In 2005, everything seemed possible in Afghanistan. The Taliban was gone. A new government had been elected. A cultural renaissance was energizing the country.
An actress visiting from Paris casually proposed to some Afghan actors in Kabul: Why not put on a play? The challenges were huge. It had been thirty years since men and women had appeared on stage together in Afghanistan. Was the country ready for it? Few Afghan actors had ever done theater. Did they even know how? They had performed only in films and television dramas.
Still, a company of actors gathered—among them a housewife, a policewoman, and a street kid turned film star. With no certainty of its outcome, they set out on a journey that would have life-changing consequences for all of them, and along the way lead to A Night in the Emperor’s Garden.
Shakespeare in Kabul
Stephen Landrigan and Qais Akbar Omar Haus Publishing, 2012 Library of Congress PR3109.A44O53 2012 | Dewey Decimal 792.9209581
In 2005, a group of actors in Kabul performed Shakespeare's Love’s Labour's Lost to the cheers of Afghan audiences and the raves of foreign journalists. For the first time in years, men and women had appeared onstage together. The future held no limits, the actors believed. In this fast-moving, fondly told and frequently very funny account, Qais Akbar Omar and Stephen Landrigan capture the triumphs and foibles of the actors as they extend their Afghan passion for poetry to Shakespeare's.Both authors were part of the production. Qais, a journalist, served as Assistant Director and interpreter for Paris actress, Corinne Jaber, who had come to Afghanistan on holiday and returned to direct the play. Stephen, himself a playwright, assembled a team of Afghan translators to fashion a script in Dari as poetic as Shakespeare's. This chronicle of optimism plays out against the heartbreak of knowing that things in Afghanistan have not turned out the way the actors expected.