomes all inter- and cross-disciplinary approaches that may provide a better understanding of this fast-developing field of studies.

Paper proposals addressing the IFTR/FIRT 2008’s theme on “Asian-ness(es)” would, of course, be particularly welcome. The group, however, has decided not to limit its initial, formative meetings to any specific theme, in the interests of keeping open the boundaries of its largely unexplored terrain. With this in mind, the Convenors will consider paper proposals on any topic relevant to the WG’s general mission statement. It is envisioned that areas of most pressing interest would continue to be defined gradually through the various dialogic contributions of the group’s participants.

Based on the group’s previous meetings and discussions, it could be reasonably expected at this point that most proposals would engage with one or more of the overarching topics listed below. Please note, however, that the list included here is for illustrative purposes only, and is meant to be neither exhaustive nor prescriptive:

  1. Writing and performing the (postcolonial) Arabo-Islamic space.

  2. Arabo-Islamic negotiations and appropriations of Western aesthetics, theories, and research methodologies.

  3. Reception aesthetics in and of Arabo-Islamic theatres and performance practices.

  4. The position of indigenous traditions in the theory and practice of Arabo-Islamic theatres and cultures.

  5. Arabo-Islamic theatrical and theoretical articulations in/of translation.

  6. The role of Arabo-Islamic cultural producers, particularly the theatrical Avant-Garde, in a global/"Post-Political" age.

  7. The festivalisation of contemporary Arabo-Islamic culture(s).

  8. Staging and performing the Arabo-Islamic gendered space.

  9. Performing minoritized subjects in the Arabo-Islamic nation-state.

  10. Staging and performing mass-mediated Arabo-Islamic subjectivities.

Those wishing to participate must submit a paper proposal (250 words) to both Working Group Conveners (see below) no later than 30 November 2007. The Conveners reserve the right to request revisions to proposals if deemed necessary. All proposals should be accompanied by a brief biographical note of the author(s) of no more than 150 words, together with their full contact details. In the interests of providing sufficient time for fundraising and travel arrangements, the Conveners will endeavour to adjudicate proposals and request invitation letters to be issued to participants by early 2008.

Completed papers will be circulated to participants and read in advance of the conference. The full text of the selected papers must be emailed to the group no later than 1 June 2008. To facilitate an in-depth reading of all the papers submitted, an upper limit of 5000 words will be requested of all authors.

In accordance with the general regulations of the IFTR/FIRT, the official working languages of the WG are English and French. All paper proposals, however, must be either submitted in English or accompanied by an English translation. This notwithstanding, the group has agreed in its last meeting in South Africa to accommodate exceptional papers originally written in Arabic, assisting authors in making special translation arrangements should the need arise.

Unless otherwise specifically arranged with the Conveners, papers at the WG sessions will typically be briefly introduced and collectively discussed, as distinct from being formally presented. The main aim of such group discussions is to encourage knowledge-sharing and critical debate on epistemological and methodological problems related to the study of theatre and performance in Arabo-Islamic countries. Theoretically-driven research represents the default mode of realizing this aim. However, participants are equally welcome to propose alternative modes, such as the presentation of self-critical (visually-aided? performative?) accounts of their own fieldwork or documented performance experiences. The group hopes that openness to less traditional approaches and modalities would invite into its fold a representative number of reflexive practitioners and practice-based researchers.

Within the same spirit, the group is considering proposing to the IFTR/FIRT 2008 organisers the screening of select full-length recordings of some of the performances discussed at the WG. The screenings will be open to all the conference delegates. Participants wishing to support the bid and to make use of it must liaise accordingly with the Conveners as early as they can, and accept responsibility for the provision of such recordings in time for the conference. The Conveners, however, reserve the right to limit their choice of DVDs and videotapes to those accompanied by English and/or French subtitles, or any other acceptable means of interlingual mediation.

In addition to the proposed screenings, all the IFTR/FIRT 2008 delegates are welcome to attend the WG sessions as observers and, with the permission of the session moderator, may also take part in the discussion.

Please send proposals via email attachment (rtf – Rich Text Format) by 30 November 2007 to both Conveners:

·       Marvin Carlson

Graduate Center CUNY, USA

(Permanent Convener)


·       Hazem Azmy

University of Warwick, UK

(Lead Convener for the IFTR/FIRT 2008 Conference)


Important Links

·   The Official Website of the IFTR/FIRT 2008


·   The Web Page of the Arabic Theatre WG on the IFTR/FIRT’s Website


·   a-theatrewg: The Unoffical Discussion List of the Arabic Theatre WG


Last updated on 28 September 2007

July 28, 2007

The Arabic Theatre Working Group at the IFTR/FIRT – Announcing the Unofficial Listserv

Dear esteemed colleague:

In July 2007, the Arabic Theatre Working Group was recognised as an official part of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR/FIRT), arguably the leading international organisation in theatre and performance studies. This recognition, we believe, is a historic step that marks the increasing relevance of "Arabo-Islamic" theatre studies as an emerging and most timely field of academic and cultural practice.

By way of informally initatiting an ongoing dialogue among the members of the new Working Group, I have created a new listserv for this purpose, titled "a-theatrewg" and it is now available online at . I hope you would consider joining in the discussion.

The Mission Statement of the new listserv reads as follows:


This group is the unofficial discussion list of the Arabic Theatre Working Group at The International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR/FIRT).

The aim of the Arabic Theatre Working Group is to broaden international understanding of the theatre and performance traditions of the Arab and Islamic world. Subjects can be drawn from all areas of theatre activity as well as from performance work that lies outside the traditional European concept of theatre Methodologies and insights from the fields of cultural and postcolonial studies will doubtless be represented in the work of the group, but all approaches that will provide a better understanding of this large field of studies are welcome.

The word "Arabic" in the name of the group is not meant to be exclusive but is rather used as shorthand for a number of diverse groups and ethnicities united by politico-cultural commonalities and symbiotically shared histories. The sphere of the WG's activities should thus include cognate Islamic non-Arab traditions (such as Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, etc.) as well as non-Arab communities in the Arab World (such as the Berber and Nubians).

The Arabic Working Group was proposed in the IFTR/FIRT World Congress 2006 in Helsinki and convened for the first time and was officially approved in the IFTR/FIRT 2007, which was held in Stellenbosch, South Africa in July 2007.

Membership is open to all scholars and practitioners willing to contribute to the activities of the Working Group and to endorse the overall aims of the IFTR/FIRT.

This list is moderated by Hazem Azmy (University of Warwick, UK), with input and guidance from Professor Marvin Carlson (City University of New York, USA)


There is a lot of important work that awaits us during this crucial formative stage. I am hopeful that we will start discussing this work toegther soon on the new list.

All the best,
Hazem Azmy
(University of Warwick, UK)
Moderator, a-theatrewg
& Co-Convenor, Arabic Theatre Working Group, IFTR/FIRT 2008

October 18, 2006

Invitation to the PAJ Project

Monday, July 21, 2003

Dear Participant:

I am writing to invite you to participate in a project I am directing for PAJ (Performing Arts Journal) a leading publication on theater and the arts in the United States. mak88@columbia.eduMarina Kotzamani

This is a special issue of the journal entitled: “Performing Lysistrata on the Arabic Stage: Mediterranean Perspectives.” The project aims at exploring the contemporary Arabic theater and its social import using Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, one of the world¹s foremost anti-war plays as a focal point. Your participation is very important to making this issue of PAJ truly special and representative of contemporary Arabic theater and culture.

The recent war against Iraq has once again highlighted the significance of Lysistrata as a classic: an open ended work that can be shaped to respond to cultural concerns across time and geography. As part of the Lysistrata 2003 Project, in which I participated, over 1.000 readings of the play were organized throughout the world, to protest the war. A few Arabic countries participated in these readings, particularly countries of the Mediterranean.

The readings of Lysistrata in the Arabic countries stimulated my curiosity: what does it mean to perform Lysistrata today for Arabic audiences? My editorial project for PAJ is an attempt to answer this question, drawing on the testimony and views of Arab theater practitioners.

Your participation to the project will take the form of a dramaturgical project: I am inviting you to write an essay (between 500 and 1.000 words), envisioning how you would adapt, perform or direct the play in your own culture.

The question aims at stimulating original thinking on the connection between theater and contemporary politics in the Arabic countries of the Mediterranean. The play ideally lends itself to highlighting cultural idiosyncrasies of the Arab world on important issues such as sexual and war politics, the distinction between the private and the public space, transgressive behavior and the position of women in these cultures. At the same time the problem of staging the play will, I hope, afford us concrete insights into the contemporary Arabic Theater of the Mediterranean region.

In writing your essay, you may choose to concentrate on one or two of the themes I list below. Please check with me on the focus you choose, so that I can make sure that a wide variety of themes will be covered in PAJ¹s special issue. The themes I propose are the following:

1. The Lysistrata scheme for achieving peace requires abstention from sex. How would you balance the political aim and the sexually suggestive means of achieving it? Would you put the weight on politics and downplay sex or the reverse? Is Lysistrata a play about politics, or a play about sex, or both?

2. How would the women¹s political mobilization be presented? As a utopian fantasy, as a realistic possibility?

3. Does the recent war against Iraq make Lysistrata a relevant play to stage in your culture? What would you be your message on the war?

4. How would religion affect adaptation and/or production choices?

5. Is there material in this play that would be considered offensive to your government and to theater audiences? Would avoiding censorship be an issue?

6. The play¹s action takes place on the Acropolis, an institution emblematic of democratic politics. What location would you choose for your staging? Does the Acropolis in your culture carry the enormous significance it has for Western culture? What institutions in your culture could serve as the play’s setting?

7. Are there comical/satirical or other performance traditions in your cultures that you could draw on in adapting, staging, or performing the play?

8. Are there restrictions on whether and how female actors could perform the explicitly sexual content of Lysistrata?

9. Who would be the audience of your staging of Lysistrata and how would they receive the play?

If you are interested in participating in this project, please get in touch with me at your earliest convenience. Essays must be in English or French and should be submitted to me by April 12th. Please send your response to the following address:

Marina Kotzamani
617 Hamilton Hall
Classics Department
Columbia University
New York, New York, 10027

Tel. 212 864-2464, 212 854-7821

This special project for PAJ originated from my scholarly interest in modern interpretation of Greek drama. I am a Greek theater scholar working as an Assistant Professor at Columbia University and am currently completing a book on the production and reception of Lysistrata in the West, in the 20th century.

I look forward to reading your essay. I would welcome your suggestions about other Arab theater practitioners I might contact who could productively contribute to this project. Please feel free to pass my e-mail on to other interested parties.

Best wishes,
Marina Kotzamani
Assistant Professor
Classics Department
Columbia University

October 11, 2006

About Hazem Azmy

Hazem Azmy (in Amsterdam) HAZEM AZMY is an Egyptian theatre and interdisciplinary humanities scholar, university teacher, professional translator, dramaturg, cross-cultural speaker, and frequent contributor to scholarly, trade, and popular publications. Most noteworthy in terms of his international contributions, he is the author of the entire portfolio on Egypt (15 entries) in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance, ed. Dennis Kennedy (Oxford University Press, 2003). He is also the Editor of The Experimental, the English-language daily of the Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre (CIFET).

He holds an Honours BA in English language and literature from Ain Shams University and an MA in English and comparative literature from the American University in Cairo. Since 2003, he has been Assistant Lecturer in English at Beni Suef University, Egypt. Also, since 1999, he has been coordinator at the Arabic and Translation Studies Division, CACE in the American University in Cairo, where he had been previously working for many years as part-time instructor of translation. In both capacities, he developed and taught many of the division’s core courses, particularly ones related to the translation and analysis of cultural, media, and audio-visual texts (See below for details). He also served as co-facilitator and teacher trainer in a number of the division-held workshops for new and prospective faculty members.

In 1998, he created his widely-acclaimed webpage CyberBabel (, a compendium of translation and language-related web resources. The website became the basis for the ASD core curriculum offering, TRAN 508: Research Tools for Translators, which he collaboratively designed and taught with Mr. Abdelaziz Hamdy, then ASD’s Assistant Division Director.

Hazem’s MA thesis (The Pursuit of Absence: Dramaturgy and the Interface between the World and the Text) sought to apply aspects of post-structuralist theory to the function and practice of the dramaturg, making the English-language research the first of its kind in Egypt. This interest in the intersection of the world and the text continues to inform his current doctoral research and related professional activities as dramaturg and translator, all of which seeking to trace the operations of Egyptian and Arab cultures and identities within the context of today’s (“post-9/11”) international scene. As such, he has been one of the driving forces behind the formation of a new Arabic theatre Working Group at the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR/FIRT). Furthermore, he is the founding owner and moderator of the listserve AITheatre: Arabo-Islamic Theatre Forum (<>).

Since October 2006, Hazem has been based at the department of theatre studies of the University of Warwick (UK), completing a doctoral thesis provisionally titled “Staging Egypt on Global Stages: Theatre, Identity Dialogics, and the Post-9/11 Empty Signifier”, under the supervision of Professor Janelle Reinelt.

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