Acting out Morocco
Since its launch three years ago, the Daba Theater group has engaged Moroccan audiences with the theater. The project is the brainchild of theater director, Jawad al-Sinani, who was later joined by the writer Idriss Kassis. It began in 2009, when Sinani called on interested young people to join him in creating an “experimental lab.” The aim was to create experimental theater out of current political and social events and to find a way to mirror contemporary Moroccan society and its disintegration.
Their first production was called Daba Theater Citizen. Its show News from The Theater was the main event and became very popular among audiences in Rabat. At the beginning of each month, hundreds of people from various age groups and social classes would come to the Gerard Hall at the French Institute in Rabat. InNews from The Theater the events of the past months were turned into theater, written by young people in workshops directed by Idriss Kassis and others. They would dissect events occupying the main headlines and satirize them, producing a critique of real events. They took on many topics, such as parliamentary elections, political leaders, relationships between young people, virginity, immigration, tense relations with their Algerian neighbors, lost football matches and, of course, extremism.
Daba Theater is also open to other activities. During the first week of every month, it hosts bloggers and theater productions. The group’s activities are also not limited to Rabat. They have been to Casablanca and other cities. They have recently partnered with the Boulevard Association with the aim of organizing a monthly event, called Daba 36, which will include alternative and experimental music concerts. It will also hold an event similar to the one in Rabat called Daba Off.
For the new season, which begins in October, News from The Theaterwill be replaced by a new show called The People of the Country. According to the organizers, the event will invite civil society organizations backstage every month to share their experience in their field of specialization. After that, a director, writers and actors will work on producing a play about the organizations. It will be on show for two nights at Daba Theater before moving on to other venues. The aim of this cooperative meeting is to become more open towards civil society organizations and civil associations and this will inspire The People of the Country every month.
New for this year is a program of artistic residence, Daba Play Now, which aims to build bridges between artists from the Eastern Arab world and the Maghreb. The residences, which will be three weeks long, will develop shows around a theme chosen by the participating artist. They will have the freedom to choose which Moroccan artists will take part in these shows with them, be they professionals or amateurs. Next January, Daba Play Now will celebrate the Tunisian revolution with an artistic residency. The artistic director of the group, Jawad al-Sinani believes that the residency will “honor the Tunisian artistic sphere. We will host the singers Lubna Numan and Mahdi Shaqroon.”
The residencies will conclude with three days of shows, including discussions and dialogues such as the seminar on “the body in the theater.” Some plays and seminars will be held in civil association schools and centers in Rabat. This is a new initiative for Daba Theater, who used to put on most of their shows at the French Institute. Jawad al-Sinani says that Daba Theater's new activities will come to “48 workshops, a season of Daba Theater Citizen 2012, one day with Daba 36, another day of Daba Off as well as three days of Daba Play Now.
Daba Theater, which describes itself as citizen theater, adopts an educational approach to theater and its culture. Many of those who have acted or taken part in any writing workshops for any theatrical production put on by the company have not been trained in the theater. They are young people attracted by the cultural event they take part in. Because of this initiative, a new generation of Moroccan theater and cinema makers has developed.