No Prosceniums, No Theatrical Movement

By Tamjid Alkohali

 “Yemeni civilization must be transformed to become a real civilization,” said the great poet Dr. Abdulaziz al-Makaleh. These words indicated the presence of a great theatrical movement in the past. There are still traces of theaters belonging to the Sabean era such as the circular theater on the side of the Marib Dam.

The circular theater was built to the same technical and architectural specifications of Athens’s theaters.

Many experts in the theatrical fields confirm the importance of the presence of theatrical buildings before the presence of actors. According to them, theatrical buildings are the main reason behind the emergence of many creative people.

They say that creative people are everywhere, they just need to refine their talent and this will not be done without prosceniums, or stages, to gather them and to create fair competition.

Before the revolutions of September 26 and October 14, prosceniums were completely absent. Acting was done outside in public yards or in open buildings without any technical equipment for the show. As a result, the theatrical movement was paralytic all around Yemen, except with some theatrical pulses in the South.

After the revolution, especially in the 1970s, some theaters began appearing in all governorates, in particular Sana’a and Aden, where more than 30 plays were implemented and documented on TV like the play Illusion and Reality in 1972.

In the late 1970s, the Minister of Culture and Information planned to build ten cultural centers in different Yemeni provinces, where each center had an independent theater. All that was achieved completely in 1980.

On other hand, Aden always had a distinct theatrical history. During the second half of the last century, there were about 14 theaters. Their importance increased with the establishment of the National Theatre in 1976.

The National Theatre played an effective role in the theatrical movement for twenty years, and even the most sensitive issues were discussed and presented on its stage.

Despite all this, cultural activity and the theatrical movement vanished since the Yemeni authority decided to close the National Theatre in 1997. From that time, the whole Yemen, from north to south and from east to west, lacks prosceniums and theaters.