Magazine article American Theatre

Everyday Artistry in Sudan

Magazine article American Theatre

Everyday Artistry in Sudan

Article excerpt

HOW DOES A NICE JEWISH BOY FROM THE northeast United States find himself in the middle of a cemetery in Khartoum as part of a Sufi ritual, surrounded by hundreds of Sudanese men, women and children, dancing, whirling and trancing? How do I find myself dancing along and feeling so strangely at home and enveloped by the colossal warmth of the community?

I was privileged to be invited to Sudan in late March--in a delegation with Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, Steven Sapp and William (Ninja) Ruiz of the ensemble UNIVERSES, and TCG's director of artistic programs and ITI-U.S. Emilya Cachapero--for events surrounding the 13th Al-Bugaa International Theater Festival, which launched on World Theatre Day, March 27. The trip was made possible by festival founder Ali Mahdi, a UNESCO Artist for Peace and the leader of ITI-Sudan and Al-Bugaa Theatre Troupe, which creates theatrical works with soldiers, war orphans and refugees.

As part of a larger effort to strengthen relationships between Sudanese and U.S. artists, the delegation signed collaborative agreements between Al-Bugaa and ITI-U.S., and between the Sudanese company and the newly formed Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University.

The Bronx-born UNIVERSES wowed festival audiences with its singular fusion of theatre, hip-hop, poetry and politics, and had the largely Arabic-speaking audiences dancing in the aisles of the large open-air theatre that houses the festival. An impassioned crowd of Sudanese scholars, artists, press and audience members gathered in a tent after each performance to reflect and argue fervently about what they had seen. Palpable in their responses was their genuine shock at the sharp contrast between their impressions of what the U.S. looks and sounds like, and their firsthand experience of our delegation. This was a bracing reminder of the potency of citizen-to-citizen exchange through theatre. …

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