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Wednesday 7 June 2023

NO SUMMARY: MENA Playwrights on Storytelling, with University of Washington and California Polytechnic State University Theatre Students

Delving into the Challenges and Opportunities of Bringing Diverse Stories to the Stage

Produced With
Wednesday 7 June 2023

Golden Thread presented the conversation NO SUMMARY: MENA Playwrights on Storytelling, with University of Washington and California Polytechnic State University Theatre Students livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network on Friday 14 April 2023 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

In this episode of NO SUMMARY we brought together a panel of MENA playwrights who are writing powerful stories for US audiences and using their platforms to shed light on the experiences of underrepresented communities. This panel delved into the creative process of playwriting, the challenges and opportunities of bringing diverse stories to the stage, and the impact that these stories can have on audiences. Catherine Coray moderated the panel of guests including playwrights Yussef El Guindi, Denmo Ibrahim, and Hadi Tabbal. The playwrights shared their experiences, discuss the significance of storytelling in MENA cultures, and reflect on the ways in which their work has contributed to the broader discourse on race, power, and representation in the US.

The panel was be joined by a MENA American theatre class at California Polytechnic State University, designed by professor Hala Baki to imagine how MENA theatre can contribute to a more inclusive American culture, and a plays and styles drama class at the University of Washington, taught by Mona Merhi, who focused the course on topics related to race, ethnicity, and identity representation by examining the works of playwrights from the MENA region alongside modern and contemporary Western texts.


Catherine Coray (moderator) has taught at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts since 1991, and has taught and collaborated with artists in Austria, Belarus, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, and Lebanon. As an actor, she worked regionally and Off-Broadway with directors such as Anne Bogart and André Gregory. She was the curator of the hotINK Festival at Tisch School of Arts and at the Lark, and director of the Lark Middle East-US Playwright Exchange; she curated and co-produced Arab Voices: here/there/then/now (Abu Dhabi, 2016), Arab Voices: Stories of Palestine (Beirut, 2018), and Arab Voices: Three New Dramatic Texts from Beirut and Berlin at the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute in NYC (2019). Catherine is currently a producing affiliate with the Noor Theatre and serves on the advisory boards of several institutions including the Georgetown Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics think tank, Golden Thread Productions in San Francisco, and the artistic advisory council of Playwrights Horizons.

Yussef El Guindi was born in Egypt, raised in London, and is now based in Seattle. Yussef’s work frequently examines the collision of ethnicities, cultures, and politics that face Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. Productions include Hotter Than Egypt at Marin Theatre Company, ACT in Seattle, and at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; People of the Book at ACT in Seattle; The Talented Ones at ART in Portland, and Threesome at Portland Center Stage. Bloomsbury/ Methuen Drama recently published The Selected Works of Yussef El Guindi. He is the recipient of many honors, including the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, American Blues Theater’s Blue Ink Playwriting Award, LA Weekly’s Excellence in Playwriting Award, and the Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award.

Hadi Tabbal is a New York City–based writer and actor. Hadi was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. His plays include The Remnants (Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor program), Icarus in Berytus (Playwrights Realm semi-finalist), and Christina Et Maria Ad Leones (Artists Advancing Cultural Change Commission/Noor Theater and Pop Culture collab). As an actor, his Off-Broadway credits include The Vagrant Trilogy (Public Theater), English (Atlantic Theater—Obie Award, Lucille Lortel nomination), and his New York and regional credits include Buggy Baby (APAC), The Hour of Feeling (Humana Festival). His film credits include Rosa (HBO) and Circumstance (Sundance Audience Award). Hadi played Amir Al-Raisani on NBC’s The Brave. Other TV credits include Bull (CBS), Law & Order SVU (NBC), FBI (CBS), and The Blacklist (NBC). He has an MFA in acting (the New School for Drama), was the past artistic associate for the Sundance Theatre Institute, and is a Fulbright grant recipient from Lebanon.

Denmo Ibrahim is an American playwright and actor of Egyptian descent. Her plays include BABA (Alter Theatre, Amphibian Stage), Arab Spring (Bay Area Playwrights Festival, finalist: Eugene O’Neill Festival 2023), Brilliant Mind (Marin Theatre Company), The Day Naguib Mahfouz Was Stabbed In The Neck And Almost Died a.k.a. The Selkie Play (finalist: Sundance and NNPN’s Showcase of New Plays), and Ecstasy / A Waterfable (Golden Thread). Her audio-immersive book, Zaynab’s Night of Destiny (Fons Vitae, Commonwealth Theatre Center), engaged thousands of elementary and middle school students in Louisville, Kentucky. Her regional acting credits include Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, the Old Globe, Seattle Rep, Marin Theatre Company, and Cal Shakes. A Rainin Fellowship nominee, Denmo has received several awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Wallace Gerbode Foundation, Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI), the Doris Duke Foundation, and Theatre Bay Area. Denmo is a proud resident artist of Golden Thread and steering committee member of MENA Theater Makers Alliance. She holds an MFA in Lecoq-based actor created physical theatre from Naropa University and a BFA in acting from Boston University. Currently, Denmo is working on a ten-part audio drama for Audible. Her website is denmoibrahim.com.

Halal Baki (she/her) is a lecturer in the Theatre and Dance Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. She holds a PhD in theatre, dance, and performance studies with an interdisciplinary emphasis in global studies from University of California, Santa Barbara as well as an MA in theatre from California State University, Northridge. Her research explores how Arab American theatres’ relations to conditions of production influences its support structures and sustainability. Her scholarship weaves theories of the public sphere, diaspora, social systems/institutions, and performance economies. She has presented her work at the International Federation for Theatre Research, American Society for Theatre Research, and Association for Theatre in Higher Education. She has published in Modern Drama, Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, and Asian Theatre Journal. She has edited the anthology The Vagrant Trilogy: Three Plays by Mona Mansour (Bloomsbury, 2022) and authored a chapter in the forthcoming volume Arabs, Politics, and Performance (Routledge). She is also a director and dramaturg whose recent credits include Yussef El Guindi’s Wife of Headless Man Investigates Her Own Disappearance (2023), Mona Mansour’s unseen (2022), the original ensemble play Writer’s Block (2021), and Kareem Fahmy’s American Fast (2021).

Mona Merhi (she/her) is a doctoral teaching associate at the University of Washington. She is a writer, researcher, TV producer, theatremaker, and cultural manager. Being a theatre critic in many local and regional newspapers in the Arab world, Mona published articles about diversified performance landscapes. She was involved in research projects relating to cultural policies. She has presented her work at the UCLA Center for Performance Studies, Maryland University’s Revels and Rebels Virtual Symposium, and the Association for Theatre and Higher Education. Mona received the Simpson Center for the Humanities Cluster support grant and the Michael Quinn Writing Prize for 2021.

About HowlRound TV

HowlRound TV is a global, commons-based, peer-produced, open-access livestreaming and video archive project stewarded by the nonprofit HowlRound. HowlRound TV is a free and shared resource for live conversations and performances relevant to the world’s performing-arts and cultural fields. Its mission is to break geographic isolation, promote resource sharing, and develop our knowledge commons collectively. Anyone can participate in a community of peer organizations revolutionizing the flow of information, knowledge, and access in our field by becoming a producer and co-producing with us. Learn more by going to our participate page. For any other queries, email [email protected] or call Vijay Mathew at +1 917.686.3185 Signal. View the video archive of past events.

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