King’s Academy, March 22, 2016 — Family, friends and plenty of laughs filled the King’s Academy Lecture Hall last week when the Department of Fine and Performing Arts introduced the third installment of its annual Winter Play Festival on March 14.
This year theater students showcased their artistic flair by writing and directing the plays – with the exception of the Arabic play that kicked off the festival – in a program lineup that included cameo appearances by “Michael Jackson”, the Grim Reaper and a deadly cheesecake, among others.
In Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Arabic play The Confused Sultan, Nour Karadsheh ’18 starred as the titular character in a comical tale about an enslaved Mamluk sultan who learns to overcome prejudice and discrimination in his quest to attain freedom and regain power.
Reeling in the big laughs were Maya Abdulqader ’17 and Rashid Almasoud ’16 as the dysfunctional mother and son duo in Dream Big, a joint collaboration by Jouman Barakat’ 16 and Hamza Siraj ’16. Abdulqader’s wacky rendition of the stereotypical traditional Arab “mama” – frying pan in hand – who refuses to accept her son’s pipedream of becoming a comedian was a major hit with audiences. Tired of being rebuked for not seeking a more prestigious career in medicine or engineering, Josh (Almasoud) prepares for a late night escape, but instead slips into a bizarre dream in which he is visited by a hilarious celebrity ensemble* that encourages him to stay true to his passion and follow his dreams.
In a more melodramatic performance, Nour Al-Shishani ’16 starred in a one-woman show of her own creation based on Sigmund Freud’s “defense mechanisms” entitled What Did He Do? While the audience never learns who “he” is or exactly what happened, the brief monologue exposes the inner psyche of the protagonist, who reflects on a previous traumatic experience from which she has since emerged empowered, despite the inner conflict in her unconscious mind.
During A Conversation with an Old Lady by Ahmad Freihat ’16, death incarnate (Yazan Al-Asad ’17) pays an unexpected visit to a nameless elderly woman (Abigail Smith ’17) for what seems, initially, as an obvious reason. The encounter, however, results in a comical albeit morbid discussion about life, love and loss.
In the dark comedy The Cheesecake by Amin Janjua ’16, the audience follows neurotic accountant-turned-hitman Jimmy (Rakan Haddadin ’19) on a critical assignment to hunt down the highly coveted cheesecake of his boss (Faisal Alalami ’16) from fellow gangsters Evan (Hashim Khalayleh ’18) and Lester (Dario Pomar ’19). Blood-soaked and calorie-laden, the Cheesecake wrapped the program with its twisted message about obsession, greed and what it means to kill for a good dessert.
“I felt proud as a director,” said Barakat ’16, who plans to study theater at Muhlenberg College next year, and who encourages her peers to find whatever it is they love in life and follow it without hesitation.
“Find your escape. Find the thing that makes you happy and feeling fulfilled. Then just keep doing it!”
*Dream Big celebrity ensemble: Elvis Presley (Zayd Lahham ’19), Michael Jackson (Talal Ikholaghassi ’18), Shia Labeouf (Huthaifah Aladwan ’16), Oprah Winfrey (Jamila Kurani ’19), Gordon Ramsey (Noor Alasker ’16) and Kim Kardashian (Whitney Anderson ’16)