Cairo Tour

Karima's City

by Yussef El Guindi

Golden Thread Productions Performs Karima's City by Yussef El Guindi at the 16th Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre

Karima's City

San Francisco Bay Area’s own Golden Thread Productions is the only American company invited to 2004’s Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre. Hailed as the most important of the theatre festivals in the Arab World, 2004 is the sixteenth year of this annual event. The festival opening ceremony on September 20th is directed by Khaled Galal, one of the leading figures in the Free Theatre movement in Egypt, signaling a shift towards inviting new blood into the festival specifically and possibly, the Egyptian theatre scene in general. The 2004 program boasts of hosting 66 troupes representing over 50 nations.

As international and broad-based as the Cairo festival is, American companies have rarely been invited to present their work there. In fact, Farouk Hosni, the Egyptian Minister of Culture, was confronted with a minefield of questions about the wisdom of choosing an American theatre academic and practitioner Gilbert Neil Lazier, as the head of the international Jury, according to the festival daily newsletter, The Experimental. In this atmosphere perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Golden Thread Productions presence in the festival also caused quite a stir.

September 1, 2004 - September 30, 2004

The National Theater

Ataba Square, Cairo, Egypt

Written by Yussef El Guindi

Directed by Arlene Hood

Featuring Bernadette Quattrone, Vida Ghahremani, Leo Rodriguez, Simin Yahaghi, Deborah Ben-Elizier, Patrick Alparone

Choreography by Angela Demmel

Report from the Cairo Festival

Despite heightened security around the production, the two performances of Karima’s City proceeded as scheduled in the breathtakingly beautiful National Theater nestled in the bustling Ataba Square in the center of Cairo. Both performances were attended by Salwa Bakr who participated in passionate Question & Answer sessions following the performances; the second evenings lasting longer than the performance itself! Also notable was a real difference between the audience attending Karima’s City and other presentations in the festival. In general, most performances in the festival were attended mainly by other festival participants as well as university students of Drama. However, Karima’s City seemed to attract a wider cross section of urban intellectuals including more established critics and writers. This became very clear during the Q&A sessions where Ms. Bakr was questioned about the content and her stylistic choices in the original story. Furthermore, the majority of the women in the audience were not veiled in contrast to the public at large including most of the festival attendees where the greater part of women did wear a head scarf. One might say the audience of Karima’s City truly reflected Ms. Bakr’s generation and sensibility.

Ms. Bakr seemed extremely supportive of Golden Thread Productions and the performances. She indicated that the adaptation by Mr. El Guindi succeeded in capturing the critical points in the story as well as the overall atmosphere of the city and personal qualities of Karima, the central character. The one scene in the play that proved most controversial turned out to be one where Karima compares bras to shackles, “handcuffs for the breasts.” When asked about this scene, Ms. Bakr contended that requiring a specific article of clothing from an individual, be it a tie, bra or veil, is an infringement on the individual’s right to choose. Although traditionally such issues have been waved off by political activists as trivial, they in fact represent a fundamental shortcoming in the mainstream approach to freedom of expression.

The festival closed the evening of September 30th in an elaborate ceremony evocative of the Oscars. Joan Schirle, founding artistic director of Dell Arte International, was among the honorees, which also included Sudanese critic and playwright, Khaled Al-Mubarak Mustapha and Algerian actress and director, Sakina Mekkiou, among others. Omar El-Hariry, pioneering Egyptian theatre, film and television actor was awarded the lifetime achievement award. Notable among this year’s winners was Iraq’s Sorry Sir, I Didn’t Mean It, recognized as Best Ensemble Work. The play was an absurdist response to invasion by an unstoppable force. The award for best performance was granted to two plays: Netherland’s Bambie 8 and Lebanon’s They Are All Here.

Cast & Crew

Yussef El Guindi


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Arlene Hood


→ Bio

Angela Demmel


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Bernadette Quattrone


→ Bio

Vida Ghahremani


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Deborah Ben-Elizier


→ Bio

Simin Yahagi


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Patrick Alparone

Special Tree/Ensemble

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Leo Rodriguez

Mr. Aziz/Ensemble

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Tara Coyote Days

Stage/Production Manager

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• • •

Many thanks to our donors!

Aida Hood, Dave and Judy Quattrone, Richard Beeler, The Yeghiazarian Family, Melissa Yeghiazarian, Joanna Nelson, Denmo Ibrahim, Ali Dadgar, Lynne Soffer, Mojgan Bozorgzad, Lila Shadloo, Golden Thread Productions Board, Artistic Staff, Volunteers and the donors at our Benefit Performance that made this trip possible.

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