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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is laying the foundations for a thriving arts sector as the Riyadh Theater Festival wrapped up this week with an awards ceremony honoring local talent, a local official said.

Organized by Saudi Arabia’s Theater and Performing Arts Commission, the festival was the culmination of a tour of 20 plays performed for local audiences across the country.

“The first Riyadh Theater Festival will be a new starting point for Saudi theatre,” said Sultan Al-Bazeh, CEO of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission.

“Showing 20 plays for more than 100 nights in eight cities means the interest of the audience and the activity of theater groups in producing works close to the audience … and this is one of the main goals of the strategy. Theater Commission,” Al-Bazeh told Arab News.

“The future of Saudi theater will be prosperous and bright in the future,” he said.

Al-Basi said groups are now being given more support: “There is now an opportunity to grant work licenses to theater groups, which means that theater groups can carry out their work normally without restrictions and demands. Umbrellas to cover their activities … This makes it easier for the Commission to support them in all areas.

On the importance of theater as a platform for art and creativity, in the light of the Kingdom’s growing cultural scene, he added: “The theater movement leads the arts as a laboratory for developing talent and talent … in addition to creating stars in acting.”

He said the commission has been conducting regular training courses for many years to develop skills in all sectors of production.

“I expect an increase in output and an improvement in the quality of performance when the theater academy begins operations, which is expected early next year,” Al-Basi said.

At the awards in Riyadh, Al-Ahsa Culture and Arts Association Group’s play “The Sea” won four of the festival’s 11 awards, including best play and best ensemble performance.

The award for Best Music for “See” went to Isa Al-Rasheed, Amr Al-Qamis and Ahmad Al-Muwaijd, while Shehab Al-Shehab won for Best Actor and Sultan Al-Nova for Best Director.

Huria Ashore won for best costumes for Close Media Group’s drama “Beginnings of Abandonment”; Abdullah Tawari won the Best Lighting Award for Taif Theater Troupe’s “Light”; Abdullah Balais for Best Script for Kalos Group’s “Slab”; Badr Al-Hamidi for Best Sets for “Slab” and Khaled Al-Ruwai for the National Theater Group’s Set for “The Last Shadow”; And Adwa Fahad won Best Actress for First Leap Club Troupe’s “The Forbidden.”

The theater sector has seen significant growth since the formation of Saudi Vision 2030, the commission and the establishment of the National Theatre.

According to a recent report by the Ministry of Culture, 427 plays of all genres were staged across the country in 2022.

Ahmad Ismail, a literary critic, told Arab News: “The importance of theater stems from the popular saying: ‘Give me bread and a theater and I will give you great people’. Theater is a mirror that reflects aspects of society.

“Theater contributes to shaping the consciousness and thoughts of its members, drawing human characters and models that resemble them, providing them with psychological worlds that resemble their own.”

Ismail, who is a member of the editorial board of Popular Arts magazine published by the General Egyptian Book Organization, added: “Theater enhances the human interaction between actors and audiences through a unique artistic experience that cannot be obtained by watching a play on television. or through the Internet.”

“Furthermore, theater encourages us to think critically and see things from a different perspective by presenting the social and moral issues faced by the heroes of the play.”

He added: “In the same context, drama raises important social issues in an objective manner and provides solutions to them, which helps to change the society for the better. It facilitates dialogue among different groups of the society, and helps bring about positive changes.”

He added, “Theatre is a cultural phenomenon independent of authority and governments and plays an important role in criticizing society and presenting its problems. It also gives an opportunity to listen to different opinions,” he said.

The festival’s activities were held at Princess Noora University in Riyadh and included seminars, critical reading sessions and a workshop on scriptwriting.

The ceremony honored the late Saudi Arabian playwright Mohammed Al-Othaim with an exhibition dedicated to his works.


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