May 19, 2019

Bay Area audiences, thank you for your continuous support for a San Francisco native playwright like me. "It’s been a while since the Bay Area was treated to one of Betty Shamieh’s plays...By and large, though, local fans of Shamieh’s work have largely had to read about her new plays in New York and elsewhere."


https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/05/10/arabian-shakespeare-fest-in-sf-revives-betty-shamieh-crusades-play/

February 28, 2017

Our team was delighted to find out that our production of The Strangest was included in The New York Times Spring Arts Preview “32 Reasons to Get Out & Get Off The Couch”, a guide to their selection of this spring’s most promising live events.

link the preview here

To purchase: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2822899

February 28, 2017

Hi Everyone!  Am so thrilled to be working with May Adrales on The Strangest.  Info from the official press info is below.

The Strangest, directed by May Adrales (“Vietgone”), will run at the Fourth Street Theatre in New York City from March 11 – April 1.  Sixteen performances only!

The Strangest invites audiences into an immersive theatrical experience in which they enter a traditional Arab storytelling café, where for centuries masters of the oral tradition wove tales of intrigue. The Strangest is an absurdist murder mystery loosely inspired by the unnamed Arab killed in Albert Camus’ classic novel, The Stranger. Experience French Algiers on the brink of revolution, and witness three Arab brothers vie for the love of the same woman.  Their bitter rivalry ends only when one is gunned down by a French stranger. Written by Betty Shamieh (The Black Eyed, Roar, Fit for a Queen) and directed by May Adrales (Vietgone, Luce)

French Algeria was a hybrid of Eastern and Western cultures that...

January 18, 2017

INTRODUCTION to Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diaspora

It is so strange how one word can have two hauntingly different meanings.  Such is the case with a word like “exposed.”  Do we want really our community, ourselves, and our children to be exposed?

If you see exposure as meaning that you possess a deep understanding of the perspectives of other kinds of people, yes.  But, if you see it as meaning you are unprotected and physically vulnerable, probably not.

You might assume that most “learned” people would say that they don’t mind that their minds are exposed to other ways of seeing the world.  You could argue that it is only our bodies that we are precarious about putting places where others can access.

But, this is a false assumption.  Most of us are deeply, even savagely, invested in preserving our own worldview.  We are taught to insist that our own version of history is the most important story, usually in the blind and instinctual way that we are sure -...

October 28, 2016

The last performance of the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production of Fit for a Queen will be Sunday.

Fit for a Queen is the earliest play of mine I still list on my website.  In some ways, it’s my first real play. 

I wrote it at a point when I was profoundly disillusioned with politics in general and the activists I knew in particular, most especially myself. 

I had begun to see everything anyone did as a ploy for power and attention.  The professors and student speakers at rallies for causes I cared about seemed like wanna-demagogues, preaching to the converted for their own aggrandizement.  When I was asked to speak, I too felt like a wannabe-demagogue who cared more about how I came off than what I actually accomplished. 

It seemed myopically cruel to organize conferences about refugees at Ivy League colleges and end them by blowing a ton of our university’s money on fancy meals for  our invited speakers and ourselves.  Yet, how I enjoyed those meals!

I questioned...

October 3, 2016

Entry #4 of Countdown to the Classical Theatre of Harlem production of FIT FOR A QUEEN

So, here it is! 

The fantastic list of actors who are going to make our comedy come to life next week.

April Yvette Thompson*.............Hatshepshut

Sheria Irving*...........................Senenmut

John Clarence Stewart*.............Wanre

Gilbert Cruz*.............................Thutmose II

Shereen Macklin*......................Neferure

Eshan Bay*..............................Tutu

Sujotta Pace*...........................Meritre

Portland Thomas.......................Ensemble

Nedra Snipes............................Ensemble

Tiffany Nicole Webb..................Ensemble

Kalon Hayward..........................Ensemble

Not every day for a playwright is a good day.  In fact, let’s face it.  Many days are not.  Most of us are broke or bitter about our day jobs.  Our lives are riddled with rejection.  The clearest sign that you have “made it” in your chosen field is that someone wants to pay you a lot of money to leave...

September 2, 2016

Entry Number #3 of Countdown to the Classical Theatre of Harlem Production of FIT FOR A QUEEN

Often, the same word in English is used very differently.

For example, let’s take the word “occupation.”

It means job.

It also means military control of a civilian population by a more powerful foreign  power.

Another example is the word “cast.”

What does it mean to cast a dye?

A spell?

A play?

Does one particular way we use a word 

color

how we view the other seeming unrelated ways also we use it?

Freud would say it did on a subconscious level

(right?).

Elia Kazan definitely said much of his job as a director was casting. 

(I would argue he also did much of what wasn’t his job, which included acting like a scared little lily-livered beyach and naming names for the House on Un-American Activities when he could have instead used like his power and visibility to support the Group Theatre artists who lost their livelihoods and careers due to daring to flirt with radical politics. But, that’s a rant for a differ...

August 29, 2016

Entry Number #2 of Countdown to the Classical Theatre of Harlem Production of FIT FOR A QUEEN

How do you get to and from the people you love?

What are the modes of how you transport your body through space?

And…

how does HOW

you get around

impact

WHO you are

when you arrive?

If you fight through crowds on a subway and perhaps shove a bit when people standing in the doorway don’t make room for you WHEN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUBWAY CAR IS EMPTY,

what does it do to your soul?

When you hop in a car and exist in a capsule that (mostly) insulates you from facing how you aggressively or gracefully you might act no one makes room for you,

what does it do to your sense of self?

National borders mean so little to me,

but they seem to even mean even less

when I move from city to city in America.

If you are alone with your thoughts as you think about a play,

(and not trying to speak the language of the people populating your space)

Moscow and Paris are more like New York

than New York is like anyplace in America

where yo...

August 26, 2016

Entry Number #1 of Countdown to the Classical Theatre of Harlem Production of FIT FOR A QUEEN

There is something terrifying about workshopping a play with a great cast act right before you are slated to go into production. 

You’re not in production with a preview audience who have already bought tickets  to see the show your team hasn’t made yet. 

The adrenaline hasn’t kicked in.  

Hysteria must be kept in check (or at least somewhat properly disguised). 

You’re not allowed to let everything else in your life fall away (all the people who need you still have the right to act like they do). 

You’re not yet worried about how incoherent or pompous you might come off in preview press pieces and interviews (or bemoaning the fact that you are not – in fact – getting enough preview press pieces and interviews).

You’re just working.

With a group of truthtellers (also known as actors)

who are trained to make your text work and can,

until the moment they can’t,

because the text you have given the...

August 11, 2016

There’s nothing like a first, right?  A first kiss, a first love, a first play production.  

A famous and fancy playwright took me aside on the opening night of my first off-Broadway play.  He told me, “Feel this moment.  There is nothing as thrilling as your first professional production.  Every other premiere will just feel like one more.  This is the most exciting time of your career.”

He was right.  Of course, I didn’t know it then.  I couldn’t.   

Perhaps no other blog post I will ever be as exciting as this one is for me to write.  Probably I won’t know it until I’ve been at this for years

Writing a blog feels somewhat like keeping a journal that you intentionally leave lying out, hoping a friend/lover/roommate will read it.   To see you in your vulnerability.  Your grappling.  And to somehow know you better for it.

Note: I did read my first college roommate’s diary.  I’m confessing this not because I am especially proud of my act...

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BETTY SHAMIEH isn’t in the house tonight, but she is on stage.

The small Off Broadway theater staging Fit for a Queen, her latest play, is sparely lit. The glitz of the set’s palace—flashing lights, booming music, scantily draped slaves bearing platters of fruit and flowers—has receded. Queen Hatshepsut, till now languid on her throne, jumps up, her cool cracking: “You know I hate it when you make it sound like you don’t love me.”

The figure at whom Hatshepsut lashes out is Senenmut, her favo...