Professor Najjar Chairs RAWI Panel

Najjar RAWI Panel
Michael Malek Najjar chairs a panel about Arab American Playwrights with Leila Buck (on screen), Jacob Kader, Jamil Khoury, and UO Theatre Arts graduate student Zeina Salame.


The Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) & Mizna came together for the 5th National RAWI Conference– three days of performances, readings, workshops, panels, a film screening, a mixer, and a culminating celebration which will include the Arab American Book Awards ceremony.  The conference took place at Open Book in Minneapolis, MN,  9/18-20, 2014.
More info:



In Memorium:


JOHN (JACK) WATSON 1942-2014

Jack Watson passed away on July 7 in Honolulu. His husband, Rick
Turnbow, and sister-in-law, Carrie Perry, were at his bedside.
Jack was a professor in the Speech and Theatre Arts
Departments at the University of Oregon from 1987 to 2011.
Previously he had taught for many years at McMinnville High School.
Jack received his B.A. from Lewis and Clark College and his
PhD. from the University of Oregon.

As a professor at the UO Jack taught Introduction to Theatre,
Directing, and History of Theatre courses. He was the advisor for
several theses and dissertations. Jack led the very popular Theatre
Arts Study Abroad in London trip eight times. He received the
prestigious Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1990. Jack
served as department head from 1995 to 2001. During those years
the department received several endowment gifts. The largest was
from the James F. Miller Foundation and enabled the department to
construct the Miller Theatre Complex.

Jack was an active member of the Kennedy Center/American
College Theatre Festival. He served as Regional Chair and on the
National Selection Team.

While teaching at the UO Jack directed thirty productions. They
included a wide range of musicals such as Cabaret, Into the Woods
and Guys and Dolls. The plays he directed ranged from Noises Off to
Blood Wedding to As You Like It. The last was the inaugural
production in the Hope Theatre.

Jack also directed productions for Lane Summer Musical
Theatre, Oregon State University, and Gallery Theatre in McMinnville.
After retiring to Hawaii in 2011 Jack became active with the
Waimea Community Theatre, Waimea Community Chorus, and
KARES (Kohala Animal Relocation and Education Service).

Jack was a life long Duck fan. He was a football and track and
field season ticket holder and attended several bowl games.

Jack is remembered by his family, his friends, and the
thousands of students whose lives he touched. He was greatly loved.
Facebook users who would like to leave a memorial message
on the Team Jack and Rick Group are encouraged to go to https://

A scholarship fund in Jack’s name to defray students’ costs for
the Theatre Arts Study Abroad trip to London has been set up at

“The play is over. The final act performed, the final curtain has come
down. Thunderous applause. Dr. John Watson, Jack to his friends
and students. 12/5/42 to 7/7/14. Good night sweet prince.”

Professor Theresa May Publishes Salmon Is Everything

Community-Based Theatre in the Klamath Watershed


Theresa May with Suzanne Burcell, Kathleen McCovey, and Jean O’Hara. Foreword by Gordon Bettles. First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies

After a devastating fish kill on the Klamath River, tribal members and theatre artist Theresa May developed a play to give voice to the central spiritual and cultural role of salmon in tribal life. Salmon Is Everything presents the script of that play, along with essays by artists and collaborators that illuminate the process of creating and performing theatre on Native and environmental issues.

Salmon Is Everything
simultaneously illuminates the logistics of a crisis in the third largest watershed in the Pacific Northwest—the premature death of more than 30,000 salmon on the Lower Klamath River in 2002—and documents what happened when one community decided to use art to amplify the experiences of its members. The fish kill had unprecedented impact throughout the watershed, and for many tribal communities it signified an ongoing loss of traditional cultural practices. But in the political and ecological upheaval that followed, the role of salmon in tribal life went largely unacknowledged, which inspired the collaboration between May and members of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley, and Karuk tribes, as well as farmers, ranchers, and others invested in the Klamath watershed.

Salmon is Everything
will appeal to readers interested in the environmental and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest and the ecological and civil challenges its communities face. For artists and activists, it’s a useful case study. Salmon is Everything offers a unique interdisciplinary resource for high school and college level courses in environmental studies, Native American studies, and theatre arts education.

Theresa May—director, playwright, and associate professor of theatre at the University of Oregon—is a leading voice in ecological and community-based theatre. She is co-founder of Earth Matters on Stage, an international ecodrama festival; co-editor of Readings in Performance and Ecology; and co-author of Greening Up Our Houses, the first book on sustainable theatre management. She was the founding artistic director of Theatre in the Wild, a site-specific, community-based theatre in Seattle.

Available from Oregon State University Press

Professor Michael Najjar Publishes Anthology

book coverFour Arab American Plays
Works by Leila Buck, Jamil Khoury, Yussef El Guindi, and Lameece Issaq & Jacob Kader

Edited by Michael Malek Najjar
Afterword by Jamil Khoury

Four Arab American Plays is the first published collection of plays by contemporary Arab American playwrights. Available from McFarland Books.

Michael Malek Najjar is assistant professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He has published in academic journals and encyclopedias and has created the first university course in Arab American Drama. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Q&A with Michael Malek Najjar:

How did you select the plays/playwrights to include in this anthology?
There really is an “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to contemporary Arab American plays. There are many gifted writers working right now: Yussef El Guindi, Betty Shamieh, Heather Raffo, Leila Buck–the list goes on and on. The original version of this anthology contained seven plays but McFarland thought we should try four plays in this first volume and, if it is successful, we can then publish other volumes in the future.  I chose ISite by Leila Buck because it deals with the trials of Arab immigrants and the difficulties faced by children of those immigrants born in the United States. The play was a one-woman show performed by Buck herself, so it is both a very personal statement by the author and a physical embodiment of her life as a daughter of an American diplomat father and a Lebanese-American mother. I chose Jamil Khoury’s play Precious Stones because I directed the world premiere at Silk Road Theatre Project (now Silk Road Rising) in 2003. I thought that I would be able to bring a very personal perspective to the play since I was there throughout Jamil’s writing process and I directed the play myself. Also, the play explores the lives of gay Arab Americans in a way no play before it had attempted.  Yussef El Guindi’s Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat is a great play by one of the best Arab American (and, by extension, American) playwrights working today. His play explores the intra-Arab conflicts that are tearing the community apart, especially in the wake of the persecution following 9/11.  El Guindi believes in showing the community “warts and all” and he does so in a very powerful and controversial manner.  Lastly, Food and Fadwa is a beautiful portrait of a Palestinian family that is being pressured both by the forces of occupation and emigration. The play takes place in the West Bank and dramatizes the lives of Palestinians who are dealing with the exigencies of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The anthology also includes an afterword by Silk Road Rising’s artistic director Jamil Khoury titled “Toward an Arab American Theatre Movement” that outlines his vision for the future of this genre.
This is the first published collection of plays by contemporary Arab American playwrights. Are you surprised this has not happened earlier? What moved you do this now?
Several Arab American plays have been included in previous anthologies, but never under the title “Arab American.”  My anthology seeks to remedy this situation because these plays are entirely specific to Arab and American issues.  Other anthologies looked at these plays as “Middle Eastern American” or “Feminist” or “Ethnic” dramas.  I agree with those genre titles, but  I also wanted to add that these works are also very much about “Arabness” and how that identity is manifested both within and outside the Arab community in the United States.  One of the problems we face as Americans is seeing entire ethnic groups as monolithic.  Instead, we need to realize that these groups are comprised of a myriad of religious, ethnic, and tribal affiliations.  Even the term “Arab American” is a very broad umbrella under which you can find disparate Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths.  Also, these writers specifically self-identity as Arab Americans.  This is very important because, as we all know, race is ultimately a social construct.  Therefore, their identity as Arab Americans is one of allegiance that defines them both as writers and as human beings.  It is a socio-political identity with many personal and political implications.
Who are you hoping will enjoy/benefit most from this collection?
My hope is that readers and audiences will come to appreciate the rich tapestry that is Arab America.  My preface is an attempt to educate audiences about the diversity of Arab Americans, to introduce them to plays and playwrights they have most likely never heard of before and, hopefully, to introduce artistic directors to these works so that they might be produced again and again in regional theatres.  In the final analysis, these are good American plays that should be widely produced.
Any new projects in the works?
I’m currently under contract by McFarland for my manuscript about a history and analysis of modern and contemporary Arab American theatre, film, and performance.  I’m also working on commissioning more of the early plays written in Arabic translated into English.  I’m intent on publishing an anthology of those translated plays by writers like Kahlil Gibran, Ameen Rihani, and Mikhail Naimy.  Most people only known Gibran from his book The Prophet, but he was also a playwright.  Rihani wrote the first Arab American novel titled The Book of Khalid, but he also wrote the first Arab American play in English titled Wajdah.  Mikhail Naimy is a fascinating writer because he actually graduated from the University of Washington and lived a Thoreau-esque existence in a small cabin outside of Walla Walla, where he did a lot of his work.  These early immigrants have been overlooked for over a century, and  I would like to reintroduce them to American readers and audiences.  I believe they are important because they have so much to say to us now about life, spirituality, and the immigrant American experience.

University Theatre Designs Honored

Brad Steinmetz’s set design for Metamorphosis (Robinson Theatre 2009), Alexandra Bond’s costume designs for Love Will Shake (Robinson Theatre 2012), and Natasha Kolosowsky’s designs for a dance piece from before her time at UO were selected for exhibition in World Stage Design 2013. The curators chose 100 designs out of over 700 entries from countries around the world. webpage: In addition to the exhibits, there will be workshops. seminars, performances, etc. all celebrating design for performance.