The MFA in Dramatic Writing at the USC School of Dramatic Arts hosted Yasmin Merei at its Western Edge Playwrights Salon on Sept. 25. Merei is a noted Syrian dissident and journalist, who specializes in women’s rights, managing editor of Sayyidat Suria (the Lady of Syria Magazine) and a 2015 Feuchtwanger Fellow at the Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades. The fellowship is awarded to artists and journalists who engage in human rights issues. She will return to Turkey this December to continue her fight for women’s rights.
At the event, Merei shared with our MFA playwrights her experience as a Syrian woman activist. Speaking of her war-torn country, she described women as “political balls to play with” — seen as property, in danger of all manner of mistreatment, and not given an equal chance at higher education. Open and honest about her personal experience, Merei described wearing the hijab (veil) for most of her life, until setting it aside very recently, almost as a kind of metaphor for the loss of her country. She spoke movingly of the Syrian refugee crisis as a worthy subject for a contemporary play; in her words, it is “not a solution to leave the regime and take the people out.”
The goal of The Western Edge Playwrights’ Salon is to build community and engage in colloquy towards the creation of new work. It serves as a cultural hub for expanding consciousness and artistic viewpoints, and brings professional opportunities to students such as writing for outside collaborative projects that students participate in on their own or in concert with faculty artists.