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Saudi theater artist to shatter stereotypes in Edinburgh fest

She may not be one of those “Hey, I recognize her!” performers yet, but her one-woman play ‘Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ that will kick off at the largest international festival in the world, the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (EFF), will definitely make her rise to fame.
Maisah Sobaihi, a Saudi academic, playwright and performer, is all set to stage her amusing yet enlightening roller coaster ride into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia, whose husbands choose to marry more women.
Sobaihi will be the first Saudi woman to perform at the EFF and is confident that her performance at the festival will help expose a true illustration of Saudi women, as well as portray a common womanly bond expanding past national boundaries.
In her play ‘Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia,’ Sobaihi puts together two interesting characters in the forefront. Layla, who is ready to get married but tired of waiting for true love, and Maryam, whose husband chooses to marry for the second time.
Sobaihi’s mere charisma in her classic solo comedy at the festival splinters the stereotype of the timid Arab woman, veiled and voiceless.
“Women’s positions continue to change in many ways,” says Sobaihi. “But I think what is unknown to many is that they feel that women were not active and have become active. I think that women have always been active and a very positive force in Saudi society. It’s just that I don’t think they were as visible as they are now. They have developed in many ways, and the most particular way is that they have become more public.”
Sobaihi describes that character Maryam in her play as more upper class of society while Layla is more in touch with the other level of society. Maryam’s husband marries another bride Layla, which results in Maryam flying off the handle at Layla and trying to dig up dirt on her.
Journeying into the lives and challenges women in Saudi Arabia face, Sobaihi’s play strokes on the rights of men in Saudi to espouse four wives and how the preceding wives react.
Brought up partially in the United States and Saudi Arabia, Sobaihi holds a doctorate in English Literature from the University of London, and a Bachelor’s degree from the King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia, while currently lecturing at a university in Jeddah.
“As the Arab temperament in general, we tend to be more private about our lives so the public has always been a challenge,” said Sobaihi.
A divorced mother of two sons in their 20s, Sobaihi begins her play by narrating her life story and eventually takes into the lives of other women in Saudi Arabia.
“I was very conscious that I didn’t want this play to be about bashing men or bashing anybody at all,” said Sobaihi. “I did stage this play in Jeddah a couple of times, though in a private gathering, and the reactions from Saudi men were positive.”
‘Head over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ educates us that women have an ordinary and widespread view, however secluded they appear in terms of culture, positively in affairs of the mind.
“We have a very private culture. Saudi women don’t really like the spotlight. But we have a responsibility to become more vocal,” explains Sobaihi in a report in Scotland’s Daily Record.
The 2013 Edinburgh Fringe will play host to 2,871 productions starting from the end of July through to August. Sobaihi performs ‘Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ at Spotlites @ The Merchant’s Hall, from Aug. 11-26.
Sobaihi’s 3-minute promo video of her one-woman play promises you that you’ll go head over heels for ‘Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia.’