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Theater groups reappear in Iraq

Violence still an issue for theatergoers

BAGHDAD — With security improving throughout Iraq, once-ubiquitous theater groups are starting to reappear. The National Theater led the way in October when it staged a series of evening performances for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

The National Theater led the way in October when it staged a series of evening performances for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

Playwright Ali Hussein’s biting satire “Bring the King, Bring Him,” marked the Eid al-Fitr holiday — one of the most important on the Muslim calendar.

Because violence is still a real and present danger in the Iraqi capital, theatergoers were forced to make their way to the perfs on foot, and police closed off roads near the venue.

Security was as tight for a series of performances of yet another satire (Dec. 21-23) in the western city of Kut, capital of Wasit province, which was handed back to Iraqi security control by U.S. forces in late October.

But as a measure of the improvement in security in Kut, which until March was under the control of Shiite militiamen, some 500 people turned out for each of the three performances of the play, dubbed “Mud House” because the actors are from an Iraqi sitcom of the same name.

With local elections set for the end of January, the importance of voting was as much a focus of the play as the effects of administrative corruption — always a favorite theme with Iraqi audiences.

“Using a play as a way to educate people helps to get important messages out to the audience through comedy, and the popularity of ‘Mud House’ definitely gets people out to see the show,” said U.S. military official Staff Sgt. Melissa Powell, who helped organize the event.

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