Saadallah Wannous was a Syrian playwright and author. He was born in the village of Hussein al-Bahr, near Tartous. He studied journalism in Cairo, and later served as editor of the art and cultural sections of the official Syrian newspaper Al-Baath and the Lebanese daily As-Safir. For many years, he was also director of the department of music and theatre within the Syrian Ministry for Culture.
In 1959 he travelled to Cairo to study journalism and began writing articles and short plays. Then, in the late 1960s, he travelled to Paris, where he studied theatre. Like many intellectuals at the time, he was a Marxist, and the plays he wrote were intended to raise political consciousness. He returned to Syria where he taught theatre and wrote twenty or so plays. He also directed a literary magazine and a collection of works dedicated to contemporary Arab thought.
In 1996, he was selected by UNESCO and the International Institute of Theater, to present that year’s address to the world theatre community during its celebration of International Theater Day on March 27. This was the first time an Arab writer had been selected since the organisation began this tradition in 1963. Despite the political turmoil in the region and his evolving political beliefs, Wannous continued until his untimely death from cancer to believe, as Ursula Lindsay wrote in The New York Review of Books, “that theater was the best venue for civic dialogue.”