JEDDAH: The National Cultural Awards initiative, which was launched in February, celebrates the achievements and productions of individuals, groups and institutions.
It aims to encourage cultural content and production, in addition to providing material and moral support to the winners, and seeks to to achieve the cultural aspirations of the Kingdom's Vision 2030.
There are 16 award categories and one of them is for theater and the performing arts.
Arab News spoke to 35-year-old Saudi theater actor Ahmed Al-Hamdan, who has worked in the cultural sector for 20 years. He said that while theater in the Kingdom had existed for many decades, it did not always have traction.
“The theater audience at that time were the playwrights themselves, with very few interested in the outcome. The cultural status of theater was not at the required level despite the achievements that Saudi theater achieved locally and abroad,” Al-Hamdan said.
“But, in the recent period, theater began to recover, especially after the rise of several theater groups in several regions in the Kingdom and their efforts to advance theater and spread theatrical culture and, because of this revival, it is expected that the next generation will be very influenced by theatrical culture.”
He said that one of the biggest changes that had taken place since he started out is the inclusion of actresses performing on stage. “In my early days this was not allowed and male actors were the ones who played the role of women to fill this big void, and I personally played this role several times.”
Al-Hamdan described the Gulf region as a “connoisseur” of art in all its forms, including the performing arts, which has become widespread in recent times.
“And the interest in it by officials has also become clear, and the evidence is the establishment of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission in the Kingdom, and there is also the Sharjah Performing Arts Academy, and we hope to see more of these bodies and academies.”
Saudi theater actress Aghadeer Al-Saeed has been working on stage since 2006, and has appeared in the play “Akheeran Odna” (“We Are Finally Back”).
She said that Saudi theater was a step forward to educating future generations. “This theater is so important. We know that theater has the ability to educate people and help them grow,” Al-Saeed told Arab News.
She has also witnessed many changes in Saudi Arabia’s theater industry, such as the care shown by the General Entertainment Authority toward the local scene “and including it in Riyadh Season, which was the biggest successful step,” she said. “We are so happy and thrilled to see stages being built and promoted.”
There are fixed-venue theaters all over the Kingdom represented by culture and art associations. In addition to university theaters, there are theaters in the King Abdulaziz Cultural Center (Ithra) and in the King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh.
Registration for the National Cultural Awards runs through to March 22, while judging and the announcement of winners will take place between May and September.