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Drafting a New Story: Women's Rights in the Middle East

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Riyadh – The first acting course for women in Saudi Arabia is to kick off next week, according to media reports Thursday in the conservative kingdom where there are no cinemas or public theatres.

The course being offered in the eastern city of Damman aims to teach young women basic skills in acting and movement, as well as theoretical study of theatre and cinema, the daily newspaper Sun reported.

Bahraini theatre and dance professional Kalthoum Amin is to teach the course, a collaboration between the Dammam-based Society for Culture and the Arts and the Foundation for Contemporary Dance.

The society, which also organised Saudi Arabia’s first-ever filmfestival in 2008, has invited a number of women to attend the course.

There are currently no cinemas or public theatres in Saudi Arabia, where strict censorship and gender segregation policies are in place.

However, theatre activities for students of both genders at segregated universities have begun to attract outside audiences, according to a recent report by the daily Arab News.

Dramatists, the Arab News report said, also hope to collaborate with professionals from other Gulf countries in order to encourage a theatrical movement which involves both men and women, even if separately, in the kingdom.

In addition, a number of local producers and directors have been making films for screenings abroad and calling on the government to re-introduce movie theatres.

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, several movie theatres operated across Saudi despite frequent trouble with the country’s religious police squad. The theatres finally shut down after public pressure and have not been allowed to re-open since.



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