Three April Nights at HWS were ‘Arabian’ – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Three April Nights at HWS were ‘Arabian’

Three nights in April were “Arabian Nights” as the HWS Theatre Program presented its spring production of the play, written by Mary Zimmerman and directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Lisa Black.

A company of 13 performers (see cast list below) portrayed the variety of characters Scheherazade creates to save her life—and the lives of all the women who would die after her should she fail to mesmerize the king through the night with tales of disguise, betrayal, vengeance, love, lust and wonder.

The origins of the tales are buried deep in the ancient world. They were told and retold by merchants traveling the trade routes from China to Spain and from North Africa to India along the Silk Road. It remains unknown who compiled the stories into the original text. However, many of the stories in Zimmerman's adaptation of the 1,001 nights take place in Baghdad when it was known as the “City of Peace and Poets,” during the ninth century.

“The central story,” says Black, “is an attempt to break a cycle of violence through nonviolent means: as A.S. Byatt says in her Introduction to the collected stories, Scheherazade must 'Narrate or die!' So the possibility that storytelling can stop violence is what we work with each day in rehearsal and will be something that, hopefully, will resonate with those who come to see the performances.”

Black, who joined the HWS faculty this year, received her B.A. and M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine. She has previously taught at Casa Cenci, Umbria, Italy; Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski, Wroclav, Poland; FILO International Theater Festival, Brazil; Catskills Festival of New Theatre; California State University at San Marcos; University of Akron; and University of California, Irvine. She is currently teaching Acting II and Shakespeare and Performance at HWS.

“I am quite impressed with the creativity of the ensemble working on 'Arabian Nights'. Their storytelling skills and ability to transform quickly into multiple characters is at a high level,” Black says. “The play is quite demanding – with the stories covering every corner of the human psyche – and for the first piece I am directing at the Colleges I knew it was a risk. But the company seems to be fearless in taking on the play's technical demands as well as its look into Islam through the many tales.”

“Arabian Nights” was performed at 7:30 p.m. on April 17, 18 and 19 in the Bartlett Theatre.

Cast List:

Reina Apraez '11…………Other Woman, Pastry Cook and others
Marissa Biondolillo '11…………Dunyazade and Azizah
Maureen Clarke '08…………Percussion
Shalon Hilton '10…………Perfect Love and others
Jonah Levy '08…………Shahryar/Aziz
Keith Longo '09…………Harun al-Rashid and others
Peter Marciano '08…………Jester and others
Hallie Martenson '09…………Scheherazade, Aziz’s mother
Steven Owens '09…………Abu al-Hasan and others
Denisse Polanco '11…………Girl in the Garden and others
Michael Steiner '09…………Madman and others
Deana Stuart '09…………Sympathy the Learned and others
Carl Webster, Associate Registrar…………Wazir and others