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Yesterday’s Encounter

Saturday, May 18, 2024, 2:00pm

Swift Lecture Hall (3rd floor), 1025 E 58th St

Please join us for a staged reading of Yesterday’s Encounter, a new play by Mohammad Al Attar, directed by Gabrielle Randle-Bent. A Q&A with the playwright and a reception will follow.

Anas encounters Walid Salem by coincidence in Berlin. He recognizes the man’s voice; he’s never seen his face. It is the voice of the man who supervised a violent interrogation of Anas, who was blindfolded, when he was arrested in Damascus over ten years ago. Anas makes a report. Proceedings are initiated. In preparation for the trial, both men have to reconstruct what they experienced at the time and bring back what has been suppressed and forgotten.

Can a court case be built on memories of events that took place over ten years ago in a place nobody can visit now? Who is telling the truth? And is there one truth? In this new play, which is inspired by a true event, Al Attar raises questions about the different meanings of justice, and the stories of the past that are impossible to bury without confronting them first.

Born in Damascus and now living in Berlin, Mohammad Al Attar is a playwright, dramaturg, and author celebrated for his work chronicling war-torn Syria and the aftermaths of the 2011 uprisings. Al Attar is in Chicago this spring as a Neubauer Collegium Visiting Fellow, hosted by the Reimagining Cosmopolitanism project with the support of the Neubauer Collegium and 3CT. During his time here, aside from working on a new play, he will take an active part in the project’s research into what it means to be a citizen of the world today.


Mohammad Al Attar is a playwright, dramaturg, and author. His plays include Yesterday’s Encounter (2024), Damascus 2045 (2021), The Factory (2019), Aleppo: A Portrait of Absence (2017), and While I Was Waiting (2016). In addition to his writings for stage, Al Attar has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers with a special focus on the Syrian uprising. Al Attar studied English Literature at Damascus University, Theatrical Studies at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, Damascus, and Applied Drama at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Gabrielle Randle-Bent is a mother, director, dramaturg, and scholar. Her directorial highlights include Antigone, The Island and The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice (co-directed with Charles Newell) at Court Theatre; 1919 (Steppenwolf); and The Year of Magical Thinking (Remy Bumppo). She is a co-founder of the Civic Actor Studio, a leadership program of the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement. She has a BA in Drama from Stanford University, an MA in Performance as Public Practice from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a PhD candidate at Northwestern University.

Walid — Rom Barkhordar

Maha — Aila Ayilam Peck

Anas — Abbas Salem

Nadia — Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel

Basel — Yousof Sultani

Thomas — Charles Stransky

Reader — Jameeleh Shelo


Stage manager — Molly Garrison

Casting — Sanaa Sayyed

Presented by 3CT and the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society with support from the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights.

This event is free and open to the public, and registration is recommended. Please email us at if you require any accommodations to enable your full participation.