The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi hosts the world premiere of Al Raheel | Departure

Published: 18 January 2020 - 4:50 p.m.
By: Digital Studio Middle East Staff
The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) will host the world premiere of Al Raheel | Departure, a contemporary theater performance created by Emirati writer, Reem AlMenhali and American director Joanna Settle.

Co-commissioned by The Arts Center at NYUAD and the Cultural Foundation, Al Raheel | Departure takes place on January 24 and 25, 2020 at The Black Box in The Arts Center.

The production explores innocence, womanhood and grief, reflecting on a body that stays while a world changes.

Performed in Arabic and English, audiences for Al Raheel | Departure will experience a journey that explores the bi-cultural reality of contemporary young Emirati women.

Al Raheel | Departure weaves poetry in Arabic and English as images are projected alongside fluid movements. The performance has been collaboratively developed from a series of poems written by Almenhali, detailing the development of women from childhood to womanhood and old age.

The collaboration between writer and director was born out of a directing class assignment when Almenhali was a student in Settle’s class at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Bill Bragin, executive artistic director of The Arts Center at NYUAD said: “In the spirit of 2020’s theme, Forward to the Next 50, Al Raheel | Departure represents an investment in developing exciting young Emirati talent, bringing a new theatrical voice and an all Emirati female cast of newcomers to the world. Voices from the UAE are heard too rarely on international theater stages. We’re thrilled to collaborate with Cultural Foundation to support the first production of a new work by a young Emirati writer, Reem Almenhali, developed with an award-winning American director Joanna Settle, both associated with NYUAD, as part of The Arts Center fifth anniversary season. We are eager to support a work that brings to the theater the perspective of Emirati women, who live in a world that toggles between English and Arabic, and who navigate expectations and opportunities in the dynamic and quickly changing world of the United Arab Emirates.”

Reem Almenhali, NYUAD’s Class of 2020 student said: “What’s beautiful about making a piece on what influences the creation of your identity, is that it prompts you to look for insights and nuances in what you think is too familiar. It turns home into a place to explore and the outside world into a place to inspect and find the relatable in. I believe it is important to make local work that integrates the rapid development of this country into our growth narratives. Al Raheel addresses the multilingual or bilingual nature of this place in a way that shows how the duality of languages expands the possibilities for meaning. Working with a cast of three promising Emirati young women makes me optimistic about the future of the theater in the UAE, seeing how eager they are to perform also reminds me of the importance of continuing to make work that features such talents.


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