Night-time theater returns to Iraq as courage grows

Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:14am EST
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By Khalid al-Ansary

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - As the clock strikes 8 p.m. Baghdad time, the curtains sweep apart at the Iraqi National Theater in what actors hope is a return to regular night-time performances 6-1/2 years after the U.S. invasion.

The name of the performance, "He who seeks sweet things must also endure bitterness," reminds the hundreds of spectators of the troubles their country has been through -- and why being able to stage a play in the evening is such a big deal.

The actors wear white in a reference to peace; and the play is about two tribes who feud over a marriage they both opposed only to be united in love and harmony at the end of it.

"Let's be happy, why should we alone among all the people of the world be sad," the actors sing.

A sharp drop in sectarian violence in Iraq over the past 18 months has allowed Iraqis to tentatively re-establish normal lives, and nightclubs, country clubs, restaurants and galleries are somewhat cautiously getting back into business.

Occasional massive suicide attacks by Sunni Islamist insurgents, such as those on government buildings on August 19 and October 25, remind Iraqis the growing security is fragile.

The National Theater tried to launch night-time performances in 2008 with a comedy show, but that lasted only two months.

It tried again in September as Baghdad's night-time curfew grew shorter and Iraqis became more willing to go out at night.   Continued...