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    TheatreSquared Announces Major Grant

    TheatreSquared Announces Major Grant

    $250,000 award from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts will fund creation of Romeo & Juliet: Damascus     


    Shakespeare’s story of love and civil strife will be reimagined in collaboration with Syrian director Kholoud Sawaf

    Readings planned in Bentonville, Fayetteville during Arkansas New Play Festival in June


    NORTHWEST ARKANSAS — May 13, 2016 —TheatreSquared Artistic Director Robert Ford and Executive Director Martin Miller announced today a $250,000 grant from the Building Bridges Program of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts (DDFIA). This major, three-year grant will help TheatreSquared reimagine Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in contemporary Damascus, Syria, through a free adaptation that will be developed in collaboration with Syrian theatre director Kholoud Sawaf. The first phase of the project will be a three-week workshop presented as part of the five-play 2016 Arkansas New Play Festival, with staged reading performances at 7:00pm on June 17 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville and at 8:00pm on June 23 at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville (Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios). This reading is the first step towards a fully staged production as part of a future season.

    “The tension between love and violence—between the will of a group and an individual’s choice to defy fate—in a city where any spark can ignite conflict,” said Ford, “these are timeless themes in Romeo and Juliet, and they’re as relevant on the world’s stage today.”

    “The story is very human and very universal,” said Sawaf. “Our job at the first workshop is to dig deep into Shakespeare's words and examine them through the lens of modern Syria. How do two young people fall in love in the divided world of Damascus, and bridge the chasm between their families? In Shakespeare’s world and in ours, the peaceful flag of a love story asks us to pause and reconsider each other.”

    “In a world fraught with divisive problems, the work of creative people can be a powerful conduit to one another, a way to connect and see each other more clearly,” said Zeyba Rahman, senior program officer for the DDFIA Building Bridges Program. “We are proud to support this fresh idea and look forward to watching it unfold.”

    Kholoud Sawaf, director and co-adapter, is emerging artist-in-residence at TheatreSquared. She was born and raised in Damascus, Syria, where she worked with Al Qabbani and Al-Hamra theatres and is a member of the Nihna Cultural Group. She recently assistant directed Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone at Oregon Shakespeare Festival under director May Adrales. She attended the American University in Sharjah and holds an MFA in directing from the University of Arkansas.

    Over the course of the three-year development and production of R&J: Damascus, TheatreSquared will lead public conversations with local partners including Interfaith Arkansas, the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies, the Fayetteville Public Library, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and others. These forums will help initiate dialogue inspired by the production among diverse audiences.

    The cast and creative team for the June 2016 workshop of R&J: Damascus also includes playwright and actor Leila Buck, as both a script consultant and cast member, and Victoria Nassif, who will play Juliet. Additional team members will be announced in late May.

    Passes for the 2016 Arkansas New Play Festival are on sale now for an early bird price of $40 and include admission to four staged readings and a workshop production over two weekends in Bentonville and Fayetteville. The full lineup will be announced on May 16 and tickets for individual performances will go on sale soon.


    Subscriptions to TheatreSquared’s upcoming 2016/17 season are also on sale. Six-, five-, and four-play packages are available for purchase at (479) 443-5600 or

    About TheatreSquared

    TheatreSquared is Northwest Arkansas’s professional regional theatre, offering an intimate live theatre experience for 35,000 patrons each year. In 2011, TheatreSquared was recognized by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, as one of the nation’s ten most promising emerging theatres. TheatreSquared has experienced remarkable growth in recent seasons, expanding its audience tenfold in the past five years. For further information or press tickets, contact TheatreSquared at (479) 445-6333 or visit

    About the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

    The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) is an operating foundation funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). The mission of DDFIA is to promote the study, understanding and appreciation of Muslim arts and cultures. Based in New York, the Building Bridges Program is the grant-making program of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and supports national efforts to advance relationships, increase understanding, and reduce bias between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. For more information, please visit

    About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

    The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. For more information, please visit

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