Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Blog

By Jad Ireifej
Summer Intern, 2014

The "Between the Seas Festival of Mediterranean Performing Arts" is holding a staged reading of the play A Chance Encounter by Syrian playwright Mohammad Al Attar, directed by Noelle Ghoussaini.

Dr. Aktina Stathaki, the Artistic and Producing Director of “Between the Seas Festival,” described the play as having a very simple plot line, following the meeting between a young Syrian activist and an older businessman on the Corniche in Beirut, and the secrets they reveal.

Like much of Al Attar’s work, this play has a political focus, but it also addresses the generational, cultural, and world view clashes of this war-torn region without over-simplifying the conflict or taking sides. Instead, it focuses intently on the complexity of the situation in Syria and “the way the war impacts human lives, relationships, notions of ethics and morality… [revealing] the complexity as opposed to giving easy answers,” Stathaki observes.

Mohammad Al Attar completed most of his studies in Damascus and received an MA in Applied Drama from the University of London in 2010. He is very active in the theatre and arts scene of Middle East, and his plays, which are originally written in colloquial Arabic, have been translated into several languages and performed around the globe.

Active in the Syrian uprising since its genesis, Al Attar only began writing about the movement once he became determined it was not a “luxurious act” and actually “a necessary part of the protest,” to show that young, modern Syrian artists and intellectuals will not be afraid to speak out, unlike some of the older generations.

“Fear,” he said, “is a human instinct, but the fear is no longer preventing people from doing things.”

This performance of A Chance Encounter will be the North American premiere of the play and is a part of the festivals ‘4x4: NYC meets the Med’ which aims to present the most innovative theatre from the Mediterranean region.

For the past four years, “Between the Seas” has made an effort to promote Mediterranean art in America, highlighting the regions “diversity, contradictions, styles, aesthetics, politics” for the American audience, Stathaki said. Attar’s play ties in with the other plays presented in the program if not by similar crisis related subject matter, but by the “undercurrent of violence in the words and attitudes” of the characters which Stathaki observes as “characteristic of the region.” Despite diverse conflicts throughout the Mediterranean, the “profound violence, anxiety and frustration on a personal level, on the level of human relations” is a universal element in all the plays presented.

The production will take place Saturday July 26 at 6PM at The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd St., New York, New York and is FREE and open to the public. The cast will consist of Arab American actors.

Stathaki added, “Mohammad Al Attar is one of Syria's and the region's most important playwrights so presenting his work here especially at a time like this, is very important for us and for American audiences.”

For more details visit Between the Sea Festival of Mediterranean Performing Arts’ website.