Shakespeare Goes to Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan Shakespeare has come to Afghanistan. One of his famous plays has reminded a violence-filled nation that love and laughter are universal.
Afghanistan once had a thriving theater scene. In started centuries ago, when storytellers reenacted religious myths and legends. In the 1940s, the nation's actors began performing modern theater to great acclaim and admiration. Not long after, though, violence disrupted Afghanistan's cultural activities, and in the 1990s, a group called the Taliban took over the nation's government. The Taliban government forbade the theater, arguing that the Islam religion did not allow it. When the Taliban fell in 2001, theater in Afghanistan began a rebirth.
In September, a theater troupe performed the Shakespeare comedy Love's Labors Lost in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The play had been translated into Dari, one of the nation's two main languages, and the setting had been changed from France to Afghanistan. The story is about a fictitious king and three friends who vow to sacrifice food, sleep, and the company of women so they can study and become great scholars. Their scheme unravels when a princess and her three handmaidens arrive on the scene.
Shakespeare came up with the plot, but the play seemed tailor-made for Afghanistan. Why? Just like the king in the play tried to enforce study and did not allow social activities, the Taliban preached the strict study of Islam. The Taliban also did not allow entertainment, including music and art. Even today, Afghanistan is a strict society, particularly for women; many women still wear burqas, the coverings that conceal everything but their eyes. By contrast, the actresses in the play showed their faces and flirted with the male characters. The Afghan audience, which could identify with the theme of love, openly cheered for the characters.
"Shakespeare is so adaptable because he writes universal truths of human experience," said an American who helped adapt the play.
Many people say they hope theater will once again be a prominent part of life in Afghanistan. They say that in a nation with so much theatrical history, plays can help spread good will.
"Theater is the best way to communicate messages in Afghanistan, whether it be about peace, democracy, or women's rights," said an Afghan playwright. "It's much more popular than television."
Love's Labor's Lost played to a packed audience of diplomats, residents, and street kids. The play's success suggests that theater has a healthy future in Afghanistan.
"There's starting to be more and more shows being put on now. It's wonderful," said the playwright.
) a country in Asia
) a story that is acted out
) a writer from long ago
) to share information
) a person who writes plays
) a person who is dedicated to learning
) a group that ruled Afghanistan and limited what people (especially women) could do
) changeable; adjustable
) a member of the government who deals with foreign countries
) to act something out that has already happened
) used or understood by all
Circle the letter of the choice the best completes the statement. (2 points each)