“Harvesting Thorns”: Comedy as Political Theatre in Syria and Lebanon

  • Author / Creator
    Alyousef, Aksam
  • At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 70s, political comedy grew exponentially in Syria and Lebanon. This phenomenon was represented mainly in the performances of three troupes: Thorns Theatre (Al-Shuk Theatre مسرح الشوك), Tishreen Troupe (Ferqet Tishreen فرقة تشرين ), and Ziyad Al-Rahbani Theatre (Masrah Ziyad Al-Rahbani مسرح زياد الرحباني ). These works met with great success throughout the Arab world due to the audacity of the themes explored and their reliance on the familiar traditions of Arab popular theatre. Success was also due to the spirit of the first Arab experimental theatre established by pioneers like Maroun Al-Naqqash (1817-1855) and Abu Khalil Al-Qabbani (1835-1902), who in the second half of the nineteenth century mixed comedy, music, songs and dance as a way to introduce theatre performance to a culture unaccustomed to it. However, this theatre started to lose its luster in the early 1990s, due to a combination of political and cultural factors that will be examined in this essay.
    This thesis depends on historical research methodology to reveal the political, social and cultural conditions that led to the emergence and development (and subsequent retreat) of political theatre in the Arab world. My aim is to, first, enrich the Arab library with research material about this theatre which lacks significant critical attention; and second to add new material to the Western Library, which is largely lacking in research about modern and contemporary Arab theatre and culture. Lastly, this analysis is aimed at developing a theory of political comedy and its cultural relevance to Arab theatre as this form has contributed for many decades to a rise in social and political awareness in the Arab world.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2020
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
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