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Jawad al-Assadi is a leading theatre director, playwright, researcher and poet. Born in Karbala, Iraq, in 1947, he moved with his parents to Baghdad when he was a child. In Baghdad he loved film and theatre, then studied theatre at the Baghdad Academy of Fine Arts. After graduating in 1972 he worked for a few years in Baghdad with the famous Modern Art Theatre Group. In 1976 he went to Sofia in Bulgaria to specialise in theatre direction and in 1983 gained his doctorate on “The Contemporary Director and the Problems of Theatrical Performance”.
While Jawad al-Assadi was studying in Bulgaria, Saddam Hussein took power in Iraq and began to threaten and eliminate the left-wing and liberal Iraqi voices. Jawad decided to go to Damascus where he started his real career as a theatre director and established himself there, teaching acting at the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts and being known for directing many plays.
He has directed works by Arab authors such as Saadallah Wannous, Moueen Bessissou, Mahmoud Darwish and Mahmoud Diab, as well as those by many European and international playwrights, including Jean Genet, Anton Chekhov, Bertolt Brecht, August Strindberg and Anatoli Chaikevitch. Jawad al-Assadi has an innovative and dynamic vision of theatre, and has supervised workshops all around the world including in many European countries and has worked with theatre groups and actors in several Arab countries, including Syria, UAE, Oman, Morocco and Tunisia. His own writings include plays, poems and essays, as well as research into theatre, rehearsal and performance.
He has pursued his career mainly in exile, returning to Iraq in 2004-5, after the invasion, with high aspirations of participating in rebuilding his country. Under terrible conditions he managed to produce the play Woman of War. However, his return to Iraq proved temporary, and after his attempts to put culture back on the Iraqi agenda failed, he moved to Beirut, where he now lives and works, and founded his own theatre, Theatre Babel. Jawad al-Assadi has received many medals and awards in his distinguished career as a director and a playwright: in 2004 he received the Prince Claus Fund Award for his dedication to freedom of cultural expression in the Arab world, the Muscat Capital of Culture Award in 2006, the Arab Thought Agency Creativity Award for his play Baghdadi Bath, and on several occasions the Gold Award of Carthage Festival.
• Banipal 54 includes excerpts from the newly published book by Jawad al-Assadi, Masrah al-Nour al-Murr (Theatre of Bitter Illumination), in which he speaks about his life and passion for theatre and rehearsal, working with his actors, and researching new ways of working in theatre.
• Banipal 54 includes the first full English translation by playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak of Jawad’s revised script of Baghdadi Bathhouse.