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Roger Allen

From An Introduction to Arabic Literature
© 2000 Cambridge University Press
Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press


Numerous commentators on the development of drama in the area of Ottoman Syria (thus including Lebanon) have pointed out that the dampening effects that censorship was almost bound to have on creativity (well illustrated by the case of Abu Khalil al-Qabbani noted above), when coupled with the departure of large numbers of Christian writers - beginning in the 1860s and continuing well into the twentieth century - had deleterious consequences for the theatre. After what one writer has termed a series of 'false starts', it was not until the period following the Second World War that a tradition of drama began to develop in the region.

In other regions of the Arab world, the initial stimulus in establishing local traditions of drama was provided by visits from touring theatre companies. An Egyptian troupe visited Tunis, for example, as early as 1908, and by 1932 there were four local companies in existence. One of them visited Morocco in 1923 and aroused sufficient interest for a local company to be created in the following year. Jurj Abyad's famous Egyptian troupe toured widely and had a similar impact during a visit to Iraq in 1926. However, there remained much to be learned about the drama genre in all of these countries, and the complexity of the process was such that many decades were required to bring Arabic theatre in these regions to genuine fruition.

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