Thanks to a $250,000 award from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Studies, Northwest Arkansas’s TheaterSquared will begin development of “R&J: Damascus,” a version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” set in modern-day Syria. In collaboration with director Kholoud Sawaf, the three-year grant will catapult the first phase of the project, staged readings of the play as part of the 2016 Arkansas New Play Festival.

Sawaf, who was born in Damascus and holds an MFA in theater direction from the University of Arkansas, said of the project, “Our job at the first workshop is to dig deep into Shakespeare’s words and examine them through the lens of modern Syria. How do two young people fall in love in the divided world of Damascus, and bridge the chasm between their families? In Shakespeare’s world and in ours, the peaceful flag of a love story asks us to pause and reconsider each other.”


For more details on the upcoming staged readings, go here.