Following Reforms, More Saudi Women Take To the Stage

This month has seen an increase of new stage productions starring Saudi Arabian women in major cities across the Kingdom, a phenomenon new to its theatre scene, made possible by the push to overhaul the Kingdom’s economy.

This month, a comedy production titled “Memoirs of a Ghost” is playing at Dar Al Hekma University until April 26. It stars an all-female cast, including Shorooq Al-Tayeb, Darin Al Bayed, and Alaa Al-Jahdali, and shines the spotlight on issues faced by Saudi women over the last 60 years.

According to Saudi Gazette, the play, which is written and produced by Sahar Bahrawi and directed by Maha Noorilahi, tells the story of three women who died at different periods – the conservative 1950s, the peak of extremism in the 1990s, and this year in 2018. Their ghosts become friends in Umm Hawwa, Jeddah’s oldest graveyard, and revisit their lives. The play’s first showing brought tears and laughter to the audience.

Bahrawi explained that she was inspired to write the script in light of the various developments in women’s rights and social change in Saudi Arabia. In fact, as the Kingdom embarks on an ambitious journey towards diversifying its oil-dependent economy, and in the process provide impetus for women to join the workforce, many Saudi women like Bahrawi have been inspired to contribute to the countyr’s transformation.

“Hopefully this will be the beginning of women’s theater where families are offered entertainment that will enrich the culture here,” she said. “I hope a thousand others will write plays as we’re currently lacking writers and education in drama.”

This month also saw the first solo performance by Saudi actress Maisaa Sabihi, in a play that similarly highlights the recent steps taken in Saudi Arabia to improve the rights of women.

According to Arab News, the two-hour production was organized by the Saudi Arabia Society for Culture and Art (SASCA), and showed at the Jeddah Comedy Club. Sabihi played three different characters, touching on various issues pertaining to love, marriage, and divorce.

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