A Museum in Baghdad to depict ‘two different eras at the same time’

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By Salama Almahri

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH – To be presented Nov. 7-11, A Museum in Baghdad is the first play at the American University of Sharjah to depict “two different eras at the same time” according to its director, Performing Arts Program visiting lecturer Abishek Nair. 

Interviewed earlier this semester, Nair said that the bilingual aspect of the performance – Arabic and English – makes it “more truthful” and the poetry of the Arabic language as it is used in the play adds to the production’s experience. He added that the play, written by Hannah Khalil, a Palestinian-Irish playwright who grew up in Dubai and is currently based in the UK, features “timeless characters.” 

The play, he noted, also discusses “identity and holding on to a culture” as an Iraqi; the effects of European (specifically British) imperialism in the Middle East; the legacy of Gertrude Bell in the nation building process; and the history of the Iraqi National Museum. It also questions whether the cultural artifacts or the lives of everyday people in Iraq are of value.

MCM student Aleen Anderias plays the role of Ghalia Hussein, the director of the eponymous museum. According to Anderias, the character – who figures in portions of the play set in 2006 – conveys a spectrum of emotions. 

Auditions for A Museum in Baghdad began in August, and Anderias said that rehearsals have been “easy to follow through” but acknowledged she is still “adjusting to the space and getting into character.”

Anderias said that as an Armenian-Iraqi she is honored to act in the performance as it brings her back to “what being Iraqi means.”

According to Nair, A Museum in Baghdad will run for a total of five shows. There are nine students in the cast, with more involved in stage management and with costumes.