19 directors and over 100 students at the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chittagong, Bangladesh presented the university’s first site-specific dramatic performance, “What She Told Him”, on April 28 and 29. The 19 performances, separated into two nights of shows, were uniquely created by students of the Directing for Theater class taught by Professor Malgorzata Kruszewska. She directed the overall showcase with support from Ms. Brette Ragland as production manager.
The performances came about from interest shown by students. “For the past two years, many students had asked me if I would teach them about doing professional theater. I agreed to teach a course in directing,” Kruszewska explains. AUW is not equipped with theater facilities so Kruszewska had to come up with a creative solution: do site-specific plays. The audience was separated into groups and led through the multitude of intimate, beautifully made sets that ranged throughout the AUW campus. Each director was allowed to use her space as she wished, creating varied atmospheres and worlds for the audience to be immersed in.
The 19 productions were all adaptations from Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights. Kruszewska selected the tales because, “I had been considering suitable plays and realized that the theme of the power of women telling their stories would be an exciting possibility for the students so that they would feel in charge of creating their own stories. Shahrazad’s tales provided rich material for them to begin their adaptation of the book.” Each scene was an adaptation of a tale with titles like, “Night 4-5: Sage Medicine” and “Night 428: Ali and the Voice”. While staying true to the source material, the students were still able to adapt the tales how they desired, leading to fresh and new interpretations. “They have stepped into their role as directors and producers of their own tales,” says Kruszewska. These personalized, uniquely-told tales were a pleasure for the audience to experience.