Professor Margaret Litvin of Boston University passed on this article, she's also currently teaching a course on the Nights and has a great blog on Shakespeare in the Arab world: http://arabshakespeare.blogspot.com/
The guardian article is about UK theater director Tim Supple going off on a tour of the Middle East in order to cast for his upcoming production of the Arabian Nights.
His quest is particularly Nights-esque, the search for the "lost" authenticity of the Nights across the entirety of the Middle East should be a very interesting one. One of the many dubious points about the Nights contained in this article mentions a mysterious "original" version in Arabic read by author Hanan al Shaykh which contains "all" of the 1001 stories!
Here is the article:
Tim Supple's epic odyssey to create a new Arabian Nights
Tim Supple, the creator of an Indian version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, wants to do justice to original Arabic stories
Mark Brown, arts correspondent
The Guardian, Monday 30 March 2009
Three years ago director Tim Supple created an Indian A Midsummer Night's Dream which was one of the theatrical highlights of the year. Next month he will embark on a similar but far more ambitious project: travelling from north Africa, through the Middle East and up into Iran to create a new version of The Arabian Nights.
Supple plans to spend a large part of the next year journeying through Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, the Gulf states, Iran, India and possibly Iraq to cast the production. He wants to see all manner of performers – actors, musicians, singers, dancers, acrobats, storytellers – and bring them together for a production of indeterminate length and form.
"When you're inside an idea it's hard to think of it as ambitious, but yes it is a huge mountain we are climbing, it's a huge sea we are crossing," said Supple. "We are trying to create a theatrical version of The Arabian Nights which will do justice to the scale, depth and richness of the stories."
The Arabian Nights are the 1,000-year-old folk tales told by Scheherazade which most westerners wrongly associate with characters such as Ali Baba, Sinbad and Aladdin – it is doubtful that any of these three were part of the original collection. Supple wants to try to discover the lost truths of the stories and is working with the Lebanese novelist Hanan al Shaykh who spent last summer reading all 1,001 stories in their original Arabic.
Supple is embarking on his Arabian Nights journey after the worldwide success of A Midsummer Night's Dream which began life as a British Council funded project in India and became a much-praised production that went to Stratford and then the Roundhouse in London, and the US, Australia and Canada. The Guardian's Michael Billington called the production, performed in seven languages, the most life-enhancing production of the play since Peter Brook's in 1970.
"The Dream was both a great pleasure and some distress in terms of leaving my kids and getting on an aeroplane and travelling to places I didn't know." But some of the pleasures in seeing people perform in India had been immense, "almost impossibly deep", he said. Supple said he had already visited Egypt and had been struck by the hostility, or "barbed wire fence" perceived to be between the Arab world and the west.
The director hopes to begin rehearsals in 2010. He anticipates it being performed in Arabic, English and Hindi, and says it could be anything from a two-hour production to an eight-hour epic.
The London-based Dash Arts project is being funded entirely by the still young Luminato festival in Toronto, where the production is due to premiere in June 2011. The production will then come to the UK in the autumn as part of a Dash Arts Arabic series, with the venue still to be arranged.