At Cleveland Public Theatre, we believe when communities come together to share their stories, we grow a stronger and more vibrant city. Through Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi, Arabic-speaking communities of Cleveland share vital, life-affirming stories celebrating family, dignity, and freedom of expression. These stories affirm a rich heritage and seek to move Cleveland to shed preconceptions and stereotypes, and grow empathy and understanding.
Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi is open to all people who share a heritage from Arabic-speaking cultures with an interest in theatre regardless of experience. The ensemble broadly embraces Muslims, Christians, and those of other faiths, and includes people of different backgrounds who are curious and passionate about theatre.
“This project is a blessing from the sky. Our Arabic community is the second largest [in Cleveland] after the Hispanic community. And I was so happy to hear that [Cleveland Public Theatre] was willing to recognize our community.”
—Pierre Bejjani, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi Advisory Committee, Managing Director/Executive Editor of Ohio’s Arabic language newspaper “Profile News Ohio”
The Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi Advisory Committee is a group of committed individuals, a majority of whom identify as members of Arabic‐speaking communities, who advise Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan and CPT Staff related to matters within the Arabic‐speaking communities and cultures. Advisory Committee members act as ambassadors for the theatre, assisting with building partnerships and recruitment, as well as guiding the vision and values of Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi.
“What we have in common is a lot more than what we have different. We’re all human, we all go through similar experiences—we’ve had people from many different backgrounds. [Our work] should be shown to all communities, we can all relate to it.”
—Jamal Julia Boudiab, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi Founding Member, Operations Manager at B2B Realty
Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi productions are developed through CPT’s unique play creation method. Led by Raymond Bobgan with Faye Hargate, this process engages participants in storytelling workshops expressing their personal perspectives, family stories, and traditional narratives from their heritages, and through this collaboration, an original play is made. Plays are bi-lingual, presented in Arabic and English.
- Primacy of the Art of Theatre: We believe art has the power to change lives and theatre has the power to change communities. We strive for culturally informed artistic excellence in all we do and focus on the quality of the art and the process of making it.
- Primacy of the Creators/Ensemble: The content of the show is originated by the artists of Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi. We believe all people are artists and this program welcomes people at all levels of training.
- Inter-connectedness: We embrace cultural exchange and the idea that multiple viewpoints can be shared and respected within a singular framework. We respect artists first in their creation and then seek to create context for that art to be best experienced and understood by audiences.
- Focus and Inclusivity: Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi engages people who identify as coming from an “Arabic-speaking culture.” By focusing on a common language, we seek to include people from many different heritages who may have a variety of levels of connection to those heritages.
“Not a lot of Americans know Americans who are Muslim, who are of a different ethnicity or religion than them. It feels like everyone lives in their own bubble, or their own tiny community. This is a great way to introduce these communities to each other, to connect the gap, and to build something bigger and more beautiful.”
—Leen Midani, Former Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi Advisory Committee, Senior Recruitment Specialist at Alexander Mann Solutions
Launch & Commitment
In collaboration with the Advisory Committee, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi’s inaugural event took place in July 2018, featuring testimonials from founding members, poems, music, food, dancing, and a reading of a short original play by Abbas Alhilali performed in Arabic and English.
In December 2018, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi presented a work-in-progress production entitled Dream of Home featuring ensemble members performing their personal stories of home, heritage, and culture for the broader community. Building on the momentum of this workshop production, we produced the world premiere in April 2019 with additional production elements, including subtitles throughout, and a full set created by ensemble member Hussein Ghareeb, a professional scenic designer, for a sold-out, standing-room-only audience.
Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi will be a prominent feature of our 2019/2020 season with an original, full-length production to premiere at CPT in February 2020 and then tour to Dearborn, Michigan to perform at the Arab American National Museum.
“We live in a time when our stories need to be told, bridges need to be built between communities, and differences need to be embraced. [Cleveland Public Theatre] has provided a platform to tell stories of different communities through theatre and the arts, and I am so proud to be part of this historic mission towards inclusion.”
—Omar Kurdi, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi Founding Member, Cleveland Public Theatre Board Member, CEO of Friends for Life Rehabilitation Services
Cleveland Public Theatre
Cleveland Public Theatre’s mission is to raise consciousness and nurture compassion through groundbreaking performances and life‐changing education programs. CPT develops new, adventurous work, and nurtures Northeastern Ohio artists—particularly those whose work is inventive, intelligent, and socially conscious. CPT’s acclaimed education programs engage communities in devising new works that speak to contemporary issues, and empower participants to work for positive change in our community.
Masrah Cleveland Al-arabi advisory comittee and ensemble
Jamila Alhaib, Abbas Alhilali, Prof. Alia Almashni, Pierre Bejjani, Ebaa Boudiab, Issam Boudiab, Jamal Julia Boudiab, Hon. Joe Cimperman, Hana El Badawi, Irene Farah, Dr. Michel Farah, Hussein Ghareeb, Prof. Ahmad Hamo, Amro Handousa, Ahmed Kaddous, Nisrine Khazaal, Dr. Wael Khoury, Alma Khoury KorKor, Abdelghani Kitab, George Koussa, Omar Kurdi, Rebecca Mayhew, Dr. Widad Mousa, Shirien Muntaser, Dr. Abed el-Rahman Tayyara, Ruth Tracy, Manar Yared, Haneen Yehya, Nazek El Halabi Yehya, Ahlem Zaaeed, Isam Zaiem
“Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi is a cultural pillar. It creates a dialogue among the community to discuss their experiences through an artistic and comprehensive performance that resonates with the heart and mind. Cleveland Arabic theatre, without a doubt, is a unique beacon and a successful role model for other Arab American communities in other cities and states to learn from and duplicate.”
—Alma Khoury KorKor, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi Advisory Committee