For the first time in over 25 years, an Afghan audience was treated to a Shakespearean performance last week. Monday marked the finale of a five-night run of Loves Labors Lost in the bomb-scarred remains of Kabul's 16th century Babur Gardens. The play was met with great enthusiasm from the packed audience which included members of the Afghan royal family, the French ambassador, and many students.
The play was adapted for the local culture by trimming for time and content, including some of the bawdier sub-plots. But the central theme of love remained unchanged. "Shakespeare is so adaptable because he writes universal truths of human experience," said Steven Landrigan, an American playwright who helped with the production.
For many in the audience, after years of the Talibans prohibition of theatre, this was the first time they had heard of Shakespeare, and certainly was the first time they had seen men and women side by side on stage declaring their love for one another. Still, not everyone responded favorably to the production. The conservative press accused the production of imposing Western values onto Afghan culture. The Age reported that one actress had to move out of her house after neighbors suspected her of adultery or prostitution because she was coming home from rehearsals after sunset.
Many are devoted to reviving Afghanistans once vibrant theater scene as a way to promote peace in a country wracked by years of repression, ethnic hatred and violence.
"Theater is the best way to communicate messages in Afghanistan, whether it be about peace, emocracy or women's rights. It's much more popular than television," said Aziz Elyas, an Afghan playwright. "But during the Taliban's time, it wasn't allowed. They said Islam forbid it."
This what Afghan pplz have been waiting for years when they were fighting a proxy war of west against Russia. Imported president, imported democracy and now imported theater. Mr. Steven Landrigan, please go out and walk in streets you can find local truths of human experience. But I am sure u can not walk out in street like the elected president.