It has been a whirlwind of change for staunchly conservative Saudi Arabia, and on Friday a sold-out audience in Riyadh was treated for the first time to a woman taking the stage alongside the men.
The actress, Najat Mouftah, played the evil character of Yzma in “The Emperor’s New Groove,” after she auditioned for the role to break the glass ceiling nearly a month ago.
“After my first scene, my mother was surprised by my performance as she did not believe that I would have the courage,” Mouftah, who is studying information technology, told local reporters. “She thought that I can only perform at home and make them laugh.”
“The Emperor’s New Groove” was performed several times last year, but this marked the first time that it was presented with a woman. In the past, men have played the female characters.
Based on the 2000 Disney animated movie of the same name, “The Emperor’s New Groove” is centered on an egotistical emperor who intends to destroy one of the villages in his kingdom to build a waterpark for himself. He fires his suspicious administrator, Yzma – played by Mouftah – who then hatches a conniving plan to seek revenge and take the throne.
The Kingdom also announced over the past week, in keeping with scores of reforms that have swept through the country in recent months, that Saudi women were now allowed to start businesses without permission from male guardians.
In the past, women were forced not only to seek male approval but also to visit a notary to register the company.
But, as of Sunday, women have been given the green light to document their businesses electronically, in a larger quest to boost their participation in the economy.