AUK Launches its Faculty Speaker Series with a Talk About Theater in the GCC
AUK launched its newly introduced Faculty Speaker Series with a talk entitled “Why Theatre Matters: Three Scenes from the Arabian Peninsula”, by Dr. Katherine Hennessey, AUK Assistant Professor of English and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow. The talk delved deep into the sociopolitical sphere as it pertains to theater, and conveyed the significance of such understanding at the individual level and broader society.
The talk expressed Dr. Hennessey’s dismay at the current state of theater in the Arab world, describing how it has become synonymous with absurdity and ridiculousness. This understanding of theater minimizes its importance and manifests itself by being absent from culture. Dr. Hennessey proved the significance of paying attention to theater using three key examples from the Arabian Peninsula that focus on sociopolitical content.
As she analyzed “Four O’clock,” a play by Talal Mahmoud, she proved that theater assumes the role of an educator. The play frames the issue of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in a humorous manner, dismantling the stigma associated with it in Arabia. As Dr. Hennessey put it, the medium of theater is unique to any other, in so far as it embodies culture and relays messages in a digestible manner.
Her second analysis focused on the Kuwaiti play “A Bite,” an adaptation of Antoine Chekhov’s “The Chameleon.” The play directed by Abdullah Al-Turkmani amusingly spotlights the injustice citizens and residents of Kuwait face regarding “wasta” and favoritism across all aspects of society. Dr. Hennessey stressed the importance of using metaphors and speaking by similitudes to relay an idea and create shared empathy, without fear of censorship. “Theater is a genre to which we should be paying some attention for its incisive ability to comment on contemporary sociopolitical issues, to evade the strictures of censorship, and above all for its ability to create and to model new forms of community and communal interaction,” she explained.
Finally, Dr. Hennessey shifted the attention to war torn Yemen and expressed how the political climate, rife with turbulence and conflict was depicted on the stage in “Salvation.” Her emphasis on materializing sociopolitical contentions was made apparent through the play. As she explained, the prisoner represented the people of Yemen bound by chains, stuck between two guards that symbolized the power struggle within the state. Dr. Hennessey maintained that this play would have been censored had the creators not used imaginative adaptation as a means of circumventing restrictions.
The lecture ended with a Q&A where attendees got a chance to have a one-on-one with Dr. Hennessey. A total of 54 attendees including President Dr. Rawda Awwad, AUK faculty, staff, and students were present.
The Faculty Speaker Series is a public talk series that aims to broadcast and showcase faculty research, outlooks, and intellectual capabilities through educating both faculty and student body members on an assortment of varied topics. The upcoming talk will take place on May 31st featuring professor Gholamreza Vatandoust, Professor of Near Eastern Studies and History at AUK.
To receive the Zoom link to attend this lecture, please sign up by sending an email to Facultyspeakerseries@auk.edu.kw.
Group photo of attendees
Assistant Professor of English, and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, Dr. Katherine Hennessey