Betty ShamiehMcKnight National
Residency and Commission 2012
Betty Shamieh is the author of fifteen plays. Her off-Broadway premieres are The Black Eyed (New York Theatre Workshop) and Roar (The New Group), which was selected as a New York Times Critics Pick and is currently being taught at universities throughout the United States. Shamieh was named a UNESCO Young Artist for Intercultural Dialogue in 2011. Her recent European productions in translation include Again and Against (Playhouse Theater, Stockholm), The Black Eyed (Fournos Theatre, Athens), and Territories (co-production of the Landes-Theatre and the 2009 European Union Capital of Culture Festival). Again and Against was presented in Russian translation as part of the American Seasons in Russia/U.S.-Russia Presidential Bi-lateral Commission and Lark Play Development Center in 2011. Her play Free Radicals was commissioned by at Het Zuidelijk Toneel (Holland). Territories was commissioned by Trinity Rep, developed at Al-Harah Theatre, and presented at the Bethlehem Peace Center with support from the Doris Duke Foundation. Shamieh performed in her play of monologues, Chocolate in Heat, in three extended off-off-Broadway runs and over twenty university theatres. The Machine was directed by Marisa Tomei and produced by Naked Angels in 2007. As Soon As Impossible was commissioned by Second Stage through the Time Warner Commissioning Program. A graduate of Harvard College and the Yale School of Drama, she was a recipient of a NEA/TCG residency program at the Magic Theatre. Shamieh was selected as a Clifton Visiting Artist at Harvard in 2004 and named as a Playwriting Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies in 2006. A workshop production of her play The Strangest was presented at the HERE Arts Center Culturemart Festival in 2012. She is a member of New Dramatists and a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect. Her works have been translated into seven languages. www.bettyshamieh.com
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RoarCast: 2M, 3F
Inspired by A Streetcar Named Desire, Roar is the story of a Palestinian-American family living in Detroit in the wake of the first Gulf War. All hell breaks loose when a notoriously sexy and scandalous relative, Hala, gets thrown out of Kuwait and arrives on their doorstep without a return ticket.
"Roar is part tender drama and part searing comedy. The young writer Betty Shamieh has the playwright’s most essential gift: the passion for talk. Ms. Shamieh’s rich, urgent prose will catch you up, then fling you into a character’s life as if it were your own."
-The New York Times
"Roar isn’t just the story of Palestinian-Americans living in Detroit: it’s an unsentimental look at family life in all its frustrating complexity."
World premiere at the New Group in 2004
The Black EyedCast: 4F
Four Arab women from across the ages meet in the afterlife. As these characters – who include the Biblical Delilah and a secular modern Arab-American - struggle to come to terms with their lives and their choices, this shockingly funny play skewers traditional views on sex, family, and terrorism.
"A gorgeously conceived and realized drama…[Shamieh’s] theatrical imagination, in its agility and its urgency, brings to mind Tony Kushner, whose faith in eloquence as an instrument of change is echoed here."
-The New Yorker
"A chillingly beautiful piece about the relationship between seduction and violence."
-San Francisco Weekly
World premiere at the Magic Theatre in 2005, European premiere in Greek translation at Theater Fournos of Athens in 2006, and off-Broadway premiere at New York Theatre Workshop in 2007
TerritoriesCast: 2M, 1F
Inspired by a true story, the sister of the Islamic leader Saleh Al-Din (Saladin) is kidnapped by a notorious French Crusader, Reginald de Chatilon, who is famed for his unique methods of torture and his ability to seduce powerful women. This play moves fluidly before, during, and after her capture to tell a story about war that has a timeless relevance.
"Compelling central plot hook and push-pull between vividly opposed personalities! Winnowing the big-canvas conflict between Christians and Muslims down to a tricky game of power plays between three figures -- a powerful sultan, his sister and the French knight who captures her -- allows Shamieh a flexible platform to muse on issues of cultural, political, religious and sexual politics that still dominate West and Middle East relations today."
"A wonderful piece of art! Territories records an entire catalog of power techniques accessed on the relatively unprotected body of a woman. As in the works of Marivaux…unsolvable contradictions are raised."
Commissioned by Trinity Rep and developed with Al-Harah Theatre Company at the Bethlehem Peace Center. World premiere at the Magic Theatre in 2008 and European premiere in German translation as a co-production of the European Union Capital of Culture Festival and the Landes-Theater in 2009
As Soon As ImpossibleCast: 3M, 1F
This is a warm comedy that explores the relationship between two older men, Ramsey and Arthur, an Iraqi-American and a WASP. Their annual summer fishing trip is interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Ramsey's granddaughter, Layla, who claims to be on the run. With Arthur's suspicions raised, Ramsey may get more than he bargained for when he begins to plan Arthur a surprise birthday party. A play about friendship in a time of war.
Unproduced. Commissioned by Second Stage Theatre through the Time Warner Commissioning Program.
Again and AgainstCast: 1M, 1F
Dahlia, a politically active Arab-American graduate student at Columbia, is detained and interrogated by an Arab-American FBI agent, Omar, who is determined to stop terrorism at all costs. Omar tells Dahlia that her boyfriend used her as a pawn in a terrorist plot. Dahlia must figure out whether to believe him and reveal evidence that may entrap her lover and herself.
"If the aim is to show the characters’ different strengths and flaws, it’s successfully done. There’s constantly a sense of tension in the play, forcing the story forward and keeping the audience on the edge of their seats."
"Well-stirred, ice cold shake-up of a play! The inquiry between the two characters moves between trust, distrust, violence and connection as the story unfolds and it’s impossible to know what the truth is. Shamieh has written a fiercely intelligent work."
World premiere in Swedish translation at Playhouse Theater (Stockholm). It was presented in Russian translation as part of the American Seasons in Russia/U.S.-Russia Presidential Bi-lateral Commission and Lark Play Development Center in 2011.
Free Radicals is the story of an American best-selling self-help author who moves to Holland to be with her Dutch husband. They get more than they bargained for when they hire a mysterious young Moroccan maid. An experimental work in which the Gods of Money, Beauty, and Charisma speak the subtext of the humans they favor, Free Radicals is a modern-day retelling of the Abraham-Sarah-Hagar love triangle, which is one of the few stories mentioned in the Torah, New Testament, and Koran.
Commission of Het Zuidelijk Toneel (Holland). Unproduced.
The StrangestCast: 5M, 2F
Set in French Algiers, The Strangest is an absurdist murder mystery infused with elements of Middle Eastern oral storytelling traditions. Three Algerian brothers – an artist, a shoemaker, and a thief - vie for the love of the same woman. Their bitter rivalry ends with one brother being inexplicably shot down on a beach by a French stranger in a random act of violence that none of the characters could expect.
Chocolate in HeatCast: 1M, 1F
Chocolate in Heat chronicles the life of young Arab-American Aiesha and the men she encounters. The play begins with a violent hate crime Aiesha faces in college and moves back in time to show the steps that led Aiesha to the place where her life would be changed forever. By the way, it's also funny.
"In their hour, these immigrants grow large in our eyes – losses and all."
- The New York Times
"Touching upon the universal themes of desire, oppression, and loneliness…Shamieh’s greatest achievement is her dismantling of the twin monoliths of Arab and American identities. Shamieh casts a wide social net to redefine what makes an American."
- Time Out New York
World premiere at the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival, subsequently produced at Theatre for the New City, the Tank, and toured twenty university theaters.
KingmakersCast: 2M, 4W
This play is inspired by the life of Hatshepsut, a woman who ruled as a pharaoh in ancient Egypt. Under the guidance of Senenmut, her female lover, Hatshepsut usurps the throne from her son-in-law, Thutmose III. Full of intrigue, farce, and sexual politics, Kingmakers is a tragicomedy of epic proportions written with a modern sensibility.
The MachineCast: 6 actors (M or F).
In this one-act drama, a young poet must decide if she has the courage to expose an act of censorship. She does not.
World premiere at Naked Angels (2007).