Caught in the ugly routine of daily violence and occupation in Palestine, we tend to forget about the beauty of our cultural roots. Bringing the story of Majnoon to the Palestinian stage can be seen as an act of cultural activism, an effort to fight all that is negative in our lives. The story of Majnoon touches one of the most basic conflicts in our culture: That of the individual and the society that surrounds him. For us, Qais is a boy who believes deeply in his own ideas and who sticks to these ideas in spite of external pressures. He is called ‘mad’ because he is different.
The legend of the poet Qais Ibn Mulouweh (who came to be called Majnoon (Madman) and his love for Layla Al Amouriyya is over a thousand years old. Both from Bedouin tribes, Qais falls in love with Layla and speaks freely about his love for her. This is strictly forbidden and therefore Layla is dishonored. Her father refuses the marriage. Exhibiting his love in form of poetry, Qais creates beautiful verses about Layla, reciting them everywhere causing further alarm and eventually war. The poet’s pure love turns to what the people call ‘madness.’ This story is the most popular love story in the Arab and Persian World and has been passed down through Arab culture by means of story-telling and poetry recitation.
Jan Willems and Jackie Lubeck
(Based on Majnoon Layla
by Mahmoud Aasi)
Directed by Jan Willems
Mohammed Titi – Qais
Ihab Zahdeh – Ziad
Raed Shioukhi – Ward & The Beggar Woman
Marwan Tartouri – Munazel, Abu Qais, & Abu Layla
Amer Khalil – Maroof
All play in the CHORUS
Assistant Director – Janan Shabaneh
Design – Jackie Lubeck
Technician – Hammam Amro
Music Selection – Ihab Zahdeh
Language & Rhythm Coach – Hassan Ben Gharbia
Jerusalem Administration – Pauline Nunu
Qais and his four friends, Maroof, Ziad, Ward, and Munazel are and active bunch. Maroof is interested in science while Ziad is trying to earn himself some money. Qais is a poet. Words seem to fall from his lips in verse. The 5 boys often come together for poetry contests and it is during one of these contests that Qais first sees Layla. (In our play there is no character of Layla. She is mentioned but she is never seen.) Qais recites a poem declaring his love for Layla, enraging her family. She is quickly married off to another man. Qais runs away only to return in the service of a beggar woman. Although he is rescued by his friends, he runs off again. He goes to the desert to live in nature and to recite poetry about Layla. Layla becomes a reflection of all that is beautiful on earth. Qais’s love becomes a reflection of all honorable tasks in life. Only then do people become curious about him, visit him, learn his poetry, and find inspiration in his mission of love and belief in himself.
The Style of the Play
We use over 20 poems in the play. The text of the play uses a combination of spoken Arabic and classical Arabic. By working with these two types of Arabic, we find a good balance in mixing contemporary daily life with the old story which is told in the beauty of high classical poetry.