Almost any discussion of Arab playwrights is incomplete without covering the origins of Arab theater, and no exception applies when discussing Alfred Farag. Arab scholars, playwrights, and critics have constantly debated the state of Arab theater, once its birth and recently its decline, especially when compared (as it often is) to Western theater. The late Alfred Farag (1929-2005), one of the leading contemporary playwrights of Egyptian theater, wrote numerous plays and played an instrumental role in bridging Arab heritage to the stage before his death. His bold, experimental style vastly influenced Arab theater as it is known today, and he devoted much of his life to calling for a theatrical renaissance.
The recent staged readings in New York of Sadallah Wannous’s translated play, “Rituals of Signs and Transformations” have proven highly successful. The play features memorable characters, such as Mumina, a 19th century woman from Damascus who defies the expectations of her father, brother, husband and Mufti in order to explore her sexuality and spirituality. Her forbidden sensuality and journey of spiritual self-discovery not only transforms Mumina, but also proves a powerful catalyst for change in those who share her life.