Reforms raise the curtain on Saudi Arabia’s theater revival

The play, ‘Life of an Emperor,’ is acted out on stage in Riyadh. AN file photo
Updated 17 April 2018
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Reforms raise the curtain on Saudi Arabia’s theater revival

  • In the early 1960s, Arabic theater became popular in Saudi Arabia
  • Theater activities in the Kingdom can be traced back to 1928

JEDDAH: All the world’s a stage, wrote Shakespeare — and that is certainly true of Saudi Arabia, where theater life is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the country’s social reforms.
Theater in the Kingdom is embarking on a leap forward, Bakheet Al-Amri, chairman of the theater committee for the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts (SASCA) told Arab News.
“Thanks to Vision 2030’s reforms, a strong theatrical movement is on the way,” he said.
Theater activities in the Kingdom can be traced back to 1928, when one of the earliest plays, “Dialogue Between the Ignorant and Educated,” was staged for King Abdul Aziz in Qassim.
In the early 1960s, Arabic theater became popular in the Kingdom after Sheikh Ahmed Alsibaai created a stage group in Makkah and established the Quraish House of Islamic Storytelling.
More recently, the General Entertainment Authority has sponsored productions such as “Khawatir Shabaha: Memoirs of a Ghost,” which was staged at Dar Al-Hekma University.
Al-Amri said that plays have always been popular in the Kingdom.
SASCA, based in Riyadh, has 16 branches, with groups in Jeddah, Madinah and Al-Baha.
“These groups create various theatrical activities, be it social, experimental, melodramatic or duodramatic — there are so many types,” he said.
“All these schools of theater offer an experience. There are no clubs, just theatrical groups performing in different places.”
Theater life has always been active in the Kingdom, Al-Amri said, with children’s plays, women’s plays and light shows.
“The Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Art will have a stage that matches Saudi Vision 2030 standards, and there will be plays in Jeddah on a monthly basis,” said Al-Amri
SASCA has been active for about 40 years, fostering different artistic fields, such as literature and visual arts.
Saudi actor Naif Al-Daferi, 29, said that theater is making a strong comeback in the Kingdom.
“When you want food, you go to a restaurant; when you want to check on your health, you go to the hospital; and when you want entertainment, you go to the theater,” he said. “It is something that unites all members of the family.”
The young Saudi actor developed his passion for theater while studying with leading Egyptian performer Ashraf Abdel Baqi.
“Theater is life. As Shakespeare said: ‘All the world’s a stage.’ Life is big, and the stage gathers it all in one place,” Al-Daferi said.
“The stage is a place to express your feelings. It means everything to me. Even in my free time, I visit the theater.
“And once I’m on stage, I feel like the whole world is mine.”


Where We Are Going Today: Workout studio aims to empower Saudi women

Updated 27 April 2018
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Where We Are Going Today: Workout studio aims to empower Saudi women

  • Studio55 is about empowering women to be more in all aspects of life. It’s more than just an exercise
  • It combines spinning with yoga, pilates, TRX, zumba, core fitness and strength training all in one session

Studio55 is a boutique chain for women in Saudi Arabia with a workout studio that features a complete cross-training approach to fitness and well-being. 

It has two branches, one in Alkhobar, established in June 2015, and one in Jeddah, set up in October 2017. 

Al-Batool Baroom, Studio55’s commercial director, said that the studio’s particular approach combined spinning with yoga, pilates, TRX, zumba, core fitness and strength training all in one session.

“It is offered to all our members under one roof through our four workout zones: Ride55, Fitness55, Focus55 and Fusion55.” 

The studio also keeps track of members’ workouts through a software program called Performance IQ. 

It sends the member their workout performance statistics by email at the end of the class and stores the data on their studio profile. 

The information includes their average heart-rate, calories burnt, average RPM (in spinning classes), time and distance.

“Studio55 is about empowering women to be more in all aspects of life. It’s more than just an exercise. We work on awareness, education and community events alongside our workouts and fitness engagement,” Baroom said.

“Every now and then we invite inspiring role-models to come and give an open talk at the studio, as well as prominent instructors to give classes. Some of our guests have included Princess Reema, Raha Moharrak, Dina Al-Tayeb, Manal Rostom, Nelly Attar and Hala Alhamrani.” 

Fatima Batook, founder of Studio55, encouraged women to visit the studio to help to change their lives for the better.

“Women should come to us to be more, to get inspired by our trainers and live their lives to their full potential, achieving not only health and fitness goals but personal life goals,” she said.