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All the world’s a stage for Saudi writer

JEDDAH: Zoha Shabat, author of “A Face with Two Shadows,” believes plays are better than novels when it comes to telling a story — an approach that makes her a rarity among modern writers.
Shabat’s book created a buzz when it was released during the third International Book Fair in Jeddah in 2017, a year after she won a First Edition Award by the Jeddah Literary Cultural Club.
The Jeddah-born writer completed her BA on information systems and her MBA in general management at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, where she now works. She hopes to eventually make a living through publishing.
As a child, Shabat enjoyed reading plays. She wrote her first play in high school, but then turned to prose, poems and short stories.
“I believe that stories lead us where they wish to take us,” she said when asked why she began writing plays.
Shabat, 33, predicted that “theater will make a strong comeback in the Kingdom with the advances the country is making in building up the entertainment sector.”
She said “A Face with Two Shadows” explored its protagonist Khalid’s struggle with intrusive thoughts that threatened to ruin his life. “It’s something we all experience daily. He represents our uncertainties, and our desire for happiness, to find peace and clarity and truth.”
In late 2016, Shabat took part in a Jeddah Literary Cultural Club theater course. “During one of the sessions, Fahad Al-Harthi, the professor, asked the class to write a scene to show what we had learnt since we started. I wrote one of the scenes between Khalid and the mysterious voice in my play. Al-Harthi praised my work and encouraged me to try out for the First Edition competition, which I did.”
Readers were introduced to Shabat’s play during the International Book Fair in Jeddah. “People wanted to discover this theatrical work and what differentiates it from other literary works,” she said.
The designer Amani Al-Ghoraibi worked with Shabat on the book cover and illustrations for the five acts in the play.
“Zoha was understanding and patient,” she said. “I loved working with her. We were in touch throughout, and I relentlessly asked for her opinion. She decided to put her trust in me and gave me free rein over it.
“As for the cover, Zoha requested that I sketch it. She saw a similar sketch I did of it and she loved it so much that she wanted me to sketch the same one with a few modifications. It gave a haunting quality that she believed suitable to the story.”
Shabat is planning her next literary work while considering two translation proposals for “A Face with Two Shadows,” including an English version of the play.

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