The early days of Palestinian theater are not unlike those of Arab theater in the rest of the
Here, the term “Palestinian theater” does not refer to plays written by Palestinians and non-Palestinians about the issue of Palestine. Instead, it refers to theater as an expression of acting and directing by troupes with a Palestinian identity. The evolution of Palestinian theater can be divided into three stages, each marked by a distinct beginning. The first stage begins with the birth of Palestinian theater in the late nineteenth century and lasts until 1948; the second begins with the rebirth of the Palestinian theater after 1967 (with a focus on the
First Stage: The Emergence of Palestinian Theater
The emergence and early development of theater in Palestinian cities prior to 1948 occurred in the context of theater’s emergence more broadly across the Levant in the mid-nineteenth century and early twentieth century and a climate of enlightenment in the region. Theater emerged in the context of a cultural renaissance occurring in certain areas and cities (such as cultural clubs in
Second Stage: 1967 – 93
After 1948, it was only in the late 1960s that the rebirth of Palestinian theater occurred. In light of the 1967 defeat and the launch of the Palestinian resistance movement, a clear, but uncoordinated, desire was expressed, both within Palestine and abroad, to develop theater with a Palestinian identity.
In the diaspora, the first attempt to resurrect Palestinian theater was made by
Despite these activities, Palestinian theater in the diaspora had limited influence and resembled what might be called diplomatic representation theater.
Theater in the West Bank constituted an important phenomenon because it aimed at a specific audience and took on a significant social role. Yet it also suffered from numerous problems, including lack of a repertoire, specialists, resources, and patronage. Israel placed constraints, too; performances required permits (which were difficult to obtain) and were often banned outright, and scripts were subject to censorship.
The Palestinian Theater (El-Hakawati Theater) was founded by
These theater troupes suffered from lack of patronage and full-time staff. This was especially true for El-Hakawati Theater, which staged a large number of plays (including 120 performances of Mahjoub Mahjoub). After a grueling search for a space, El-Hakawati found a burned out theater in Jerusalem, which it turned into a theater center in 1984. Al-Qasaba theater and cinematheque was founded by
Third Stage: 1993 and Beyond
After the Oslo Agreement
and the establishment of the
Of note is
Beginning in 1989 or so, several theater groups emerged, including the
Among Palestinians in Israel, a theater movement has not really existed, in spite of various efforts, until the early 1990s, at a time when theater was revitalized in the West Bank. Actors who studied at Israeli universities and institutes – including
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Shalout, ‘Afif. “Lamahat min tarikh masrahina al-mahalli” [Glimpses of Our Local Theater’s History]. Majallat al-Shurouk (Shefa ‘Amr) 17, no.4 (1981).
Shehadeh, Radi. Al-masrah al-Filastini fi Filastin 48: Bayna sira‘ al-baqa’ wa infisal al-hawiya [Palestinian Theater in Palestine of ‘48: Between Struggle for Survival and Split Identity]. Ramallah: Palestinian Ministry of Culture, 1998.
Shehadeh, Radi. “Palestinian Theater, Past and Present”; at al-monitor.com.
Zaqout, Nahid. “Al-haraka al-masrahiyya fi qita‘ Ghaza” [The Theater Movement in the Gaza Strip]. In Hussein al-Asmar, Al-haraka al-masrahiyya fi qita’ Ghaza: Waqi‘uha, wa mu‘tayatuha, wa afaq tatawuriha [The Theater Movement in the Gaza Strip: Reality, Facts, and Prospects for Development]; at diwanalarab.com.