Thus, contributions from non-Western cultures would no longer be systematically overlooked, denying the age-old interweaving between Europe and its various Others. Erika Fischer-Lichte, the initiator of both the project and, we may say, the theory of “interweaving performance cultures,” continued the discussion by introducing the main view she presents in her book The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics; but this time she was addressing a non-Western audience. Her argument targeted “interwoven” moments in Western theatrical history. Therefore, she gave a synopsis of past East-West theatrical interwoven encounters illustrating her own field of vision, and supported her claim by citing the following examples.
The Late Murder in Whitechapel, or Keep the Widow Waking was an early modern answer to what we now often call ‘verbatim theatre’ – performance pieces based on real-life events that draw on documentary and oral sources, including the testimony of participants and witnesses involved in those events.
Ismail Abdellah, the secretary-general of the institute, during a press talk held a day before the opening of the festival, confirmed that all indications promised that the seventh session of the Arab Theatre Festival, the “Moroccanized” version, fully supported by the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, would be a great success as groundwork. He added that the institute had been looking forward to such an event since its launch in 2009, and predicted that the occasion would constitute “a new turn in the history of the Festival.” The Moroccan Minister of Culture, Mohamed Amine Sbihi, announced during the opening ceremony that the seventh celebration, which was being held under the patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, expected the participation of about five hundred Arab attendants belonging to the field of theatre and performance arts, and that a hundred of them would be from Morocco. He added that the event’s effects would not be limited to the area of the capital (Rabat), but extended to reach other cities around the kingdom. All of the cultural centers around Morocco were activated during that period and hosted different cultural activities reflecting the atmosphere of the two ceremonies that were being coordinated: The Arab Theatre Festival and the Centenary of Moroccan Theatre.
The Seventh Arab Theatre Festival was marked by the organization of cultural activities of various types. One of the most important elements was the presentation of about seventy plays, of which seven dramas competed for the prize of Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, rewarding the best Arab theatrical show of the year 2014. The tradition of presenting such an award was established as an attempt to keep the Arab theatre active and encourage Arab dramaturgy to carry on updating itself, contemplating, and reflecting upon some of the most prevalent current issues. Moreover, the Festival held the largest scientific conference ever in the domain of theatre and performance studies organized in the Arab world. Six panels of various research topics were enriched by discussions led by some of the most prominent figures in Arab theatre and performance studies. The festival honored twenty-two Arab artists and organized workshops, training for the benefit of theater amateurs, animating workshops dedicated to children, and allotted, next to the Festival’s Book Fair, a large space to signatures (book launches) of new theatrical releases. This last activity, together with press conferences related to competing plays, was organized inside the Mohamed V Theatre.
Prof. Khalid Amine, through a guiding introduction to the theme of “interweaving” and some of its implied desires and dreams, tried to bridge East and West cultural spaces in the field of performance studies by giving a synoptic idea about what interwoven cultures in a performance arts project could stand for and could mean to the future. He provided his own reading of the hybrid and interwoven reality performance cultures are undergoing in a multicultural world where the history of cultures is fundamentally becoming more and more reflective of this processes. He initiated a heated discussion by making this statement:
The Arab Theatre Festival is an annual event organized in a different Arab country each year by the Arab Theatre Institute. This year’s session chose Morocco as the host nation. The Festival took place in the capital Rabat between January 10 and 16, 2015, and was attended by theatre representatives from around the Arab world. This seventh version of the Festival also corresponded with Morocco celebrating the passage of one hundred years since the establishment of a modern theatre tradition there. This gave the festival a particular focus and marked this year as one of the most notable in the history of the Arab Theatre Institute.
In this paper, I present a few tentative reflections on the question of how processes of interweaving may, in unexpected ways, generate knowledge of the histories and the contemporary dynamics of performance cultures, and also–in the context of the theme of North-South dialogue–to present one or two ideas about the rapport between North and South, or South and North, especially on the shifting topographical and spatial orientation of that vector, and the dialogues it unleashes, especially in the medium of performance.
To a large extent, though, institutions closer to home are what secure and sustain our values. This is the time to strengthen those institutions, to better include the seventy per cent who have been forsaken. Our institutions of fair-minded journalism, of science and scholarship, and of the arts matter more now than ever. In municipalities and state governments, people are eager to work on the hard problems—whether it’s making sure that people don’t lose their home if they get sick, or that wages are lifted, or that the reality of climate change is addressed. Years before Obamacare, Massachusetts passed a health-reform law that covers ninety-seven per cent of its residents, and leaders of both parties have affirmed that they will work to maintain those policies regardless of what a Trump Administration does. Other states will follow this kind of example.
Less than a month after Barack Obama took office, Rick Santelli, of CNBC, announced from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, “We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party.” Santelli, a conservative showman, was complaining that day about the new Administration’s modest proposal to help struggling homeowners, whom predatory lenders had persuaded to take on unaffordable mortgages. Santelli is not a critic of Wall Street, but his rant reflected the wave of populist rage that began with the financial crisis of 2008. It set off revolutions within both parties, targeting just about anybody who seemed rich and powerful. In 2016, two utterly different and equally unlikely politicians ran for President, and succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations: first Bernie Sanders, then Donald Trump.
To one degree or another, in our encounters with others we all inhabit a persona that masks our most intimate reflections, doubts, and feelings. Beyond Trump’s extraordinary talent as a salesman, his singular dubious achievement has been to remain fully in character at all times. He has deliberately chosen to exist only as a persona, never as a person.