On the West Side of Tangier…

… and way East of Broadway.

TALIM West Side Audition 3There is an explanation of that funny "F7" in the transliterated title on the website of "F7ali F7alek."  But don't get hung up on it.  The one thing you should know about this play in preparation in Tangier is that it is inspired by West Side Story, is being mounted by an American Fulbright Scholar and his American and Moroccan friends, and will be in Moroccan Arabic.

And today the auditions at the Legation (photo) were lively.

West Side Story, with its timeless tale of love and violence between competing (or worse) communities, continues to provide raw material for budding playwrights.  Whether it's simply rival street gangs or Arabs and Israelis, Jerome Robbins' concept seems to keep on inspiring a half century on.

Fulbright Morocco, the American Cultural Association, TALIM, and Moroccan cultural groups are all excited about this latest initiative of George Bajalia, who we last featured doing dramatic readings at this year's book fair.  Multi-talented George has also written a guest post for this blog, about a theatre workshop in Tetouan last February, where some of the young talent for his current production was found.

It is fun to see this project get up and running, which you can do on their website, thanks to "twitpics" that take you through the casting, auditions, and rehearsals.  Thanks to a multilingual member of the team, the script is literally being translated just a couple of steps before it's passed to the actors.

"Inspired" by West Side Story doesn't mean that this is West Side Story simply translated into another language.  No, the play will also draw on a Moroccan legend, that of Isli and Tislit, doomed lovers from rival villages whose tears created two lakes named after them (and who are honored at the annual Imilchil marriage festival).

Interested in leaving something more than an ephemeral (outdoor) production, George Bajalia and his team are holding a series of workshops for theatre professionals, on such themes as social networking, marketing, etc.  Perhaps we're biased, but this appears to be the preeminent example of Fulbright getting its bang-for-buck out of a young scholar who lives and breathes outreach and cultural diplomacy.  And it's fun to be part of it.

Gerald Loftus 

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