Monday, 25 November 2013

Riyadh Drama


Although living in Riyadh could be considered a drama in itself, and is full of a number of drama queens, that is not what this post is about.  No, this post is about expat amateur drama clubs in Riyadh of which there are two (well, that I know of anyways).

Drama used to be quite popular in Riyadh, according to one bloke I spoke to who has been here for nearly twenty years.  There were a number of Community Theater Groups acting their little hearts out, and it was possible to keep yourself quite busy wowing audiences with your talent if you were a budding actor, or keeping the show running as a backstage hand. Then a war started in a neighboring country, expats left in droves and drama of the acting kind stopped.  (Hubster told me drama of the war kind was quite scary.  Choppers with injured were being flown into Riyadh hospitals constantly during that period).

Over the last year or two, since foreign embassies have decided it is safe enough for families to return to the country, a number of expat run clubs have got themselves kick started again (or are working on expanding) to cater for the expat penchant for socializing over hobbies.  That includes the drama clubs.

  • "Auditions and call for volunteers!!‏"

Just last week I received an email regarding auditions for an upcoming play.   Also requested were volunteers to help with props and various other backstage necessities.  If I had a useful skill I would probably volunteer, but I don't, so that's that, and I'm not about to kid myself re:my acting ability.  The best I could do was to forward the e-mail to a fellow Kiwi who would be perfectly capable of assisting because she can sew and create and do all that stuff I never quite mastered.

Someone asked me if Saudi's were allowed to attend the play when it opens.
Why they thought I might know is beyond me, and I advised that they contact the organizers.

The question did get me wondering, though, about theater for Saudi's and a quick Google brought up some interesting, and not completely dated, reading.

In a nutshell, here's what I found out:
Drama Clubs do exist for Saudi's, usually at universities.  I gather Saudi drama involves a lot writing and poetry and other culturally relevant activities as well as plays.  Naturally gender mixing at any of the clubs is frowned on.  Nor, apparently, is the opposite gender welcome at any of the performances.  In fact, according to one article I read, (dated 2008, so not that long ago), the men don't even write female characters into a play because that would require a man acting as a woman which, as far as I could tell, is a No Go Zone.  (It's a bit weird pretending women don't exist, don't you think?  Mind you, IKEA did it in that infamous 'Photoshop out the females from the Saudi sales magazine' hiccup in judgement late last year, something they'd prefer people forget, so I probably shouldn't dwell on it.)

The women, however, seem perfectly happy acting as male characters in their plays.  (Hardly surprising as females do tend to have more of a handle on the real world.  I think it comes from knowing that, of the two genders, we're the only ones who will wind up pushing a baby out our nether regions - I've always found that thought rather sobering and real world'ish.  Men push things like lawnmowers and broken down cars, and not out their butt either.  And, lets not forget, most Saudi men are even excluded from that activity - they flog a Bangladeshi bloke to push their mechanical things, broken or otherwise.)

Anyway, apparently, there is an annual drama festival in Saudi and this years was not without controversy with two countries pulling out due to bans on women and music.  (No prizes for guessing who stuck their Fun Wrecking Fingers in that pie!)

While reading these articles it occurred to me that never would an expat drama group put on a production with a Saudi club, (or vice versa), which is kind of sad.  If they did decide to combine their talents either the Saudi hierarchy would have to lighten up on, or the expats would have to be happy with, the gender segregation rules.  I can't really see it going either way.

Like I said, there's always drama in Riyadh.  If you consider yourself an actor/actress of such caliber you know the expat folk of Riyadh just have to see you in action, or if you have a hankering to release your creative genius on props and backstage preparations, I suggest you volunteer for one of Riyadh's theatrical groups. (I can give you the contact details for one of them).  And if you just aren't the volunteering type, perhaps you could buy a ticket to a performance instead.  Keep your ear to the ground, I'm sure you'll hear the next show being advertised soon.


Ka Kite,
Kiwi


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