Scheherazade and refugee stories played on the same stage

The play ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ includes stories from the classic work and life testimonies of Arab refugees living in Rio de Janeiro. The play will run until September 9 at Oi Futuro Flamengo, Rio de Janeiro.

Isaura Daniel

São Paulo – The tales of the classic work One Thousand and One Nights were merged with testimonies of refugees living in Brazil in a play that is currently open in Rio de Janeiro. Titled One Thousand and One Nights and staged by the group Teatro Voador Não Identificado (TVNI), in a loosely translation, Unidentified Flying Theatre, the play opened on June 29 and runs until September 9 at cultural venue Oi Futuro Flamengo.

Far from the conventional drama projects, the play changes in every performance, showing each night different testimonies from the refugees and different tales from Scheherazade, the main character of the One Thousand and One Nights work. In all, there are 33 performances, a reference to the 33 months of the one thousand and one nights. The play’s director, Leandro Romano, adjusted his monthly calculation to his original idea of doing one thousand and one performances.

The tale of Scheherazade, who married the king that would murder one woman every day, after marrying her the previous night, is the play’s starting point. In the book, the character tells an intriguing story to the king throughout the night, leaving the end to next day, as to be spared of death. In the play, Scheherazade tells the tales and leads the performance.

The character plays the role of the prompter to the actors playing the refugees. This way, the director made possible his proposal of a changing play, since the cast wouldn’t be able to memorize new texts every time they would step on stage.

The idea for the play came from Romano and began to take shape three years ago, when he began to read One Thousand and One Nights. To write the play, Gabriela Giffoni and Luiz Antonio Ribeiro interviewed Arab refugees living in Rio, who came from countries such as Syria, Egypt, Morocco and Palestine. According to Romano, the life testimonies are accurate but were shortened and edited because they were long.

The actors playing the refugees began talking in third person, then mix the narratives in first and third person and end up talking in first person, coming closer and closer. In their lines, the refugees paint a picture of the situation from when they left, their home countries, and what they face in Brazil, covering also the country’s economic and political situation.

This is one of the play’s aims, to draw closer Brazil and the Middle East via scenes that make mention to the Arab Spring and the fight for power within the Brazilian political scene. The director says that, from the impeachment of former president Dilma Roussef to the end of Michel Temer’s term, one thousand and one days will have passed. In their testimonies, refugees draw a parallel between Brazil and their countries, stating that, just as Brazilians did, they tried to overthrow their presidents.

In the play’s first performances (watch a teaser below), some of Scheherazade’s tales had animals as characters and, therefore, masks were used on stage. This composition resulted in some unusual scenes, some of them with the animals being targeted by death, allowing the audience to draw a parallel to the life-threatening situations faced by the refugees. The next tales to be presented, however, don’t feature animals anymore.

In the cast, Adassa Martins, Bernardo Marinho, Clarisse Zarvos, Elsa Romero, Gabriel Vaz, João Rodrigo Ostrower, Julia Bernat, Larissa Siqueira, Pedro Henrique Müller and Romulo Galvão. Luciana Novack is the assistant director and Mamede Mustafá Jarouche is the historical consultant.

After the season at Oi Futuro Flamengo, the play’s next destination hasn’t been set yet. Director Leandro Romando is negotiating to take it to São Paulo.

In Rio de Janeiro, the play is open from Friday to Sunday.

Quick info

Play “One Thousand and One Nights”
From June 29 to September 9, 2018
At Oi Futuro Flamengo – Rua 2 de dezembro, 53 – Rio de Janeiro – RJ
From Friday to Sunday, at 8 pm
Further information here

Translated by Sérgio Kakitani


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