“Arabian Nights” opened Saturday, Nov. 11 to a sold out show. The modern classic was adapted from “The Book of Thousand Nights and One Night,” a collection of oral tales passed down through generations of people and various cultures. The story follows an Arabian King Shahryar, who having just killed his adulterous wife and queen, vows to marry a new woman every night, only to kill her by dawn.
In the beginning of the play, the audience learned that King Shahryar is paranoid that his new wives will betray him like his first did. The circle repeats itself until a woman named Scheherazade decides to break his killing streak. She plans to tell him thousands of stories, to buy herself time. As the play progresses, she not only manages to distract the king but it also changed him. Each story is a subplot within the original play and comes with a theme or moral ending. Some are about the universal concerns such as love, death, happiness, and even trust. They are simple stories that can be understood in every culture. Being presented in play form is one of the many ways that they come across as deeply touching to the audience and how they will reflect on their own lives, as the King Shahryar did.
The production done by the students in the Southern Oregon University Theatre company followed in the footsteps of retelling these age-old stories. From the beginning of the play, each actor was able to play various characters, each different from the one before. The actors did their best to present the culture of the original folk tales while still be careful to not resort to the stereotypes of the Arabian people.
Angela Hernandez, senior, transfer student and one of the musicians performing the music written for the show, said, “Everyone in the cast was extremely sensitive,” to performing a show with culture that is different from what we have in the states. “The time and consideration and research done behind every aspect of the show was very in-depth,” she explained.
While the culture played a large part of the performance the overall meaning of the play was made by the stories that were told from within. Octavio Solis, director of “Arabian Nights” wanted to tell the stories in a way that could connect to all audience members. While some could argue that the production could be seen as a “whitewashed” version of Arabic culture, the creative progress of Solis was meant to serve more of a purpose. He explained that the production team “…were careful to represent the culture, as people, in the end.” Solis also wanted to stress that despite the different cultures. He said, “We are no different from the characters. They have fears and doubts just like us.”
The audience gave a standing ovation during curtain call. Amanda Skillman, a freshman,theatre arts student saw the show at the Sunday matinee and was impressed by the technical and design elements of the show. She explained, “All the colors they used were very interesting,”
The production plays this week with 8:00 P.M. shows on Wednesday Nov. 15, Friday Nov. 17, and Sunday Nov. 19. as well as 2:00 P.M. on Saturday November 18. As of now, these shows are sold out.