Selected Publications

Middle Eastern American Theatre explores the burgeoning Middle Eastern American theatre movement with a focus on Arab American, Jewish American, Armenian American, Iranian American, and Turkish American theatres, playwrights, directors, and actors. By exploring the rich religious and cultural heritage of this diverse group – which includes Arabs, Armenians, Iranians, Jews, and Turks – and religions that include the Baha’i faith, Christianity, Chaldean, Druze, Ishik Alevism, Judaism, Islam, Mandaeism, Samaratin, Shabakism, Yazidi, and Zoroastrianism – the rich and paradoxical nature of the term ‘Middle Eastern’ is interrogated through the dramas written and performed by those in the Diaspora.

Featuring a clear introduction and examination of the context and the various push and pull factors that have contributed to the mass migrations to North America – including the so-called “Great Migration” of 1890-1915, the Armenian Genocide, the European Holocaust, the two world wars, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and other social and political conflicts. With chapters devoted to Arab American, Israeli American, Iranian American and Turkish American theatre, Middle Eastern American Theatre traces the history and examines the work of key artists and directors including Heather Raffo, Yussef El Guindi, Jamil Khoury, Mona Mansour, Danny Bryck, Ken Kaissar, Ari Roth, Torange Yeghiazarian, Reza Abdoh, Sedef Ecer, Torange Yeghiazarian, of Golden Thread Productions, and Jamil Khoury, of Silk Road Rising.

The volume provides readers with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of millions of Middle Eastern Americans, and how they have contributed to American theatre today.

Beginning with early Arab American playwright, poet and novelist Kahlil Gibran and concluding with contemporary playwright Yussef El Guindi, this book provides an historical overview and critical analysis of the plays, films and performances of self-identified Arab Americans. Playwrights, filmmakers and performers covered include Ameen Fares Rihani, Danny Thomas, Heather Raffo, Ahmed Ahmed, Mona Mansour and Cherien Dabis. These artists, traditionally underrepresented in entertainment, publishing and academia, have created works that exemplify the burgeoning Arab American arts movement. By addressing cinema, stand-up comedy and solo performance, the author introduces audiences to contemporary genres that are shaping Arab American culture in the United States.

“The [Vagrant Trilogy] extends far beyond the timeline of devastating events, and instead shows us something greater: humanity.” – Broadway World

The Vagrant Trilogy is a set of three plays by award-winning Arab American playwright Mona Mansour which explores the Palestinian condition prior to, during, and after the infamous Six-Day War. It sketches the devastating effect this conflict had on members of the Palestinian diaspora scattered in Europe and in Lebanese refugee camps.

With productions in Washington DC, New York, and Abu Dhabi, this trilogy has moved audiences across both America and the Arabic-speaking world. The Hour of Feeling, The Vagrant, and Urge for Going offer a deep exploration of the Palestinian struggle for home and identity, a powerful glimpse into a reality that many face and few understand.

The volume includes a foreword by director Mark Wing-Davey; an introduction by Arab American theatre scholars Hala Baki and Michael Malek Najjar; the three plays in their final performance versions; an interview with playwright Mona Mansour; and a critical essay by literary scholar Diya Abdo. This collection of Mansour’s outstanding plays is another important contribution to the Arab American theatrical canon and the larger body of American drama.

Heather Raffo’s Iraq Plays: The Things That Can’t Be Said is a trilogy of plays by renowned Iraqi American playwright/performer Heather Raffo including 9 Parts of Desire, Fallujah: The First Opera about the Iraq War, and Noura.

In these three works Raffo explores the indelible effects of war on Iraqis, Americans, and the refugees caught between the two cultures. When considered together, these three works give voice to nearly two decades of rarely examined traumas that have reshaped cultural and national identity for both Americans and Iraqis since the events of 9/11.

Heather Raffo is a renowned playwright and performer whose work has been described by The New Yorker as an example of “how art can remake the world.” An American with Iraqi heritage, her work is seen as a rare bridge between western and eastern cultures.

With ongoing debates about the legacy of America’s foreign wars and future role in the Middle East, this volume offers a uniquely historical and deeply human perspective on the political issues of our time. Spanning a decade and a half, together these works form a mosaic of untold stories that were ground breaking in their time and continue to profoundly impact communities and classrooms internationally.

A prolific playwright in the US, Egyptian-American playwright Yussef El Guindi explores, through his dramatic work, the immigrant experience. Addressing the personal, political and social encounters of those trying to adapt to new western countries and cultures, his plays are conceived and shaped with intelligence, sensibility and humour.
This collection brings together works that span his career, from his first major play, Back of the Throat,to his boldly topical Threesome, throughout which he delves into the complex issues commonly felt by Arab immigrants in the US: Arabophobia, Islamophobia, media orientalism and bi-cultural issues.
The plays featured in the anthology are:

Back of the Throat
Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat
Language Rooms
Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World

Packed with supplementary information that expands upon and contextualises El Guindi’s work, this collection is both an excellent compendium and a resource for study. Additional material includes: an annotated timeline of the playwright’s life and work; an introduction by Professor Michael Malek Najjar (University of Oregon) that draws out themes within the plays and examines El Guindi’s place in American theatre in the post-9/11 era; production stills of some productions of El Guindi’s work; and El Guindi’s essay Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Meet Abdallah and Ahmed: Musings about Arabs and Muslims in American Theatre.

Four Arab American Plays is the first published collection of plays by contemporary Arab American playwrights. Based on true stories from her life as the daughter of a Lebanese mother and American diplomat father, Leila Buck’s ISite invites the audience on an intimate journey in search of identity, home, and the space in between. Jamil Khoury’s drama Precious Stones boldly examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the “safe” yet turbulent terrain of the American Diaspora. Yussef El Guindi’s Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat is a darkly humorous and sensual look at identity, media-representation, love and lust in the Arab American community. In Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader’s Food and Fadwa, a Palestinian family living under occupation fights to hold onto their culture and traditions while still celebrating love, joy and hope. A preface by Arab American scholar Michael Malek Najjar and a new essay titled “Towards an Arab American Theatre Movement” by Silk Road Rising’s artistic director, Jamil Khoury, concludes the book—a valuable expression of Arab American life and theatre in the United States.

A bold and singular collection of six plays by Arab and Jewish playwrights explores the human toll of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The Admission by Motti Lerner, Scenes From 70* Years by Hannah Khalil, Tennis in Nablus by Ismail Khalidi, Urge for Going by Mona Mansour, The Victims by Ken Kaissar, and The Zionists by Zohar Tirosh-Polk.
Rather than striving to achieve balance and moral equivalency between “competing” narratives, the plays investigate themes of identity, justice, occupation, exile, history and homeland with honesty and integrity. The plays do not “take sides” or adhere to ideological orthodoxies but challenge tribalism and narrow definitions of nationalism, while varying widely in thematic content, dramatic structure, and time and place.
Where politicians and diplomats fail, artists and storytellers may yet succeed—not in ratifying a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine, but in building the sort of social and political connectivity that enables resolution.

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