Imaginary Theatre Professionalising Theatre in the Levant 1940-1990


  • Ziad Adwan Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität



This paper examines theatre education in the Levant, i.e. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine, between late 1940s and early 1990s. As a relatively new phenomenon in the region, Western-style theatre has always sought, but not always found, political, religious, social and artistic recognition. In addition to institutional and “professional” theatre initiatives, this era also witnessed the academic approaches to theatre in the region. Introducing theatre to the Levant was dependent on wealthy citizens who afforded trips to Europe and returned to spread theatre in their cities. Later in the 1970s,
and influenced by Brechtian Epic Theatre, Social Realism and the Theatre of the Absurd, governmental and academic theatre practices and literature rebelled against the existing theatre models, including the theatre makers that were glorified as national symbols. It is argued that theatre makers and theatre institutions in the Levant adopted an ideal description of theatre that was hardly recognised locally. Associating theatre to noble issues in order to promote “serious theatre,” lessened the credibility of local experiences. The dependence on socialist and nationalist ideologies assisted in legitimising theatre in the region, but simultaneously, idealising theatre separated this new art from the existing practices, and consequently mystified it in the region.

Author Biography

Ziad Adwan, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität

Ziad Adwan studied for an MA in Text and Performance Studies at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and King’s College in London, and then took a PhD in Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London; his thesis was on “Mistakes and Making Mistakes in Cultural Representations”. Ziad’s work comprises acting, directing and writing for theatre as well as academic works. He taught at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus/ Syria 2009-2013. Ziad is currently based in Germany and is affiliated with the Global Theatre Histories Research Project, Developing Theatre (Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945) at LMU Munich, and publishes articles in several academic journals. Ziad co-founded TANWEEN Company for Theatre and Dance and has been directing theatre and performance projects in Germany.