Saadallah Wannous

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Saadallah Wannous
سعد الله ونوس
Born 1941
Husayn al Bahr, Tartous, Syria.
Died May 15, 1997
Occupation Playwright, Writer

Saadallah Wannous (Arabic: سعد الله ونوس‎), (1941–1997) Syrian playwright. He was born in the village of Hussein al-Bahr, near Tartous from the Alawites sect ('Alawīyyah Arabic: علوية), where he received his early education. He studied journalism in Cairo, Egypt and later served as editor of the art and cultural sections of the Syrian paper Al-Baath and the Lebanese As-Safir. He also held for many years the directorship in the Music and Theater Administration of Syria. In the late Sixties, he traveled to Paris where he studied theater and encountered various currents, trends, and schools of European stage. His career as a playwright had begun in the early Sixties with several short (one-act) plays which were characterized by a display of his fundamental theme: the relationship between the individual and society and its authorities.

In the late Sixties, triggered by the Arab defeat of the 1967 war with Israel, political Arabic theater was born. The defeat had resulted in the creation of a new level of awareness among artists and intellectuals, particularly toward the government-controlled press and its infiltration of popular culture. In 1969, joined by a group of playwrights, Wannous called for an Arab Festival for Theater Arts to be hosted in Damascus, later realized and attended by dramatists from all over the Arab world. In this festival, he introduced his new project: "theater of politicization," to replace the traditional "political theater." He intended theater to play a more positive role in the process of social and political change. His other powerful plays include Elephant, the King of All Times (1969), The King is the King (1977) and Hanthala's Journey from Slumber to Consciousness (1978).

In the late Seventies, Wannous helped establish and later taught at The High Institute for Theater Arts in Damascus. He also started Theater Life magazine, of which he was editor-in-chief for years. In 1982, and in the aftermath of the Israeli siege and invasion of Beirut, he lived through a period of shock, ceasing to write for a decade. Back to writing in early nineties, Wannous delivered to Arabic theater a series of plays no less political than their predecessors, starting with The Rape (1990), a play about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since then, he has written Fragments from History (1994), Rituals of Signs and Transformations (1994), Miserable Dreams (1995), A Day of Our Time (1995), and finally Mirage Epic (1996).

In 1996, he was Selected by UNESCO and the International Institute of Theater, to present that year's address to the world theater community during its celebration of International Theater Day on March 27. This was the first selection of an Arab writer since the organization started this tradition in 1963. On May 15, 1997, he died of cancer, a disease he had resisted for 5 years.[1]

His daughter Dima Wannous is a journalist, writer and novelist.

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