Contemporary Performance from the UAE

Weaving Arabic and English language poetry with projected images and movement, Al Raheel | Departure is a world premiere contemporary theater work created by Emirati writer Reem Almenhali and American director Joanna Settle.

Innocence, womanhood, and the future are explored in this production, which reflects on a body that stays while a world changes.

The performance has been collaboratively developed from a series of poems written in response to women persisting and developing across childhood, womanhood, and aging.

Al Raheel | Departure is co-commissioned by The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi and Cultural Foundation.

The performance is bilingual in Arabic and English, but will not be strictly translated. To accomplish a bilingual performance (vs a translated performance), it makes use of live and projected language in both Arabic and English to explore the bi-cultural reality of contemporary young Emirati women.


Reem Almenhali is a senior studying Theater and Psychology at NYU Abu Dhabi. She has been experimenting with a variety of forms of writings for the past few years. Reem is particularly interested in writing theatrical texts that merge narrative with poetry and Arabic with the English language.

Joanna Settle (Director) most recently directed Lembit Beecher’s world premiere opera Sky on Swings, libretto Hannah Moscovitch, for Opera Philadelphia’s O18 Festival and Heather Raffo’s Noura at Playwrights Horizons in NYC. She also directed the premiere of Heather Raffo’s Noura at Shakespeare Theater Company in DC, and its subsequent run at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arts Center in the United Arab Emirates. Other work includes directing Family Album, the world premiere musical by Stew and Heidi Rodewald at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, as well at Stew/Rodewald’s The Total Bent in both PublicLabs and its world premiere at the Public Theater.

Also at the Public, she has directed Winter Miller’s In Darfur, the finale of Suzan-Lori Parks’s 365 Days/365 Plays, and Stephen Brown’s Future Me. In Joe’s Pub, she directed Martha Graham Cracker’s Lashed But Not Leashed and Jaime Leonhart’s Estuary. For the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia she directed Gina Gionfredo’s Rapture Blister Burn and Brandon Jacob-Jenkins’ An Octoroon.

Settle directed the premiere of Heather Raffo’s award-winning Nine Parts of Desire at Manhattan Ensemble Theater, and re-staged the production for the Geffen Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, MassMOCA, Seattle Repertory Theatre and D.C.’s Arena Stage. Her other credits include Slither by Carson Kreitzer and the South American tour of Grease! The Musical.

Settle served as the Artistic Director of Shakespeare on the Sound from 2009 to 2012, where she directed productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet. From 1998 to 2004, she was the artistic director of Chicago’s Division 13 Productions, where she directed and/or adapted and designed 15 of D13’s 17 projects, including BLOOD LINE: The Oedipus/Antigone Story, two plays by Sophocles, Macbett by Ionesco and several Samuel Beckett shorts, including Cascando, Rockaby, and Play.

Settle has directed and taught at the Juilliard School, Bard College, Stanford, Cornell University and Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA Directing Program. She is currently appointed to NYU Abu Dhabi as an Associate Arts Professor of Theater.