“I first wrote the play in English, but a lot of Arabs said to me: ‘why don’t you write it in Arabic?’ Apart from the fact that I wanted to experiment with the Arabic language, I also felt duty bound to see how a character like Gibran behaves. I wanted to see how the two languages work with the same man,” Sawalha tells the JWT team in a one-on-one interview, adding that many scenes that worked perfectly well in English did not work at all in their Arabic adaptations, and needed to be completely turned around; “which was fascinating because the play is mine in English and it is mine in Arabic, yet the experience is being received by one man, me – as opposed to giving it to someone else to translate – and I could see where the structure wasn’t coming across in Arabic as it was in English.”
The play’s first Arabic run was in Jordan, owing to Sawalha’s Jordanian roots. “I have loved Gibran since I was a 17 year old boy when I read The Prophet and I thought, that is beautiful, the language is beautiful. When I read more about him, I realized he was a real artist. Most of his friends stopped being artists and became commercial travelers and traders; they discovered they could make more money that way. Gibran on the other hand stuck to his poetry, he stuck to his colors and he lived as a very poor man for most of his life,” Sawalha adds.
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