The tales from 1001 Arabian Nights are old as Lake Missoula. And the origins? Well, you can argue they’re Persian, Indian or Arabic, but no one can deny their influence on North American culture. Disney’s 1992 animated musical, Aladdin, starring the voice of Robin Williams as the Genie still resonates—mostly due to its heavy play in homes from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day for at least 10 years. The UM School of Theatre and Dance takes on Mary Zimmerman’s version of the tales, The Arabian Nights, in the ucpoming weeks.
Zimmerman originally produced Nights in 1992. Not to get too political here, but that was less than one year removed from the first Persian Gulf War, and Arabian things of any kind weren’t exactly popular amongst the American public, yet both Disney’s film and Zimmerman’s work were successful. Undoubtedly, this remarks on the universal power behind the 1001 stories. UM’s version debuts soon after the Arab Spring uprising, not to mention the current unrest sparked by the Innocence of Muslims trailer in which the prophet Mohammed is negatively portrayed.
With all the unrest in the Middle East and in our own society, a new production of The Arabian Nights is perfectly poised to remind us of shared experience. The tales within the larger tale of Arabian Nights serve as entertaining diversions The larger story of Arabian Nights is about the new wife, Scheherazade, who avoids being killed by her husband, King Shahryar, by narrating the 1001 tales and keeping him so intrigued he puts off killing her. Dialogue between kings and ladies is always in order. Maybe storytelling keeps us from killing each other. At any rate, UM’s production allows us to relearn and relish a thousand years worth of lessons.
The Arabian Nights shows at the Masquer Theatre in UM's PARTV Center Tue., Oct. 2 through Sat., Oct. 6, and Tue., Oct. 9 through Sat., Oct. 13, at 7:30 PM. $16/$14 seniors and students