Waël Ali & Simon Dubois

Artist & Scholar

  • Waël Ali +

    Syrian writer and theater director, Waël Ali was born in 1979. In 2004, he graduated from the Higher Institute of Performing Arts in Damascus. He continued his studies in France, in Lyon, where he graduated with a Master in Performing Arts at the Lumière Lyon University. Between 2003 and 2006, Waël Ali worked as a playwright in several projects, including an interactive theater project in Syria where he co-directed training in various Syrian regions.
    In 2014, he wrote and directed the performance Je ne m'en souviens plus, presented at the Théâtre Tournesol in Beirut, Lebanon, and then in several venues and festivals, including the Gorki Theatre in the Maison d'Europe et d'Orient, then at Confluences in Paris, at the Toneelhuis in Antwerp, Belgium in Belgium and in Tunis, as part of the Carthage Theatre Days. The text of Je m'en souviens plus has been translated into Dutch and published by Bebuquin/Moussem.
    Since 2016 Waël Ali has been working with theater artist Chrystèle Khodr on the creation, writing and direction of the project Titre provisoire. Since its premiere in 2017, the play has been performed in various theaters and festivals in Europe. His new play Sous un ciel bas is currently touring Europe.

  • Simon Dubois +

    After defending a thesis in 2019 on the exile of a young generation of contemporary Syrian theater after the Syrian Spring, Simon Dubois joined the ERC DREAM team. He co-wrote L'esprit de la révolte, under the direction of Leyla Dakhli, published in 2020 by the Seuil editions. Now a researcher at the French Institute of the "Proche-Orient" in Amman, he continues to question a sensitive history of Syria by trying to offer an original look at the history of a daily life hidden or even sometimes forgotten under the dictatorship.

From the living room to the printer, displacements and militant counter-fields to a leaden Syria

This project is based on the ongoing collection of an oral history from Syrian underground party activists from the 1980s, now refugees in Europe. Under the direction of Leyla Dakhli, historian of the present time, the ambition is to show and hear a hidden part of social life in a Syria of lead. It is not so much the history of a party or of ideas that forms the common basis of this research, but rather the gestures of a daily life marked by clandestinity, love in times of leaflets, the smell of ink in the printing house, the discreet listening of the big brothers in the private room (a typical space in Syrian homes, to be distinguished from the public room, where one sits on the floor with one's closest friends around a stove), the staging in the slammer, the literary and linguistic training behind bars.

What these activists have in common is that they participated in a theatrical experience in prison. From 1987 to 1995, they formed a theater group that staged seven plays. Some are classics, such as the adaptation of Kafka's The Trial, a rereading of Chekhov's The Seagull; others were written in prison on cigarette packages. The House that was built by Swift by the Russian author Grigory Gorin was staged in a very particular context: the fall of the Soviet Union. By inviting Dr. Swift and his imaginary world onto the prison stage, these communist activists launched a fundamental debate on this major political event, both for their political convictions and for the future of their country and the world. This reflection was thus opened by a work of fiction, satirical and particularly complex dramaturgically. Waël wants to recreate this space, both theatrical and social, linked to the reading of a decisive historical moment, from the point of view of the jail. But this project is not limited to the actor-prisoners. It also extends to the incarcerated public who made this show by receiving it and whose trace we find throughout the interviews.