Syrian director Naila Al Atrash, a human rights activist who fled persecution in her home country for her teaching of critical theatre, will deliver the keynote address and visit with students as part of Franklin & Marshall College's celebration of International Women’s Week.
During a talk titled, "Theatre for Social Justice in Syria," Al Atrash, who has led acting workshops and directed plays throughout the world, will discuss Arab theatre, women's organizations in the Arab world, and human rights in the arts. The talk begins at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20, in the Schnader Theatre of Roschel Performing Arts Center. F&M's observance of International Women's week began on Monday and continues through Friday, March 21.
Because of her controversial work for human rights in Syria, Al Atrash is visiting the College with the assistance of Scholars at Risk, an international organization devoted to protecting scholars who face challenges such as discrimination, censorship and violence. F&M in the fall reinstated its campus chapter of SAR.
"It is fitting for our first SAR scholar, Naila Al Atrash, to visit campus during International Women's Week and to remind our community of the importance of human rights work and academic freedom both here and abroad," said Mikaela Luttrell-Rowland, director of the Alice Drum Women’s Center.
SAR raises awareness about attacks on scholars and academic freedom by organizing events and creating networks of universities and colleges around the world that are willing to host scholars who have been forced into exile. The F&M chapter is composed of faculty, staff and students and chaired by Luttrell-Rowland, who initiated the SAR group.
In addition to her March 20 talk, which will be followed by a public reception at Weis College House, Al Atrash will meet with students from Professor of Theatre Carol Davis' "Acting for Social Change" class to discuss the intersection between theatre and human rights.
Lisa Gasbarrone, a professor of French and chair of F&M's International Studies Program, said she hopes Al Atrash's visit will "further a campus conversation about both gender and human rights more broadly," especially in the context of the ongoing controversy in Syria about the use and storage of chemical weapons.
"As an actress and activist, Naila Al Atrash helps us to bring an artist's perspective to the human rights issues, which we have highlighted through a separate Humanitarian speaker series all semester," Gasbarrone said.
Other events planned for International Women's Week include:
- A selection of short films by Marie Menken: This screening and lecture, which begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, are a compliment to the exhibition Theresa Bernstein: A Century in Art, currently on display in the Curriculum Gallery of the Phillips Museum of Art at F&M.
- International Women's Outreach Committee Annual Dinner: 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, at New College House. The event will include presentations on global gendered topics.
- The Queer World of Chevala Vargas: A lecture and lunch with F&M Associate Professor of Spanish Sola Ruiz-Alfaro, noon to 1 p.m., Friday, March 21, at the Joseph International Center.
The events are co-sponsored by the Alice Drum Women’s Center, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the International Studies Program, and the Department of Theatre, Dance and Film.