Prof. Salih Abdul Gadir, Dean of Drama College, Al-Nilein University:
-A Thousand and One Nights, a Preliminary Reference of the Arab Theatre
-The World Theatre Experiences Tremendous Intellectual, Erudite and Technical Developments
-The Arab Spring was accompanied by Dispersion that was reflected on the Intellectual Innovation
-The Administrative Position is the Grave of the Innovator
KHARTOUM (Sudanow)—The Sudanese theatre has a long history that goes back to more than a century and the College of Music and Drama has graduated generations of directors, actors and critics. Those graduates included Salih Abdul Gadir who worked as an actor, producer and researcher in the theatre and ultimately became the dean of the Faculty of Drama in the Nilein University in Khartoum. He obtained the PhD by presenting a dissertation titled "Employment of the Place in the Theatrical Show, a Study on the Place Theatre", from the University of Sudan, the College of Music and Drama, in 2010. He acted in a large number of heritage and new plays and took part in more than 30 radio serials, more than 20 radio plays and more than 20 TV films, produced and turned into theatrical works of prominent writers and participated in many festivals in several Arab countries. He is currently redirecting "Akil Aish" (subsistence) of late al-Fadil Saeed which will be presented in a number of countries, including Qatar, in the next months.
In the following interview, DR. Abdul Gadir spoke on the concerns of the Sudanese theatre:-
SUDANOW: Do the curricula of the Sudanese Drama College cope with the developments of nascent and post-nascent theatre?
Abdul Gadir: In the process of establishing and designing the curriculum of the Drama Section of the University, we conducted a scrutiny of curricula of various Arab and Western institutes and colleges and organized a workshop on the matter before designing a syllabus that matches with the international developments and with country's requirements. It was the first time for the Sudan to have an educational theatre where instructors of the school theatre are qualified and students are trained for work in the educational and child drama. In pursuance of this purpose we held more than one workshop on designing the curricula and we keep abreast with the relevant developments and instants of modernization and we conduct development and modernization every four years. This rare specialization is found in Egypt and Lebanon while in other Arab countries it is taught as part of the general syllabus, not as a specialization. However, the educational theatre has of late earned attention in the Arab world; it has even become a major concern for all educationalists, in particular, and theatre activists.
Q: How far is the progress of attempts for reaching a form of an Arab theatre based on the Arab heritage and differs from the Western theatre?
A: This is a good question. The issue was raised in the 1960s when questions on the Arab identity, in general and the theatre, in particular. A number of studies were conducted to decide whether the theatre was an émigré into the Arab culture or was one deep-rooted in this culture. The researchers and persons concerned were divided into two groups, one saying it was an original ingredient of the Arab culture and took forms different from the émigré. The other group argued that in order to accord the Arab theatre its special nature and peculiarity, the Arab folklore has to be brought in as a source of inspiration. This led to the appearance of different theatrical schools such as the experience of Yusuf Aidaby advocating adoption of a theatre for all people of the Sudan. The period that followed the1964 October Revolution witnessed the rise of several theatrical groups the most important of which was Abadamak which concentrated on the reality and concerns of the people, presenting a theatrical work on the catastrophe of Joudah dormitory, and another play on grievances after 6: 30 pm that was written by Professor Abdulla Ali Ibrahim that was shown in the courtyard of the Republican Palace. The early Sudanese folkloric heritage theatre began in the 1930s by pioneer writer Khalid Abul Roos and his theatrical work "Tajuj and Al-Muhallug" in 1932. When the theatre was presenting foreign novels like "the Merchant of Venice" and "Salah Al-Dinn Ayouby", I considered producing a genuine Sudanese play and the first story that struck my mind was Tajuj and Al-Muhallug.
Q: What was the approach of the Arab theatre?
A: It can be said that the modern Arab theatre began as a heritage phenomenon launched by Maroon al-Naggash with "Abul Hassan the Stupid" play which was one of the first Arab attempts of the theatre art. He was inspired by "A Thousand and One Nights" into including historic and folkloric topics and he was also inspired by folkloric and heritage arts like the fable narrator, solaces and night chats. The attempts of originating the theatre by returning it to the heritage were attempts of communication between the innovator and the recipient and of reviving our historic heritage memory for shaping Arab features for the theatrical art.
Q: What was the approach of the Arab theatre for obtaining a peculiarity?
A: There were numerous attempts in the Arab world made by theatrical groups like the night chatter in Egypt, the fable narrator in Lebanon and the celebration group in Morocco. The call by Yusuf Idriss of Egypt for going back to the Egyptian night chatter theatre was a chick off for developing an original Arab Theatre. Other Egyptian writers followed his foot-steps by linking the theatrical art in its Western form with the heritage of the folklore of the Egyptian community. In Syria there were theatrical experiments by writer Saadallah Wanoos who employed the heritage for creating an identity or peculiarity for the Syrian Arab theatre and for revealing a space of a real interaction between the show and the audience as reflected in his theories which were published in a book on establishing a new Arab theatre. The celebratory form of the theatre that was pioneered by Abdul Kerim Bersheed and Al-Tayeb al-Siddeiky of Morocco contributed to the rise of many ideas related to boosting the theatrical art in other Arab countries, relying on their national folklore.
Q: Has the Arab theatre reflected the social and political changes that accompanied the Arab Spring upheavals?
A: The artists, researchers and others concerned with the theatre were not in concurrence on the idea of the Arab Spring but the rapid and powerful changes in the Arab communities, the different revolutionary ideologies and the opposition to the Arab Spring itself had impacts on the intellectual innovation, despite the need of the Arab peoples for this revolution. The effects of the Arab Spring still exist as every artist is opposed to oppression, injustice, persecution ad tyranny and supports the right, goodness, beauty, freedom and democracy.
Q: What about the regression of the Arab theatre in the face of the modern technology media, such as the satellite channels?
A: The World theatre, in general, nowadays experiences major intellectual and technical changes for several reasons, including the political developments that necessarily harmed the movement of innovation, particularly with regard to the theatre, the great social changes that affected the communities' structure, the domestic wars, the economic pressures, the poverty, oppression and injustices and other factors affecting the theatre activities. However, the theatre benefitted from the technical development and will continue using it. It can be said that the regional and international developments affect the regions in various degrees according to the disparities in the composition of each region and each population based on the social, administrative, political and ruling systems of that region.
Q: Numerous attempts were made for converting the works of novelist Tayeb Salih, during his lifetime, into plays on the theatre and radio drama and attempts are underway for producing the "Season of Migration to the North" into a movie film. People always ask about the difference between the text of the novel and that of the theatre?
A: The text of the theatre depends largely on the dialogue while the prominent features of the novel are narrative and description. A number of novels of Tayeb Salih have been converted into theatrical plays, like Dhaw al-Bait (Home-light) which produced by Gassim Abu Zaid and prepared by poet and writer Mohamed Mohi al-Dinn in 1985 and was displayed in the Friendship Hall Theatre. Professor Saad Yusuf Obaid prepared "Doumat Wad Hamid (the Doum Tree of Hamid's Son) which was presented on the National Theatre of Omdurman also in 1985. Mus'ab al-Sawy prepared the "Season of Migration to the North" as a radio film that was produced by Abu Bakr al-Hady. Professor Osman Jamal al-Dinn prepared a radio serial of four novels produced by Salah al-Dinn al-Fadil of the Sudanese Radio Omdurman. The novel "Irs al-Zain" (Zain Wedding) was made into a movie film in the 1970s. To sum up, a novel can be transformed into a drama and the difference will be a matter of aestheticism and taste and each one of the two works has its own characteristics in those matters as decide by the recipient.
Q: In conclusion, to what extent does the administrative post affect the artist?
A: The administrative post is the tomb of the artist who is created to practice his art and innovation. The post cripples his performance, but under the current circumstances in which the art leads to damnation and death and for him and his family to survive, the artist has to get a job, that is, if he is lucky enough to find one.
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