The Playgoer: The Iraq National Theatre

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Iraq National Theatre

Yup, they have one. And it has just reopened, for the first time since the US invasion.

From a moving story in the London Telegraph:

The play, To enjoy the sweetness you must taste the bitterness, produced, written, directed and acted by Iraqis, is the first evening stage show in Baghdad since the war that toppled Saddam Hussein six and a half years ago.

Although it is a comedy, the title and story have an obvious and serious resonance for people who long for better times. The 1,000 seat theatre, built during the Iran-Iraq war and which in its heyday hosted sell-out foreign productions of Shakespeare and Chekhov, is, once again, full.

As nervous ushers handed out white plastic garden chairs to customers who had paid 10,000 dinars (£5.50) for seats only to be left standing, the significance of the night-time performance was not lost amid the hubbub.

At $10 a seat, not bad. Of all measures of Iraqui recovery, the life of the arts ain't a bad measure. And, yes, even under Sadaam it was better.

"We used to go to the theatre and cinemas all the time before the war," says Elaf Mohammed, a 29-year-old civil engineer accompanied by her husband Usama and three-year-old daughter. "It is so good that we can do so again."

I can hear Fox News now: Whaddaya expect from people who go to the theatre and are named Osama!

Of course, there are still problems...

Culture Minister Maher Ibrahim al-Hadithi admitted in June that his $85 million (£53.9 milion) budget was "miserable" and that the ministry's infrastructure and resources had all been looted or destroyed in recent years.

I know, right? Only $85 mil. I mean, how can they keep up with our NEA with its mighty...$155 million budget. (Which was only $99 mil back in '96.)

Yes, even Iraq--the barely viable state of freakin' Iraq--puts our arts budget to shame. Probably more per capita, if you factor in how much smaller a country is. Congressmen wail about how our economy won't allow more--but Iraq doesn't even have an economy!

And to think, somewhere in that messed up, ethnically fractioned government of theirs...even they managed to agree on having a "culture minister."

1 comment:

99 said...

Nice point about the spending. Sad...of course, I wonder how much of that we're actually paying...