A new platform for Palestinian playwrights called NO PLACE / LA MAKAN / لا مكان had its launch event last week:
The event was a conversation between Palestinian writers Selma Dabbagh and Ahmed Masoud “about what it means to write for radio and their experiences writing in, about, and outside of Palestine.” Dabbagh and Masoud are artistic advisors of the new NO PLACE | LA MAKAN | لا مكان program, and their talk marked its opening.
The program, hosted at Columbia University’s Center for Palestine Studies, aims to “commission, develop, produce, and distribute four new radio plays by Palestinian playwrights in 2021-2022.” There will also be a series of events to build skills in writing and producing within the audio medium. These will be open to the public.
In the late 1940s, the Palestinian theatre community was flourishing, marked by the establishment of the Union of Palestinian Artists and the Union of Theater Troupes. Radio dramas had been commonplace for over a decade, with new Arabic plays being produced for both the Palestine Broadcasting Station and the BBC Arabic Service. According to a contemporary critic, these works were “creating a new type of literature—providing a new expression of living thought.” The catastrophe of 1948 decimated this artistic community and its infrastructure.
NO PLACE revives this platform for new expressions by Palestinian theatre artists working across borders. Above all, radio allows Palestinian writers to explore contemporary themes of presence and absence, public and private lives, silence and the human voice.
The four plays commissioned for the inaugural 2021-2022 season will receive two world premieres in the form of dedicated Arabic and English productions. The 2021-2022 commissioned playwrights are: Khawla Ibraheem (London-Jenin), Ismail Khalidi (Tennis at Nablus, Returning to Haifa), Bashar Murkus (The Museum, Hash), and Dalia Taha (Graduation, Fireworks).
Organizers write that NO PLACE | LA MAKAN | لا مكان is a project of the Center for Palestine Studies produced in partnership with the A. M. Qattan Foundation, with support from Taawon, The Tides Foundation, and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.