Shakespeare Plays a Part in Return of Afghanistan's Cultural Life

News   Shakespeare Plays a Part in Return of Afghanistan's Cultural Life
In Afghanistan, where in less than two weeks the first elections for the country's national assembly will take place, a French actress joined forces with a cultural foundation to do something that would have been unspeakable five years ago in the war-ravaged country: a play by Shakespeare.

According to a report in Variety, The Foundation for Culture and Civil Society in Kabul, the country's capital, presented a performance of Shakespeare's comedy Love's Labour's Lost under the direction of French actress Corinne Jabar on Aug. 31. It was reportedly the first public presentation of Shakespeare there in 25 years.

The performance was not only the first time many of the 200 people in the audience had seen Shakespeare, but also the first chance they had to see both men and women share the stage since the fall of the repressive Taliban regime nearly four years ago. The Taliban virtually kept women under lock and key.

Variety goes on to report that the traditional setting of the play was altered to a more Middle Eastern-minded time and place, and that the text was performed in Persian with the addition of Bollywood-style songs interspersed throughout to entertain the gathered playgoers. The play was presented as part of six-day, four-performance theatre festival that also saw the group Theatre Aftab present Romeo and Juliet.

The Foundation, which was founded in March 2003, states on its website that its "main objective is to become a focal point for all activities promoting modern Afghan culture and the strengthening of civil society" and that it seeks to serve as a "bridge to the rest of the world for the artistic and intellectual communities of Afghanistan."

Housed in a Cultural Center in heart of Afghanistan's capital city, the Foundation aims to present at least one public event each week, in addition to touring productions and presentations throughout the country. The building itself is fully equipped with a variety of cultural spaces, including a music and theatre stage, art exhibition space, cinema club, conference rooms and a library. In anticipation of the Sept. 18 national elections, the Foundation has presented some 600 performances of a traveling theatre piece titled Good Choice, which is meant to raise awareness of the new — and still foreign to some - democratic process and aid in voter registration.

Since its inception, the Foundation has been the beneficiary of substantial support from The World Bank and the Open Society Institute, among many other generous donors. With help from the European Commission and UN Habitat, the Foundation plans to begin giving grants of its own to local cultural and civil society initiatives.

For more information, please visit the Foundation's website.

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