By Army Sgt. Daniel T. West
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 7, 2008 - Actors from the popular Iraqi sitcom "Mud House" performed the first comedic play since 2003 in Iraq's Wasit province on May 4. "People and People" portrayed Iraqi life from a comedic perspective to entertain the audience and to give them hope and optimism for the future, said the actors, Anam al-Rubayai, Ali Dakhil and Majid Yasin.
Some 1,500 people filled the Municipality Hall in Kut to see the play, which was sponsored by the U.S. State Department in coordination with the U.S. Army's 214th Fires Brigade and the Iraqi police.
Police officials estimated another 3,000 people were waiting outside the theater, said Vanessa Beary, public diplomacy officer for the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team.
"The large turnout was a positive indicator of Wasit's desire for a return to normalcy," she said.
Army Col. Peter Baker, 214th Fires Brigade commander, said the event was very well received. "It was impossible not to be caught up with the audience's laughter," he said. "It was a very light and joyful mood."
Baker said the language barrier posed a challenge for him. "But the actors were so good at acting their comedic parts that it transcended both language and cultural barriers," he added.
The event granted the people of Wasit an opportunity to forget their troubles, if only for a night, Baker said.
"Perhaps it is a turning point for the quality of life for Iraqi citizens in Wasit," he said. "I see it as a high point: life returning to normal for people in Wasit."
Iraqi security forces handled security for the event. This showed a big step forward in security and a good community gathering, said Army 1st Lt. Randy Heath, a platoon leader for the 101st Airborne Division's Company F, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, from Fort Campbell, Ky.
"The community had trust in the security provided by the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army," he said. "They seemed to really enjoy the play."
Baker said Iraqi security forces remained conscious of the opportunity for problems because of the large number of people gathered. "It's an indication of the growth of their capabilities," he said. "They are more proactive and organized. There were no incidents."
Because of the large turnout, the actors put on an encore performance May 5.
(Army Sgt. Daniel T. West serves in the 214th Fires Brigade Public Affairs Office.)