Saturday, May 26, 2007

Devil Rush

Dear readers,

Please excuse my absence for the two coming weeks. The quarter is about to end, and projects are due. If I do not run away, Satan will catch up with me, with the blog on the top of his temptation list!

Speaking of Satan: it is Memorial Day weekend here in the States. Somebody is still making sure that the event is celebrated with hurt, and soar hearts. Somebody is insuring that more families loose their loved ones at war. Somebody is making sure that the gas prices are too high so that many hard working families cannot get together this weekend. And somebody is making sure that shops and markets have a sale weekend, entertaniment plans, so on Memorial Weekend highly debted people feed on each other's bones. So, America, on the day of your memory there is this: "May that somebody, be no more."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Do Men & Women Belong?

Yesterday, my theater class started working with a new set of plays. Fortunately, I was picked for better ones this time. Moreover, for a role that I actually love!

The lead character is gender-freak girl who is so into the trends of males/females: their differences, incentives, patterns, and psychological processing. Through an encounter with her university professor, the play explores some of the deepest and most essential gender differences.

After the first reading, my thoughts heated up, and started going in closed circles. For the rest of the day, I could not focus on anything outside the gender sphere. “If I do not find an artistic form to convey all gender point of views that I have, I will insert them into everything I write, and become the boring person who spend their life repeating the same talk!”

For the sake of future reference, here are the points I wish to ponder:

1- Religion: Adam was created first. Why not Adam and Eve at the same time? Was Adam an experiment? Is Eve an upgrade? If she were, had Adam and Eve’s life together proved them incompatible? Did religion come to assist male and female incompatibility, and to reinforce their living together? Would the day that religion not need to exist, the day when a whole gender becomes wiped out of existence, leaving a society that is fully female or fully male?

2- Relationship: Long-term intimate relationship between men and women (marriage, living together, etc,) is it natural? Or is it a struggle against both their natures? Have people’s attempt to overcome the abnormality of long-term relationships caused the invention of polygamy, cheating, extra-marital affairs, etc?

3- Lead: Leaders rule, so have centuries of man being first, and being the lead, the reason for biased religious interpretations, and over imposing male’s need and desire, and underestimating the female’s? Are caticatures, sitcoms, jokes, and judgmental tone used by a gender to describe the other merely a modern form of lead and counter-lead culture? Practices that neither balance out the situation nor neutralize it?

4- Sex: From early years in life, a male’s anatomy can experience pleasure. Upon puberty, a male is ready to experiment with his genitals. Such experimentation is unavoidable. Can we say that the same goes for females? Or, is the very fact that media, books, and cross-gender encounters, help bring on awareness, self discovery and experimentation, a proof that –again- the two genders are incompatible?

5- Citizenship: An American man and an American woman who have been married for quarter of a century. An American man and a Saudi man who've never met. Which couple can relate to one another more? Both men? Or the man and the woman? Which is a person's primary citizenship: root of gender, or the surface they occupy on earth? Have transgenders realized that gender is a primary citizenship, and thus the letting go of it is an inner mean of immigrating?

6- Science: Homosexualities, scientific progressions, fertilizations in labs, medical cases of women conceiving without sperm (and the result necessary being female,) are they steering in the direction of a futuristic change in society structure? A future where man and woman do not live together. And where their struggles, and adjustments to co-exist are nonexistent?

The gender issue is as old as existence itself. The fact that men and women have reached the 21st century with the business of books, audios, and programs that educate and familiarize them with each other is still a hot business might simply be telling us that men and women were not meant to be...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

On Mother's Day

Dear mama,
Though I cannot share this Mother's day with you, I would love to tell the world how much you have done in 29 years of motherhood:

- Caring for 7 children.
- Bearing the death of one, on his 3rd year of life.
- Earning your Master's Degree in the States, a wife for the first time, and a mother of 2.
- Whether exam time, project time, or any "your" time, your kids came first, even for a little thing as bath songs, little duckling talk, or baking cookies!
- Holding wonderful 25 years, quarter of a century, of teaching at the College of European Languages and Translation in King Saud University. A couple at King Abdul-Aziz University and at Prince Sultan University as well.
- Plenty of certificates in: Children's Literature, Arts and Crafts, Photography, etc.
- Seminars and courses all over Saudi, teaching what you learn. Because you can never be so selfish as to keep knowledge to yourself.

And now, as you had your youngest of children rise safely to the land of Highschool, and as you became a grandmother of 4:

- Published a Series of 20 children stories

- A cook book "
A Cup of Tea"
- A book of
photography for beginners. (need I talk about how the publisher keeps running out of copies?)
- Held several photography exibits.
- Translated a book on patience and faith.
- Taken part in a couple of influential comittees which are responsible for Children's Literature.

You are the purest spirit that I have ever known in my life, always placing the interest of whom you love before your own. Despite it all, you were not delayed, risen, accomplished and most importantly: done so in peace.

On Mother's Day, there's so much that I wish to tell you, but it all comes down to this:

I love you!

Friday, May 11, 2007

I am a good human, and this shall prove it!

When offering fast and immediate pleasure, which call are we answering to: the other's need, or our aspiration for acknowledgment and credit?

Today, in my “New Play Development” class, we had a series of performances. The way they work is by the actors reading scripts with minimal blocking, and the playwrights sitting on the side to receive the feedback afterwards. What the commentators focus on is the quality of the piece: structure, characters, development, etc.

One of the pieces presented is written by a lady who is responsible for young people who were abused, and were addicts of some sort. The lead character is a troubled, abused, and an addict girl. This girl's "monologue" is encouraged by a sub-textual character, whose role is to mainly make her talk. All throughout, the piece is broken to deliver a poem that is written by “real” suffering young people, introduced through a background narration of their “real” story.

As we are meant to work in actor, director, writer, dramaturge, collaboration in this class, this playwright was very hard to work with over the past few weeks because she did not allow her script to be touched. She refused the director’s suggestions for molding the shattered bits into a harmonious structure. "Everything is real," She would insist. "It is the work of my kids, and the reality of their suffering is its essential strength."

So today, as the script was delivered, and the feedback attacked the “un-theatrical” structure, the lady pointed to the back row, where she seated her kids for the reading, defending how much they contributed, and how their stories and courage say it all…

It was a sensitive situation for all commentators, and I was thankful for being the silent actor on stage watching everybody fidgeting with their social correctness, and this critique session's requirements.

I could sense how awkward and uncomfortable her "kids" began to feel in the back row. Laughing nervously, raising the t-shirts to their faces, and shrinking in their seats. Up front, she was growing larger as if to compensate for their situation and stand in their defence. In my silent seat I swore. Whatever made her put them in such a situation?!

I remembered just then, how many people in Saudi attempt to defend women just the same way. Employ women everywhere, give them columns in magazines and newspapers, encourage anything related to them, and follow those actions by announcing that the courageous and powerless women are the goal and that THIS IS GIVING THEM A CHANCE IN THE SOCIETY. Such a
rbitrary attempts lead to bad conclusions: the employers and the society thinking of women as immature contributors who are not ready yet to take any serious role! Maybe the women pleasure from those chances, but do they benefit? Does the society benefit? Or does the greater pleasure go out to the people who readily receive credit for their sincerety and acknowledgment of the "less priviliged creatures".

Governments do it, media, corporations, communities, individuals, etc. That seemingly sincere acknowledgment which does not take the “subject’s” best interest/wellbeing at heart.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Criminal at Home

This is an interview with Ahmed Fouad Negm that struck me as true and bold. Aired on New TV Channel, a couple of months back. Below is an interpretation:

Host: The Egyptian Artist, her name is Rubi.

Ahmed: She is who…whom in regard… a problem has happened on Al-hurra channel, when the man was telling me…and I said that she is no art at all…
She (Rubi) stands and gives you her ass and sings. Shadia or Laila Murad, when they sing, their faces would all be bright and radiant. This one is like she is riding a bicycle and giving the audience her ass while singing. Does she sing from her ass or what?
Look at the insult. Look at how much we insult women.

Host: We insult her!?

Ahmed: What else? We treat a woman if she were asses or boobs or the like! Does it make sense?

Host: Whose fault is it?

Ahmed: It is OUR fault, all of us. She is a little girl, a child, does not know better, and you are going to bring her money, and things like that. Or is she a criminal?! Did she bring “an-naksa” –
The Setback- on us? It is our mistake. We are a retarded society. And we deserve what we are in. We deserve our governments.

Our societies are being run on gunmen and defense systems that fire directly at the symptom not the cause. It is much easier to go on blaming a singer, for her actions, than to go searching for the ones who hired her. It is much easier to fire Imus than to search for the job specification under which he was employed. It is much too simple to fire at the “other” than it is to investigate further and find out that the real criminal, the real cause, might be at home. That he might be us!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Labor Day?

Well, nobody told me that there's a "May Day" or, "Great American Boycott Day" or, "Labor Day." on May 1st. I came to learn that in a very bad way: standing by the school campus, awaiting my one-hour late bus, exchanging silent looks with other frustrated waiters. The time clicking closer to the deadline in which I should pick my child from daycare. I call my husband, and he does not answer because he's in the midst of an exam. I msm him as the clock ticks some more.

Accross the street somebody shouts real loud, and a crowd cheers. More shouting, and cheering. I listen closer, and hear words of "freedom" "Liberty" "Rights". To my ears, they sound like a badly montaged old movie. "Why would someone in America be shouting that stuff?" I ask myself. "And why on earth would the crowd be overly excited?"

The clock is still ticking. Anger pumps up my confidence so I ask the person next to me, "Which bus are you waiting for?" Mine! "This guys is waiting for it too, we have not missed it. It's just this..march that's delaying things!"

A march! I take out my cellphone and dial the Tri-Met number. Yes, there are delays and detours on this line/route today. Why didn't anyone tell me earlier, damn it? Now, there are only 30 minutes before my baby's daycare closes up. He has no one else in the world to pick him. The bus, which takes 45 minutes to drop me at my destination, is now useless. I call a cab.

For the first time, even the cab line is busy. I wait for 2 minutes. Hello? I am given an estimate of $25. But that's not all! I am not the only downtown Portland stranded customer, there's a long line of desperate people. That means, I will have to wait 15 minutes before the cab arrives! My useless bus arrives, but I let it pass.

From accross the street, the crowd cheers and hoots some more. "What if they hear themselves?" I wonder. "They sound like a large number of caged animals, roaring and howling in one little spot." Groups of orange and yellow bycyclists criss cross from both sides of the streets. They are the enemy now! The more they cross, the more cars have to be delayed, my cab, baby!

Finally, the savior! My husband calls, and I tell him to hurry over. I call off the cab. 10 minutes later, with smoking nerves I ride next to my husband cursing that march. "Come on, marching isn't that bad. Didn't you just love the one in Vancouver, B.C? And took pictures of that organized form of freedom of expression?"

"Huh? Ah! Yeah, but..." But he was right. Marches aren't that bad. Especially if they don't happen near PSU, on rush-hour, or around bus stops, causing students to be late for a job, or lose more than 20 bucks over a cab or a daycare penalty...
They are rather pleasant when you are in the convenience of your own transportation, knowing that you will not be late for your child.

Theatrical Realities

OFF stage, the story looks a lot different than it is told ON stage!

This is one lesson that I did not learn in the many years of being on school theaters back home, where acting was practiced, but never professionaly taught.

But in my "New Play Development" class this year, where dramaturgs, directors, writers and actors work collaboratively at various plays, I have come to value the moments taken off stage, exchanging seats with the directors as they hop on and re-act an awkward part.

I learned that more than any form of art, acting in theater SHOULD NOT be true to life. If you want to speak to someone, hell no you shouldn't just talk to them. That limits the power range. Talk to the crowd. The crowd readily assumes that you are talking to the person with you on stage. Of course this is not the dominant case, but this is one of the "power distribution" rules that I could not understand untill I tried the on and off spots.

Feelings do not start from the heart. They actually starts with the stomach. If you breath well, you enunicate well. Most of the actors I found to be moving and effective, were ones that are well spoken. Loud, but not high pitced. They breathed the words, not spoke them!

BLOCKING! Well, IF in real life you do what your guts tell you, this is not life. You do what you have agreed to do earlier, or the director gets really grumpy! Did we not say theater acting is not true to life? Even if right stage looks a lot similar to left stage, even if the audience will continue to sit up front, and even if you have no goal at the time of delivering your lines -touching someone or something: DO NOT CHANGE THE BLOCKING.

GROUNDING! The floor is you, you are the floor. Humans are the only skipping creature. Do not skip. Ground your feet to the stage. Become the soft clay that God initiated from the earth. If you are grounded, let all else go loose and free, for non shall then be lost.

Many things can be said through the eye of a first-timer! However, the most calling thought that I had today is about leaders in the world at large. Most leaders are born leaders, and work on that level all their lives: in school, in sports, in work, in communities, in political levels, etc. How often do they get the chance to take the OFF STAGE seat? How often do they step off the play they are carrying on to see what the people are experiencing and seeing?


Is it ever correct that leaders step on a stage to address, while people sit off stage to listen. If our long term agreement has been this, you act, we watch, why is it that when we exit the theater, ride our cars, and lock ourselves in our little homes..the play does not end?