New Palestinian-Syrian Play ‘Desert of Light’ Premieres This Month at Cornell

Cornell University’s Department of Performing and Media Arts is set to present the English-language premiere of Desert of Light, a tragicomedy by Palestinian-Syrian writer Rama Haydar:

desertThe play was co-translated from the Arabic by Rebekah Maggor, co-editor of the recently released Tahrir Tales. She also directs.

According to organizers:

Set outside Damascus in the Yarmouk refugee camp, Desert of Light reveals the tragic absurdity of the Syrian civil war. As a brutal siege rages outside, two Palestinian-Syrian refugees in their mid-twenties, Guy A and Guy B, debate the best plan of escape and eventually come to blows over the meaning of love, resistance, and exile. With surprising humor and devastating candor, Desert of Light offers an intimate and boldly critical perspective on the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East.

Maggor said, in the prepared release, that, “Rama Haydar is an extraordinarily talented young writer coming out of a rich tradition of political drama in Syria. Her language is sharp and theatrical and her characters are vivid and unexpected.” Maggor further said that she “hopes that American audiences will see these Palestinian-Syrian characters as “both unique individuals entangled in personal and historically specific struggles, but also as representatives of a diverse underclass of men and women around the world.”

Maggor added over email that Hadyar’s U.S. visa had been approved, so the playwright will be joining the final week of rehearsals as well as the production. Each performance is set to be followed by a post-show discussion with Haydar, Maggor, and a different Cornell faculty member or guest scholar.

An excerpt of Desert of Light was first performed at the 2015 ReOrient Festival in San Francisco.

Performances are scheduled for September 22, 23, and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and September 24 at 2:00 p.m. in Cornell’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts Flex Theatre. Tickets are available for sale online.