The Arabian Nights, by McArthur Award winner Mary Zimmerman, is a brilliant theatrical creation, filled with color, music, dance, bawdy humor, and sadness. The cast and crew of this first Domino Player production of the season, under the guidance of guest director Terri Mastrobuono, is working very hard to shoulder its multiple and weighty demands and to lift this piece to the sky.
This story of Scheherazade is, of course, a great tribute to female cleverness and courage, and to the power of literature to save and transform our lives. Zimmerman’s kaleidoscopic framing of the story has much to attract devoted theatergoers. But students and staff at a liberal arts college have even more compelling reasons to attend. The oral tradition from which The Arabian Nights springs is not the imaginative creation of a single individual. Instead, these tales contain wisdom in supersaturated form – a distillate of a centuries long process of telling, hearing, and retelling, of understanding and application – the work of thousands of minds and ears and tongues and lives. And because they preserve the most precious insights of a whole society, they speak feelingly to our shared condition as human beings. There is not a course being taught at Albright whose concerns are not implicated in one or another of these tales. And every one of these parables heightens recognition and appreciation of moral dilemmas that have been or will be deeply our own.
That this valuable and relevant wisdom comes from a society that has been defamed and attacked in recent years in turn obliges us to question and transcend the limitations of our previous assumptions. A college can teach no more valuable lessons.
[The production photos in this gallery were taken by Jessica Ritter, a multi-talented undergraduate at Albright.]
© John Robert Pankratz