What We Are Reading Today: 1491 by Charles C. Mann

Updated 09 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: 1491 by Charles C. Mann

  • The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water

In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.

Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. 

The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city.

Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew, according to a preview published on goodreads.com.

Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand.


Performing in Saudi Arabia ‘a dream come true,’ says ‘Wizard of Oz’ star

Updated 29 min 57 sec ago

Performing in Saudi Arabia ‘a dream come true,’ says ‘Wizard of Oz’ star

  • Arab News speaks to lead actress, production manager of the musical, now being staged in Riyadh
  • The show has already toured twice in the US, then for 13 weeks in China. The regional tour began two weeks ago in Bahrain, before arriving in Dhahran and Riyadh. Its next stop is Jeddah

RIYADH: People in Riyadh have been enjoying a lavish new rendition of the beloved musical “The Wizard of Oz” for the last week. 

The show — a celebration of the classic 1939 movie starring Judy Garland as the young heroine Dorothy Gale — is being performed for the first time in the Kingdom in the Red Hall at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University until Oct. 26. The stunning visual effects employed by the touring production — and, of course, the timeless, classic songs — have left audiences spellbound.

Marc Ciemiewicz, company manager at production company APEX Touring, expressed how important performing in Saudi Arabia is for the cast and crew.

“To be in a country that has never had an American musical theater performance is history-making, and that is what I think is the biggest honor for us,” he told Arab News. “We are part of history. It is something that we can tell our grandchildren: ‘You know what? I was (part of) one of the first shows that ever went to Saudi Arabia.’ That is very exciting.” 

Ciemiewicz admitted that no one involved in the show was sure what to expect from a Saudi audience. “It’s a first-of-its-kind experience and we have met with incredible audiences who have absolutely loved the show. It has been such a wonderful thing to be able to bring such a show to a country that has never had that experience.”

The show has already toured twice in the US, then for 13 weeks in China. The regional tour began two weeks ago in Bahrain, before arriving in Dhahran and Riyadh. Its next stop is Jeddah.

To be in a country that has never had an American musical theater performance is history-making, and that is what I think is the biggest honor for us.

Marc Ciemiewicz, company manager, APEX Touring

Such a heavy schedule can take its toll on everyone involved. Ciemiewicz’s solution? “Rest, rest and more rest.” But he also stressed that it is important to the team to be able to explore the countries they visit, and that they were all keen to embrace the Kingdom’s culture while they are here.

“It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be here,” Megan Urz, who plays Dorothy in the show, told Arab News — adding that she has always been “fascinated” by the Middle East. “I have always wanted to come here. It’s blowing me away,” she said.

Performing in the Kingdom has been “beyond what we were expecting,” Urz said, adding that her favorite part of the job is the audiences’ reaction to her performance, and those of her fellow cast members.

“I think about it every night,” she said. “All the many new faces who get to experience this show with all of us for the first time.”

“As an actor, you have to learn how to play with the audience as much as you are playing with the actors on the stage,” Ciemiewicz said. “Sometimes you will find an audience that is more reserved and they’re very quiet through the show, and then at the end they go totally crazy.”

For Urz and the rest of the cast, each performance they give on tour is special and unique, and the experience is just as enjoyable for them as for the audience.

“I still have to remind myself that I am actually here in Saudi Arabia performing ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to these beautiful people. It’s a dream come true,” said Urz. “It is so heartwarming for all of us to be able to spread and experience (this) joy with them.”