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THE ARTSEMERSON BLOG

The Speaker’s Progress: A Journey Between Cultures

By Alyssa Mulligan

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them” (Twelfth Night, Act II Scene V). 

speakers progressPerhaps you are familiar with the 17th century script written by a renowned bard, or perhaps not.  Regardless, The Speaker’s Progress will certainly provide a fresh outlook on this olden tale.  The play is based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night– however, this is a Shakespearean production unlike any other you’ve seen before.   What makes writer/director Sulayman Al-Bassam and the SABAB theatre company’s adaptation so unique?  One must first examine their artistic mission and theatrical process.

“sabab (verb): to cause, bring forth, provoke, trigger, arouse, inspire, prompt; (noun): reason, cause, motive”

Born in Kuwait and now based in London, Al-Bassam is dedicated to cSulaymanreating a space for the Arab voice to be heard.  He often uses a classic text as the “poetic starting point” for his work.  In addition to Hamlet and Richard III, Al-Bassam has drawn inspiration from Molière, allegorical animal fables and a medieval morality play.  The Speaker’s Progress is the final installment of Al-Bassam’s trilogy dedicated to reinterpreting Shakespearean works through a Middle Eastern lens.  In an interview Al-Bassam shared, “Theatre challenges the accepted world views and breaks the mirrors of authority.  Shakespeare understood that power very well.” 

SABAB theatre company, comprised of pan Arab and international artists, approaches the text as a framework to engage audiences in a dialogue about Arab and Muslim culture, perspectives, and politics.  Their work centers on a voice that is often disregarded, misinterpreted, or not represented in the English-speaking world. 

Come share in their experience:  The Speaker’s Progress is playing on the Paramount Center Mainstage from October 12-16!

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