Magazine article American Theatre

Around the World in 1001 Nights

Magazine article American Theatre

Around the World in 1001 Nights

Article excerpt

NO ALADDIN. NO ALI BABA OR 40 THIEVES. NO GENIES POPPING OUT OF MUCH-RUBBED LAMPS. THIS ONE THOUSAND and One Nights is "not a fantasy, not exotic. It is an urban folk story cycle, brutal, poetic and real" says Tim Supple, artistic director of London-based Dash Arts Theatre. Prior to the show's mid-June opening at Toronto's Luminato Festival, which financed the project, Supple spent more than two months in Fez, Morocco, rehearsing a cast from all over the Arab world. In July, One Thousand and One Nights wraps up a stop at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, then moves to Scotland's Edinburgh Festival in August. According to Supple, it will subsequently tour in the Arab world, Australia, and North America, though at press time tour dates had not been confirmed.

In Chicago, Supple is perhaps best known for the gorgeous 2008 epic Midsummer Night's Dream, which used performers, musicians and acrobats from India and Sri Lanka. His One Thousand and One Nights, a six-hour extravaganza performed in Arabic, English and French, sounds as spectacular. Because of Arab Spring, it also may be more politically relevant.

Just as he made multiple research trips to India to prepare for Midsummer, in 2006, Supple began to research Nights--one of four shows in his Dash Arabic Arts Series--by visiting such places as Algeria, Tunisia, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Yemen. He wanted to shatter cliches. He learned early on, "There is no way to easily generalize about the different countries. You can't compare Algeria with Lebanon."

Supple asked celebrated Lebanese novelist and feminist Hanan Al-Shaykh, now based in London, to modernize Nights, which first appeared as a collection of tales during the Golden Age of Islam (roughly coinciding with Europe's Middle Ages). …

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