حوار داليا بسيونى عضو لجنة التحكيم بمهرجان المسرح القومى

Dalia as NUT
يجمع مسار د. داليا بسيوني، عضو لجنة تحكيم المهرجان، بين روافد فنية متنوعة، لكنها تراها متكاملة، مخرجة وممثلة وكاتبة مسرح وروائية ومترجمة، واستاذة للمسرح بجامعة حلوان. نالت الدكتوراة من جامعة نيويورك بالولايات المتحدة، في احدي اصعب الفترات التي مر بها العرب في امريكا، بعد هجمات 11 سبتمبر 2001، حول المسرح العربي الأمريكي الذي قدمته المرأة بعد أحداث سبتمبر. أسست بسيوني فرقة “سبيل” للفنون 1997، واخرجت 18 عرضا مسرحيا في مصر وإنجلترا والولايات المتحدة، ركزت فيها علي قضايا المرأة، منها “سوليتر” التي كتبتها واخرجتها ولعبت بطولتها وشاركت بها في عدة مهرجانات، ونالت عنها جائزة الصندوق العربي للفنون والثقافة، وفي اعقاب ثورة 25 يناير قدمت عرض المسرح التوثيقي “حواديت التحرير”. إضافة لنشاطها المسرحي، ترجمت بسيوني نصوص لكاتبات تنشغل بقضايا المرأة، وتري نفسها نسوية، لكنها لا ترى ان كل الاعمال الابداعية للنساء تخدم قضايا المرأة. تقول لنشرة المهرجان: انا نسوية، وأعي ان هناك عدة مدارس للنسوية، فكما ان هناك كثير من المخرجات لاتخدم اعمالهم قضايا المرأة، فمن النسويات من تنافس من منطلق ذكوري. اسست فرقة سبيل في 1997، وبدأت تقديم عروضها ثم توقفت لسفري الي امريكا لمدة 8 سنوات، واستأنفتها في 2009، وماتزال الفرقة مشغولة بقضايا المرأة، للأسف، لأن القضايا ما تزال كما هي بعد الثورة، ورغم اني لا اري امكانية لتنمية المرأة وحدها الا كجزء من المجتمع برجاله ونسائه لكن ما تزال هناك ضرورة لتسليط الضوء علي اعمال المرأة لانه لا يوجد تركيز عليها، لهذا اهتم بابداع المرأة وبشكل خاص بالكاتبات.

* في عرضك “سوليتير”، بطولتك واخراجك، تجلي آخر من قضايا المرأة، يمزج الذاتي بالعام، ما الذي دفعك لتقديمها بعد ثورة يناير، دون انتاج؟

– تربط المسرحية بين أحداث 11 سبتمبر في الولايات المتحدة، وأحداث الثورة المصرية، كحدثين من أهم الأحداث المفجرة للتغيير في القرن الحادي والعشرين هي عرض بصري متعدد الوسائط يلقى الضوء على تغير الهوية العربية في السنوات العشر الأخيرة. حيث يوثق العرض دراميا وبصريا بعض ما حدث للعرب والعرب الأمريكيين عقب أحداث سبتمبر، وتأثير ذلك على الوطن العربي. كما يسجل مشاهدات من ميدان التحرير عبر أيام ثورة 25 يناير، من خلال عيون مصرية، تغير وتتغير، في رحلتها لتشكيل هويتها والبحث عن السلام مع النفس ومع العالم.
* اخترت المسرح متعدد الوسائط كمشروع لفرقتك، لماذا؟

– مشروعي يجمع بين الاهتمام بالسينما والمسرح، اخرجت افلام قصيرة لحملات تطوعية، وكتبت عدة افلام قصيرة وسيناريوهين روائيين طويلين لم ينفذا. درست العلاقة بين المسرح والسينما في نيويورك، عام 1998، بمنحة فولبرايت للفنون، ووجدت فيها ضالتي عن التكامل بين المسرح والفيديو، وهو ما اقوم بعمل كثير من التجارب عليه في مسرحياتي، وفي كتابتي للسيناريو، وانجزت نصا مكتوبا ليقدم كفيلم ومسرحية في ذات الوقت، دون تعديل.
* بعد ثورة يناير اتجهت للمسرح التوثيقي في عرض “حواديت التحرير”، لماذا؟

– المسرح التوثيقي تنبع اهميته من كونه مسرح آني بسيط جدا، في ادواته ولا يحتاج كم هائل من البروفات، فيه مرونة شديدة وهو مفيد ومهم في لحظته. طلب مني في امريكا انتاج نص حواديت التحرير، ورفضت نشره او انتاجه، لانه لا يعكس ما يحدث الآن. لا اريد ان اعيش داخل كبسولة زمنية ضمن الـ 18 يوما الهامين جدا في تاريخنا، فخلال السنوات الثلاث الماضية تغيرت اشياء كثيرة ولابد من رصدها، وعدم تجميد اللحظة والنظر للثورة فيما تم توثيقه عن احداث اعتصام التحرير. درست المسرح التوثيقي وكتبت فيه ابحاث، هناك 3 طرق مختلفة لتناوله، ويمكن ان يلعب دورا اجتماعيا وثقافيا متميزا ومتفاعلا، واحد مناهجه اسلوب الباحث الانثربولوجي، الآتي من خارج المجتمع. وفي حالة عرض التحرير نقلت تجربة الناس الذين عاشوا تجربة الاعتصام في الميدان. أهم تجارب هذا النوع من المسرح التوثيقي قدمتها المخرجة الامريكية ايميلي مان، التي اشتغلت علي نصوص تاريخية من سجلات محاكمات تحرير العبيد، ولحظات تغيير قوانين معاملة الزنوج تاريخيا، وترصد وتقدم هذه اللحظات الهامة في تاريخ مجتمعها. • كيف تقييمين عروض مسرح توثيق الثورة؟ – بعد ثورة 25 يناير مباشرة ظهرت موضة مسرحيات ثورية، كثير منها كان شكله عن الثورة، وفي حقيقتها ضد الثورة وتقدم شكل وفهم ساذج لمعني الثورة وللمسرح الثوري كانت موجة وعدد من المسرحيين ركبوا هذه الموجة وحاولوا ان يستفيدوا منها وحاليا يتبني بعضهم افكار ضدها. ورغم ذلك كانت هناك اعمال مهمة جدا، منها تجربة ليلي سليمان، ولكن اعمال كثير منها شابتها بدائية التنفيذ، وبدا كأنها مسرح الشكاوي اكثر منها مسرح الثورة، تقدمنا كضحايا. نحن لسنا كذلك، نحن فعالين وفاعلين، ربما لم نكن اثناء الثورة علي قدر الحنكة السياسية المطلوبة لكننا بالتأكيد لسنا مجرد ضحية. وكحركة مسرحية لم ننجح في استخدام إمكانيات المسرح التوثيقي واختزلناه في حكي احداث، مع بعض الصور، بطريقة واحدة، وعبر صيغة تضعنا في خانة المفعول به.
* هل مازلت علي تواصل مع حركة المسرحيين العرب في امريكا؟

– شاركت في تأسيس ودعم حركة المسرحيين العرب في امريكا عقب احداث 11 سبتمبر، للتعريف بعالمنا العربي، وتصحيح الصورة المشوهة التي يروجها الاعلام الامريكي عنا، وخصصت رسالتي للدكتوراة لدراسة مسرح الكاتبات العربيات، وبعد عودتي للقاهرة، في 2009، ظللت علي تواصل مع الفنانين العرب هناك، وبمتابعتي لقطاع كبير من الكتاب.. صاروا جزءا من الحركة الفنية في امريكا بشكل عام، وخرجوا من حالة الجيتو العربي. فكرة الشغل مع العرب الامريكان تراجعت، لان لدينا مشاكلنا الداخلية، لكنهم مهتمين بإخراج كتاباتي، خاصة مسرحيتي “سوليتير” و”سحر البرلس”.
* اما يزال هناك اهتمام في امريكا باستكشاف العالم العربي؟ – نعم، اهتمام متزايد بالتعرف علي العالم والثقافة العربية بسبب احداث العراق وغزة والمتغيرات في العالم العربي، وكانت البوابة التي فتحت بعد احداث 11 سبتمبر التي اثارت الامريكان لاستكشاف ما هو هذا العربي العدو، ثم مع ارسال جنودهم للعراق، ولان هناك حالة مشابهة حاليا، معارك داعش، يريدون ان بعرفوا من هذا الاخر، لذا هناك اقبال علي تقديم مسرحيات عرببة داخل الجامعات. * ما اهم الاعمال التي قمت بترجمتها؟ – ترجمت من العربية للانجليزية وافلام مصرية حديثة ومعاصرة و نص مسرحية “انا فلسطين”، لمسرح عشتار، مسرحية “اوديب” لعلي احمد باكثير، كجزء من مشروع بحثي اكاديمي لاستاذي مارفن كارلسون ،عن الاعمال الادبية التي تناولت شخصية اوديب باللغة العربية. ومن الانجليزية ترجمت مسرحية ناجحة بعنوان “تسعة اجزاء للرغبة”، للكاتبة هيذر رافو، وهي امريكية من اصل عراقي، ونصوص للكاتبة تيمبرليك ورتن بيكر، انجليزية كندية من اصول فرنسية، وتتميز اعمالها بالتحاور من تراث الدراما اليونانية، واترجم لها حاليا خمس مسرحيات، لتصدر كمجموعة من اعمالها، وترجمت لها مسبقا نص هام بعنوان “اغنية العندليب” وحاولت تقديمه في مصر، وقدمت تصور لمشروع العرض لعدة مؤسسات، ولقي تقديرا جيدا، لكن لم يتحمس احد لانتاجه بسبب جرأة النص، الذي يتعرض لقضية زنا المحارم، واترجم حاليا كتاب عن المسرح التجريبي الامريكي. اهتمامي بالترجمة نابع من قناعتي اننا، في المجال المسرحي والادبي والنقدي، لا نعرف الكثير عن الكاتبات المتميزات في لغات اخري، كأننا نعيش في مجرة ليس فيها سوي شباك واحد محدود مثلا، واري ان من يستطيع ان يلم بحضارتين لابد ان يقوم بهذا الدور في الترجمة، لذا احاول ان اكون كوبري بين حضارتين.

* مشروعك القادم الي اين يأخذك؟

– الثلاثة اعوام الماضية لم تكن هناك فرص للانتاج، والوضع السياسي اصابنا بالاحباط حتي اني احاول ان اعيد منذ عام مسرحية “سحر البرلس” ولا اتمكن من ذلك وهي عرض يدور في قرية، رغم اني اري انها اكثر ثورية من الثورة في الميدان، لانها تصور مجتمع وتعمل تغييره، احضر لمشروع فيلم طويل كتبت له السيناريو، يجمع بين الروائي والتسجيلي، وانتظر صدور روايتي الجديدة “الحب في زمن الثورة”، التي تجمع ايضا بين الخيال الروائي والتوثيقي لاحداث عام هام من حياتنا، بعد ثورة يناير.

Theater techies find the ‘Alternative Solution’

داليا بسيوني daliabasiouny.com

BY DALIA BASIOUNY Cairo Stunned by news that Rawabet Theater, the only affordable independent performance space in downtown Cairo was shut down, two theatre technicians decided to take matters into their own hands.

As technicians Saber El Sayed and Mido Sadeq knew how to turn empty, unequipped spaces into full-fledged performance venues. Rawabet’s abrupt closure in February for lack of funding triggered the ingenious idea to transform The Factory, a space run by the TownHouse Gallery, and debut an arts festival they dubbed “Alternative Solution”.

Converting this huge empty white-walled hall into an equipped performance space with a rigging system for the lighting, sound proofing and a ramp for audience seats was no easy feat. But with the determination of artists and technicians who volunteered their time, effort and equipment, the saga took four sleepless days of absolute dedication to the concept of creating an alternative space for independent art.

The team documented their efforts in a short video that was shown at the entrance to the space. The comical speed by which the work was presented allowed both audience and passers-by to witness the transformation and how huge practical challenges can be surmounted through collaboration.

“We are not organizers, we are technicians. We are always solving problems. We always work with ‘alternative solutions’. There is a deep shortage in artistic spaces. Why not do what we are doing all the time to solve the problem that is facing artists regarding space,” said Mido, the co-founder of the festival.

The 15 days of programming from March 24-April 17, were full of performances ranging from plays, film screenings, dance, music concerts, mime, stand-up comedy, clown gigs and open mics. Audiences filled the limited seats, and many were happy to sit on the floor to watch some of their favorite artists and to welcome new ones.

Egypt’s January 25 revolution was at the heart of this improvised festival, with most theater performances focusing on it. Documentary plays like “No Time For Art” by Laila Soliman, “Be Basata Keda” (Simply Like That) by Ana El-Hekaya Group, and El Warsha’s “Zawaya” and “No Exit” by Omar ElMoataz Bellah are cases in point.

The theatricalized poetry performance “Without Names” by Amin Haddad, directed by Reem Hegab, was a lyrical commentary by the poet on his complicated relationship with his muse, Egypt. It included a number of poems by Haddad, composed by Hazem Shaheen, co-founder of Eskenderlla, the mouthpiece of Egypt’s young revolutionaries including the powerful “martyrs’ song’ “From Maspero to Mohamed Mahmoud”.

In addition to many short films by rising filmmakers, there were a number of music concerts by the enchanting Nada El Shazly, the inspiring Yousra El Hawary and the popular Mashrou’ Koral run by Sallam Yousry. The program also included new fare such as Martial Art Brazilian Capoeira performance by Mohamed Tiger, Mime by Amro Abdel Aziz, HipHop Dancing by We Are Group, and stand-up by Ali Qandeel.

Contemporary dance performances included work by young and veteran choreographers. Ahmed El Gendy (aka Zero) performed his exciting work in water “One”, while Sherien Hegazy choreographed “Disturbance” and the queen of Egyptian contemporary dance Karima Mansour and her troupe were part of the festivities of the closing night.

A screen placed in the street outside The Factory allowed passers-by to follow some of the events in a practical move to stretch the boundaries of space with clown gig Outa Hamra (Red Tomatoes) surprising pedestrians as they ventured out into the street on an impromptu public performance.

“There was a great spirit in the festival,” said Saber, co-founder of the festival. “We all agreed that in post revolutionary Egypt no one is going to control us. We will present our art, come what may.”

He emphasized that the event was independent on every level. None of the artists or technicians were paid, and admission was free.

Saber describes the “unique energy of the event” whose successful first round has stimulated a search for other empty spaces, garages, or vacant lots. The scouting has taken them outside downtown Cairo, where most of the art scene is concentrated, hoping to reach audiences everywhere in the big city.

To keep the momentum going Mido and Saber are even considering showing short films by up-and-coming filmmakers in their friends’ apartments around town. The inspired and inspiring technicians are keen on rejuvenating the stagnant cultural scene through pursuing even more “alternative solutions”.

Their motto: “We will not stop. We will continue to change things. We are the change.”

Playwright reflects on role of independent theater in Egyptian revolution

By: Maha ElNabawi – Egypt Independent  –  10/03/2013

In an attempt to better understand the role of theater within the ongoing 25 January revolution, local playwright and theater professor Dalia Basiouny recently gave an insightful lecture titled “R for Rehearsal … R for Revolution: How the Egyptian Revolution Inspires Yet Hinders Theatrical Production.”

Basiouny is widely known for her work with feminist and activist theater, particularly through the productions created under her Sabeel Group for the Arts, which was established in 1997. In fact, many consider Basiouny to be a leading practitioner within the “free theater” or independent theater movement that swept through Egypt during the late 1980s and 1990s.

Since the start of her career, Basiouny has looked toward the possibilities within theater rather than its limitations, saying that theater “should be an act of positive consequence.”

And while independent theater is known to have a tragic list of obstacles, including an utter lack of rehearsal and performance spaces, limited resources and a great deal of censorship, Basiouny continuously discovers dynamic solutions to push theater forward.

“The lack of spaces has always been a challenge for theater groups in Egypt,” she says. “[Greater] Cairo has more than 20 million inhabitants, but there are less than 16 theaters. Therefore, one of my main concerns has always been to identify alternative spaces that people could have access to.”

In the past, Basiouny found solutions in the form of home theater, where she would present small shows in people’s homes.

“It was an experimentation on space — how do we use sound space, alternative space?” she says. “How does it affect the actor and spectator relationship?”

For her, this is not only confined to the matter of playwriting and dramaturgy, but also acting and staging. Her work often deals with women’s issues, and is loaded with the socio-political circumstances of the times.

Basiouny describes her multimedia monologue, “Solitaire,” which premiered in downtown’s Rawabet Theater in March 2011, as “the story of an Egyptian woman living in America and growing a political awareness as the world evolves around her. A thread is woven between the 9/11 attacks and the Egyptian revolution through her experiences.”

Borrowing techniques from the influential 20th-century German theater director Erwin Piscator, Basiouny’s “Solitaire” and other productions often feature technical innovations such as the use of video projections and various dramaturgical devices that disrupt conventional narratives.

The play has since been performed in close to 20 different locations, including Iraq, Germany, Morocco, Zimbabwe and the US. It is also scheduled to tour again in US and Europe at the end of March.

But while “Solitaire” continues to garner international accolade and acclaim, Basiouny has since found herself at a theatrical crossroads since the start of the 25 January revolution.

“I think of myself as an Artivist [artist and activist], a term coined by Kayhan Irani — my role as an artist and as a citizen are combined. For me, art and expression are an integral part of the revolutionary process, not just in mobilizing, but reflecting,” Basiouny says.

But during such lamentable crisis as those developed by revolutions, most notably the constant upsurge of protests and brutal violence, Basiouny and many theater practitioners she works with continue to face the paradoxical circumstances of rehearsal versus revolution.

In her lecture, Basiouny mentioned that many of her theatrical works have become interrupted and even canceled due to various protests that arise.

In March last year, Basiouny debuted her latest play, titled “Magic of Borlous,” at Cairo’s Gomhurriya Theater. The play is set in the imaginary village of Kafr Salem beside Egypt’s second largest lake, Borolus, and the play tells the story of the women in the village who gather every month to create an alternative community, which results in a disruption of the status quo and upsets the balance of power in society.

Basiouny says the play only had five performances, including three in Gomhurriya Theater, one in Minya and another in Alexandria before it was later canceled due to the frequent interruptions due to protests.

“Every time we started rehearsing this performance, another protest happened,” she says. “First, we dropped a rehearsal to join the protests at Ettehadiya [Presidential Palace]. Another time we stopped a performance in order to go to Tahrir Square, another time half of the performers were at the front lines of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes — eventually, we couldn’t revive the show.”

“So it’s rehearsal versus revolution. Most of the time, we opt for revolution,” she adds.

She goes on to mention that in the end, “Magic of Borolus” was only seen by close to 2,000 people, which for her is an extremely frustrating result due to the relevant and important topics the play discusses.

“While it does not take place in the standard scenes of the revolution, it captures the essence of some of our revolutionary concerns including, virginity tests, witch hunts, rumors and the role of women,” she explains.

Refusing to accept defeat, Basiouny is attempting to revive the play by using more multi-media techniques and potentially converting the form of play into a performance film to make it more accessible to a wider range of viewers.

She also came to the realization that during times of revolt, it is often easier to produce a “one-woman show” such as “Solitaire,” rather than productions with an 18 actors, like “The Magic of Borolus.”

In a later chat with Basiouny, she also discusses the role of theater in revolt. Since the start of the revolution, many of the independent theater productions have often taken a documentary form, such as Sondos Shabayek’s “Tahrir Monologues.”

Many critics say “Tahrir Monologues” was among the few plays that successfully recreated revolutionary moments and experiences on stages across Egypt.

“I do believe that documentary theater does have its role in this movement, mostly to cause reflection or action in the audience,” says Basiouny. “But putting this play aside, I would like to see practitioners break away from documentary theater as it can never fully recreate the dramatic tension of the revolution.”

Basiouny champions the idea of implementing and innovating techniques introduced by Piscator and German playwright Bertolt Brecht, in addition to Brazilian theater director Augusto Boal, with whom she trained for some time.

Boal is considered to be the founder of a theatrical form originally used in radical popular education movements called “Theater of the Oppressed.” His techniques used theater as a means to promote social and political change.

In this form, audiences become active participants in the performance or “spect-actors,” which allows them to explore, analyze and transform the reality in which they are living.

In their own ways, each of the above-mentioned practitioners saw revolutionary theater functioning primarily on the symbolic level, in addition to being aimed at real, political change. Their theories positioned theater as an important instrument in the social struggles of society.

“I teach many of these techniques to my theater students at [the American University in Cairo],” says Basiouny. “Usually, these forms can be presented in the forum theater or invisible theater, which works well in times of revolt because it relies more on improvised performances and spectator-interaction rather than rehearsed actors.”

She goes on to mention that some of these techniques could already be seen in various productions taking place in Egypt, most notably through Nada Sabet’s Hara TV productions.

Operating under her theater company, Noon Creative Enterprises, Sabet’s Hara TV produces interactive theater performance in public spaces to address gender and societal issues. Hara TV’s primary mission is to develop and encourage active participation in society.

Since launching in 2011, the performances have successfully toured through seven different governorates in Egypt.

For Basiouny, theater provides one means of forging a collective identity mediated through an image. She strongly believes in searching for techniques that capture the essence of the revolution rather than reducing it to a spectacle.

And while it is too soon to define theater’s exact role within the Egyptian revolution, Basiouny’s ability to infuse rituals and multimedia with feminist ideology offers one more way of framing and making sense of Egypt’s revolutionary praxis and aspirations.

“There are no certainties in this life we are currently living in Egypt. All we know is that we are alive right now, and we can each do something with the skills and passions we hold. But at the end of the day, we are living a highly improvised life,” says Basiouny.

The lecture was part of the “Cultural Seasons in Egypt: Artistic Expression & Public Discourse” program hosted by the American Research Center in Egypt.

In an attempt to better understand the role of theater within the ongoing 25 January revolution, local playwright and theater professor Dalia Basiouny recently gave an insightful lecture titled “R for Rehearsal … R for Revolution: How the Egyptian Revolution Inspires Yet Hinders Theatrical Production.”

Basiouny is widely known for her work with feminist and activist theater, particularly through the productions created under her Sabeel Group for the Arts, which was established in 1997. In fact, many consider Basiouny to be a leading practitioner within the “free theater” or independent theater movement that swept through Egypt during the late 1980s and 1990s.

Since the start of her career, Basiouny has looked toward the possibilities within theater rather than its limitations, saying that theater “should be an act of positive consequence.”

And while independent theater is known to have a tragic list of obstacles, including an utter lack of rehearsal and performance spaces, limited resources and a great deal of censorship, Basiouny continuously discovers dynamic solutions to push theater forward.

“The lack of spaces has always been a challenge for theater groups in Egypt,” she says. “[Greater] Cairo has more than 20 million inhabitants, but there are less than 16 theaters. Therefore, one of my main concerns has always been to identify alternative spaces that people could have access to.”

In the past, Basiouny found solutions in the form of home theater, where she would present small shows in people’s homes.

“It was an experimentation on space — how do we use sound space, alternative space?” she says. “How does it affect the actor and spectator relationship?”

For her, this is not only confined to the matter of playwriting and dramaturgy, but also acting and staging. Her work often deals with women’s issues, and is loaded with the socio-political circumstances of the times.

Basiouny describes her multimedia monologue, “Solitaire,” which premiered in downtown’s Rawabet Theater in March 2011, as “the story of an Egyptian woman living in America and growing a political awareness as the world evolves around her. A thread is woven between the 9/11 attacks and the Egyptian revolution through her experiences.”

Borrowing techniques from the influential 20th-century German theater director Erwin Piscator, Basiouny’s “Solitaire” and other productions often feature technical innovations such as the use of video projections and various dramaturgical devices that disrupt conventional narratives.

The play has since been performed in close to 20 different locations, including Iraq, Germany, Morocco, Zimbabwe and the US. It is also scheduled to tour again in US and Europe at the end of March.

But while “Solitaire” continues to garner international accolade and acclaim, Basiouny has since found herself at a theatrical crossroads since the start of the 25 January revolution.

“I think of myself as an Artivist [artist and activist], a term coined by Kayhan Irani — my role as an artist and as a citizen are combined. For me, art and expression are an integral part of the revolutionary process, not just in mobilizing, but reflecting,” Basiouny says.

But during such lamentable crisis as those developed by revolutions, most notably the constant upsurge of protests and brutal violence, Basiouny and many theater practitioners she works with continue to face the paradoxical circumstances of rehearsal versus revolution.

In her lecture, Basiouny mentioned that many of her theatrical works have become interrupted and even canceled due to various protests that arise.

In March last year, Basiouny debuted her latest play, titled “Magic of Borlous,” at Cairo’s Gomhurriya Theater. The play is set in the imaginary village of Kafr Salem beside Egypt’s second largest lake, Borolus, and the play tells the story of the women in the village who gather every month to create an alternative community, which results in a disruption of the status quo and upsets the balance of power in society.

Basiouny says the play only had five performances, including three in Gomhurriya Theater, one in Minya and another in Alexandria before it was later canceled due to the frequent interruptions due to protests.

“Every time we started rehearsing this performance, another protest happened,” she says. “First, we dropped a rehearsal to join the protests at Ettehadiya [Presidential Palace]. Another time we stopped a performance in order to go to Tahrir Square, another time half of the performers were at the front lines of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes — eventually, we couldn’t revive the show.”

“So it’s rehearsal versus revolution. Most of the time, we opt for revolution,” she adds.

She goes on to mention that in the end, “Magic of Borolus” was only seen by close to 2,000 people, which for her is an extremely frustrating result due to the relevant and important topics the play discusses.

“While it does not take place in the standard scenes of the revolution, it captures the essence of some of our revolutionary concerns including, virginity tests, witch hunts, rumors and the role of women,” she explains.

Refusing to accept defeat, Basiouny is attempting to revive the play by using more multi-media techniques and potentially converting the form of play into a performance film to make it more accessible to a wider range of viewers.

She also came to the realization that during times of revolt, it is often easier to produce a “one-woman show” such as “Solitaire,” rather than productions with an 18 actors, like “The Magic of Borolus.”

In a later chat with Basiouny, she also discusses the role of theater in revolt. Since the start of the revolution, many of the independent theater productions have often taken a documentary form, such as Sondos Shabayek’s “Tahrir Monologues.”

Many critics say “Tahrir Monologues” was among the few plays that successfully recreated revolutionary moments and experiences on stages across Egypt.

“I do believe that documentary theater does have its role in this movement, mostly to cause reflection or action in the audience,” says Basiouny. “But putting this play aside, I would like to see practitioners break away from documentary theater as it can never fully recreate the dramatic tension of the revolution.”

Basiouny champions the idea of implementing and innovating techniques introduced by Piscator and German playwright Bertolt Brecht, in addition to Brazilian theater director Augusto Boal, with whom she trained for some time.

Boal is considered to be the founder of a theatrical form originally used in radical popular education movements called “Theater of the Oppressed.” His techniques used theater as a means to promote social and political change.

In this form, audiences become active participants in the performance or “spect-actors,” which allows them to explore, analyze and transform the reality in which they are living.

In their own ways, each of the above-mentioned practitioners saw revolutionary theater functioning primarily on the symbolic level, in addition to being aimed at real, political change. Their theories positioned theater as an important instrument in the social struggles of society.

“I teach many of these techniques to my theater students at [the American University in Cairo],” says Basiouny. “Usually, these forms can be presented in the forum theater or invisible theater, which works well in times of revolt because it relies more on improvised performances and spectator-interaction rather than rehearsed actors.”

She goes on to mention that some of these techniques could already be seen in various productions taking place in Egypt, most notably through Nada Sabet’s Hara TV productions.

Operating under her theater company, Noon Creative Enterprises, Sabet’s Hara TV produces interactive theater performance in public spaces to address gender and societal issues. Hara TV’s primary mission is to develop and encourage active participation in society.

Since launching in 2011, the performances have successfully toured through seven different governorates in Egypt.

For Basiouny, theater provides one means of forging a collective identity mediated through an image. She strongly believes in searching for techniques that capture the essence of the revolution rather than reducing it to a spectacle.

And while it is too soon to define theater’s exact role within the Egyptian revolution, Basiouny’s ability to infuse rituals and multimedia with feminist ideology offers one more way of framing and making sense of Egypt’s revolutionary praxis and aspirations.

“There are no certainties in this life we are currently living in Egypt. All we know is that we are alive right now, and we can each do something with the skills and passions we hold. But at the end of the day, we are living a highly improvised life,” says Basiouny.

The lecture was part of the “Cultural Seasons in Egypt: Artistic Expression & Public Discourse” program hosted by the American Research Center in Egypt.

حلم مسرحى من الكرتون

بواسطة داليا بسيوني – اليوم السابع

وسط عروض ضعيفة، ومسرحيات يصعب البقاء حتى نهايتها كان العرض البولندى “مسرحية عاطفية لأربعة ممثلين”، نسمة هواء منعشة لجمهور المهرجان الدولى للمسرح التجريبى، الذى يفضل الجلوس قرب باب المسرح حتى يتمكن من الهرب بسهولة من المسرحيات المملة أو التى لا يفهم شيئا من لغتها.

تمكن “مسرحية عاطفية لأربعة ممثلين”، الذى قدمته الفرقة البولندية “مسرح مونتونيا”، تأليف وإخراج بيوتر سيبلاك، من اجتذاب المتفرجين من أول دقيقة عن طريق اثنين من الموسيقيين على خشبة المسرح، يستخدمان عددا من الآلات الموسيقية بطرق غير تقليدية لإصدار أصوات تواكب حركة الممثلين على المسرح وأحيانا تشاغبها.

صناع العرض البولندى لديهم وعى تام بلعبة المسرح والمسرحة، ويستغلونها بشكل فنى رائع لتقديم كوميديا جديدة تستخدم المفردات التقليدية للمايم والكوميديا ديل أرت والفنون البهلوانية.
طور فريق العمل المفردات الكوميدية التقليدية لتناسب عقل المشاهدين المعاصرين، وسرعة إيقاع القرن الحادى والعشرين، فنجحوا فى خلق عرض مسرحى شديد الحيوية رغم عدم استخدامه للغة المنطوقة، يستمتع به الجمهور كبارا وصغارا على اختلاف ثقافاتهم ولغاتهم.

سر جمال هذا العرض الحركى الكوميدى الموسيقى (الصامت) يكمن فى بساطته، حيث اعتمد، إلى جانب قدرات الممثلين البدنية، على الورق والكرتون وبعض الخيوط لتقديم حالة مسرحية مثيرة ومسلية.
خلق المخرج صندوقا مفرغا من أخشاب البامبو، وغطاها بأوراق الكارتون البنية اللون، فى صورة غير مثيرة لونيا، لكن “الستائر” الكرتونية تفتح لتكشف عالما بصريا مبهرا عن طريق استخدام شديد الذكاء لمفردات العرض الورقية.

قدم العرض كثيرا من النماذج المبتكرة لكيفية إحداث التأثير المسرحى عن طريق الورق والكرتون، فكان درسا فى إبهار البساطة، ورقى الكوميديا.
يجذب ممثل أحد الخيوط فيرتفع لوح كرتون على شكل سرير، يسند رأسه عليه، فنعرف أن الليل حل، عندما يأتى الصباح، يترك الخيط فينزل السرير على الأرض، ويظهر المكتب الكرتونى، فيشبك عليه فنجانا كرتونيا (بمشبك ورق)، عندما يستخدم ممثل آخر هذا الجزء من المسرح، ينزل خيطا آخر فيه كيس شاى فوق الفنجان الكرتونى فتتعالى ضحات الجمهور.

وتتحول أوراق الكارتون إلى عالم ينبض بحيوية فى عرض “مسرحية عاطفية لأربعة ممثلين” حيث يحرك أحد الممثلين زهرة ورقية فترمى بذورها حول المسرح، بعد ثوان تملأ زهور عباد الشمس الورقية خلفية المسرح.
كما يظهر كلب كرتونى صغير، يتعاطف معه أحد الممثلين، فيدخله إلى بيته، ويدربه على الحياة داخل المنزل، وقد تمكن الموسيقيان من إصدار أصوات مبتكرة للتعبير عن ردود فعل الكلب، إلى جانب مئات التأثيرات الموسيقية الأخرى التى أثارت اهتمام وضحك المتفرجين.
ويعبر العرض عن صخب الشارع فى المدينة عن طريق الأصوات المتعددة الصادرة من الآلات الموسيقة، والتى تتزامن مع تمرير عدد كبير من علامات المرور المعلقة على حبل، بسرعة كبيرة حول المسرح.

واستجاب الجمهور المتحمس لكل تفاصيل العرض الكبيرة والصغيرة فتعالت الضحات على رد فعل الرجال الأربعة عند ظهور حذاء ورقى أحمر ذو كعب عال، يرمز لمرور امرأة على خشبة المسرح.
كما صفقوا طويلا من تأثير قطرات المطر المقصوصة على لوح طويل من الورق يفرده الممثلون، أو فضلات الكلب الورقية التى تتحول لسماد يوضع جانب الشجرة فتثمر تفاحة.
نجح صناع العرض فى استغلال الورق ثنائى الأبعاد لتقديم عالم ذو عمق كبير، وتعليق فلسفى على الحياة المعاصرة، فرغم العزلة التى يعيش فيها الأفراد تتقاطع خطوط حياتهم وتؤثر فى بعضها البعض، ويتبادلون الأدوار أحيانا.

وتعد “مسرحية عاطفية لأربعة ممثلين” نموذجا هاما للعروض التى يجب أن يسعى المهرجان لتواجدها لمستواها الفنى المتميز، وقدرتها على المسرحة، ولغتها شديدة البساطة والذكاء فى نفس الوقت، وعدم اعتمادها على لغة منطوقة يصعب على المتفرجين المصريين متابعتها.

Theatre, women and violence

by Nehad Selaiha – Al-Ahram Weekly

Some dramatists ought to be taken in moderate, well-spaced-out draughts; otherwise they can give you a terrible emotional hangover. Timberlake Wertenbaker (the famous American playwright living in Britain) is of this class of writers; and yet, last week, I was persuaded to take two strong doses of her work within two days of each other.
The first dose was administered at the Women and Memory Research Centre, founded and run (with a bunch of friends) by the self-effacing but extremely energetic Dr Hoda El-Sadda. She had rung up earlier in the week to invite me to an open demonstration and discussion of a new project for a theatre production centering on violence against women. The project is the brainchild of Dalia Basiouny, a young feminist director, and the play she has picked out and done into Egyptian Arabic (to bring its horrors nearer home, as she proudly declares) in Wertenbaker’s The Love of the Nightingale — a harrowing drama of incest, rape, and physical mutilation. It is based on an old Greek legend about Tereus, son of King Ares of Daulis, who weds Procne, daughter of Pandion, king of Athens, rapes her sister, Philomele, and cuts out her tongue, and is duly punished by Procne: she slays their son, Itys, and serves up his flesh to him at the dinner table. The gods, seeing the sisters fleeing with Tereus in hot pursuit, axe in hand, decide that things have gone too far and promptly put an end to this gruesome farce: they transform the trio into birds — a nightingale, a swallow, and a hoopoe (or a hawk in some versions of the legend). In Wertenbaker’s play, it is Philomele who kills Itys, while his mother holds him, and the cannibalism is omitted.

Basiouny had taken her project to the centre hoping for moral and financial support. Of the former, she got plenty; but the centre, which suffers from a chronic shortage of funds and is already sponsoring research for a feminist production by Caroleen Khalil, another young director, could not take on the project. El-Sadda and her partners, however, did not leave Basiouny in the lurch and decided to organise an evening for her at the centre and invite to it feminists, critics, and prospective sponsors to discuss ways of funding and launching the project. It was up to Basiouny to convince her audience of the potential value of her planned production and of her competence as director.

She did both admirably, giving a thorough and detailed description of the proposed work, with costume and set sketches, production tables, rehearsal schedules and background research. She also treated us to a succinct analysis of the play’s structure, pointing out its technical merits, powerful dramatic images, and ironical manipulation of different levels of language and modes of speech to expose the power hierarchies and the gender biases underlying human interaction. But what impressed me most was Basiouny’s perceptive awareness of the play’s innate theatricality. She dwelt with relish on Scene 5 which takes place in an Athenian theatre and weaves in scenes from Euripide’s Hippolytus which form a crucial dramatic thread and a shattering, ironical prophecy; she equally appreciated the stunning use of gigantic puppets (not unlike the ones Peter Schumann used for his Bread and Puppet Theatre in the sixties) in the Bacchae carnival scene in which Philomele stages, with their help, in front of her sister, among the revellers and acrobats, a mute, brutal reenactment of her rape and mutilation.

It was obvious that Basiouny, though a keen feminist, had treated the play as a work of art, not as a feminist tract. If we coughed up the money for the production, she concluded, or persuaded others to do so, she would give us, she promised, an enjoyable and entertaining piece of theatre. I believed her. The two scenes that were read from the Arabic version of the play proved Basiouny to be a competent and sensitive translator. The audience were moved by Philomele’s suffering, shocked to laughter by the coarseness of Niobe’s ribald comments on the rape of her mistress, and enraged by the brutality of Tereus. That evening, Basiouny gave us a tantalising taste of what she and her troupe, Sabeel, have been cooking and are ready to serve provided someone foots the bill. I hope that someone turns up soon before the Nightingale project gets stale and we lose a production which not only addresses an issue of great urgency for women, but promises also to address it beautifully.

My second dose of Wertenbaker was more elaborately prepared, dressed and served by Tori Haring-Smith and the Theatre Group of the AUC, and I consumed it with great relish at the Wallace. Like The Love of the Nightingale, Our Country’s Good (which won both The Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award, and the Laurence Olivier Play of the Year Award in 1988) features violence, but this time not just against women, but against all the deprived, down trodden poor, male and female. Rather than a mythical time and place, it is firmly set in a definite historical context and based largely on fact. The story behind the staging of the very first play ever to be put on in Australia was recounted in Thomas Kinneally’s novel The Playmaker and this provided Wertenbaker with much of her material. The setting is the first convict colony in what later became Sydney, and the events span nearly two years — from the arrival of the First Fleet with its load of prisoners at Botany Bay on 20 January 1788, to the performance of George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer by the convicts on 4 June, 1789.

The planned production engages the centre of Wertenbaker’s play and becomes the bone of contention between two factions, the matrix of the dramatic conflict and its driving force. It is a play about theatre, not just its artistic side but also the material and political conditions of making it, the stories and memories of the actors, their hang-ups and daily struggle to go on. As the convicts move back and forth between the stage reality of Farquahar’s fictional world and the actual reality of their life in the colony, the play changes mood, language and rhythm, swinging from hilarious comedy and even farce to violent tragedy and bleak despair. But it ends on a triumphant note: theatre survives, even though the actors are poor players and wretched convicts doomed to roam the earth or die. Michael Billington described Our Country’s Good in The Guardian as “a moving and affirmative tribute to the transforming power of drama.” It is also an affirmation of the healing power of theatre and its effectiveness as a mode of political resistance.

Director Tori Haring-Smith and her crew (Timaree McCormick, set; Hilary Oak, costumes; Sami Shawky, light; Akram Al-Sharif and Mona Bur, sound; and Hazem Shebl, photography and technical director) composed a beautiful, uncluttered and highly evocative audio-visual context for the actors’ performance. This would not have been possible if Haring-Smith had not decided, as soon as she took over as artistic director of the AUC Theatre Group, to dismantle the interior structure of the Wallace. She did away with the traditional picture-frame stage and the fixed seating and created a versatile space that challenges the imagination of directors and scenic designers and can accommodate almost any type of performance (grand musicals excepted).

For this production, the audience were seated in tiers on three sides of the performance space. The fourth side was a wall, covered with what looked like old, ragged sails or curtains. The floor was covered with wooden boards, with thin slits between them to allow for special lighting effects and for clouds of smoke to seep through at one point. There were also two trap-doors and some rigged up ropes suggesting the rigging of a vessel or, indeed, of a stage. The image of a bare stage was superimposed on the image of a ship-deck with a hold underneath, and this duality, together with the incongruity of setting realistic scenes supposed to take place on land on board an imaginary ship or stage, transformed the whole set, with the help of the music and sound-effects, into a rich, multiple metaphor. At one level, it told the audience that the convicts’ lot on land was no better than at sea, and constantly reminded us of their dream of sailing back and of their longing for home. But at other levels, it spoke of the lonely and hazardous voyage of life and echoed Shakespeare’s “all the world is a stage”. This metaphor burst upon us with full force at the very end when, in a magnificent coup de theatre, the sail/curtain covering the fourth wall ‘became’ the theatre curtain which rose as the actors faced it, to reveal — a large mirror, reflecting the audience as well.

The young actors, a large cast of 17, bravely accepted the challenge of this extremely demanding play, and some had the added burden of playing more than one part. They acquitted themselves well on the whole and what they lacked in terms of skill and experience they made up for with their dedication and enthusiasm. Some performances stood out, like Karim Hussein’s Arscott, Mohamed Dessouky’s Sideway, Teymour Hosny’s Harry Brewer, Samar Al-Saleh’s Mary, Salma Al-Sayed’s Liz, Nadine Khadr’s Meg, and Suzette Swanson’s Dabby. But they wouldn’t have acted the way they did without the active support of the others.

Going out of the Wallace I remembered Dalia Basiouny and all our young, struggling directors and hoped they would not have to go to the ends of the earth and put up with flogging and hanging before they could put on their plays.

Tahrir tales

Having found renewed hope in the work of young artists, Nehad Selaiha explains her recent silence

January took me by surprise. I had been kept informed of the calls, plans and preparations for the big event on that day through some young friends, active in different movements, via the net.

For a long time I had felt that people had had enough; that things could not go on the way they did for much longer; that corruption had contaminated the very springs and sources of life, had infected the very bone and marrow of the country and so eaten into its moral fibre that it had become like a rotten, sinking ship that soon the big rats would be deserting.

I knew there was anger; plenty of it; and frustration and despair. Young people were literally throwing themselves into the sea to get away, far, far away from Mother Egypt — once a land of peace and plenty, of faith and hope — turned into a vicious, crazed cat that eats its own children.

I had felt all this, and was reminded of it daily as I walked the streets of Cairo, or travelled in the provinces, as I talked to the mighty and the humble — to smarmy, philistine officials, who lorded it over every body, and to diffident, struggling students, who daily travelled from the provinces in cold winter, in search of education and social advancement, and valiantly tried to hold on to their dignity, despite the frayed collars of their shirts, their thin, faded pullovers and well-worn dresses and jackets.

In theatre, which has long been my life, it was the same story. Haunting the fringe, as I inveterately do, I often experienced, and regularly reported (on this page), the bleak visions and feelings of impotence and hopelessness, of alienation and humiliation that heavily shadowed almost every performance I watched. Going through some of the articles I wrote about the independent theatre movement in the past 20 years and the work of its varied troupes, I could read unmistakable signs that pointed to the conflagration on 25 January. Whatever the ideological leanings of the groups, their work seemed to plainly say, in the often-quoted words of Salah Abdel Sabour, in his memorable verse drama Laila and the Majnoun (Madman): “Explode or Die.” There were, it seemed, no other alternatives.

Indeed, this sentiment was poignantly shouted from the stage in the first and last Egyptian play Mrs. Mubarak attended as First Lady. The long-running Qahwa Sada (Black, Unsweetened Coffee) had caused quite a stir and attracted a lot of publicity on account of its daring outspokenness, bleak vision of the present and future and delicious black humour. The First Lady heard about it and came to see it at the invitation of minister of culture, Farouk Husni. Along with her came a big horde of ministers, public figures, and Arab diplomats and their wives.

And the Lady was amused, was even heard laughing loudly at many points. But the Lady missed the whole point of the show. In my review of it, entitled ‘A sprightly elegy’ ( Al-Ahram Weekly, No. 901, 12 June, 2008), I wrote: “the show turns its satirical gaze homeward, taking up some of the most salient problems that face Egyptian society today and farcically exaggerating them: the religious hypocrisy of the new class of upstart businessmen and the dangerous coalition of money and religion; the rising cost of marriage which forces young people into long, secret, fruitless liaisons or condemns them to lifelong celibacy and sexual frustration; the chronic shortage of bread; … the deterioration of the educational system …; the worsening economic crisis which has made it impossible for most people to find a home of their own, seek medical help, or even bury their dead, has driven some parents to sell their daughters under the guise of marriage and has caused waves of illegal immigration across the Mediterranean, often ending in disaster…. By the end of the show,” I concluded, “the world portrayed on stage, though extremely farcical, seems a veritable wasteland.” You can’t say that the regime was not warned.

Indeed, there were warnings in plenty, wherever you turned your face, and they were graphically expressed in theatre by young artists whenever they got the chance. And yet, I was taken by surprise on 25 January. For days I felt dazed, elated, and worried sick all at the same time. ‘What next?’ was my first question. I had to confess that my own experience had made me thoroughly skeptical of all revolutions — indeed, of all ideologies, national projects and political causes. In all my cherished remembrances of youthful energy, deep faith and selfless rebelliousness, I could find plenty of sympathy with the demonstrators, but no refuge from doubt. God! All we, my generation, have gone through! The glorious hopes, dreams, sacrifices! And, finally, 1967 and terrible disillusionment; then a victory, in 1973, the moral and material fruits of which were soon robbed by ideological bigots, fortune seekers and social climbers. Then the rise of the tide of religious fundamentalism and its seeping deep into the basic layers of society, so much so that democracy, mechanically applied in the absence of its true spirit, and in the presence of poverty, ignorance, and a long tradition of intellectual oppression that puts a definite ceiling on free thought and willfully suppresses free choice and the spirit of inquiry in the name of religion, morality, the sacred heritage, cultural authenticity, the general good, or the public weal, seemed to me like a terrible threat, promising nothing but doom and gloom. The alternative was worse: a soulless capitalist, military dictatorship that voraciously sapped the energy of the nation, corrupted its morals and depleted its material and spiritual resources.

But this revolution was different, I argued with myself. It was not thoroughly planned and was largely spontaneous — nothing like the 1952 military coup d’état in whose shadow I had lived for close on 60 years. But then, what next? For if this revolution was not simply fuelled by a longing for democracy, but was also a protest against chronic unemployment, social injustice, the rising cost of living and the lack of a clear future for millions of young people, the question was, as someone wrote somewhere on the net, “when the bricks stop flying, what will Egyptians do to empower their fellow countrymen to better their lives?” is true, I thought, that, as this same writer went on to say, “while the fighting rages in Tahrir Square, the wealthiest abandoned downtown Egypt years ago, and built Californian-style gated communities on the edges of the desert named 6th of October, and Kattameya Hills. These Egyptians walled themselves off from the rest of the country, living much better than the average American, I assure you. If the roots of this revolt are over economics, then replacing a dictator won’t be enough.”

Yet, for a while, Tahrir Square seemed like a Utopian republic, where, as Yusef Rakha wrote, “Egyptians — Islamists, Copts, seculars, liberals, leftists, even the angry rabble … [were] … able to live productively and peacefully together;” where “all that is civic and public and state-operated about life was smoothly undertaken with infinitely more efficiency and conscience than anybody had ever known anywhere in Egypt.” Rakha (a dear, dear friend in spite of our difference in years) went on to say: “In Tahrir, spaces were opened up and, for the first time in our lifetimes, we could see that once the regime left us alone we had a lot more in common than we had ever thought possible; there is a necessary and beautiful space where we can all be together — and it is nowhere near as narrow or negative as the space in which reject the nidham, although the latter proved to be the only gateway to it. Slogans also referred to freedom, peace and unity. During the protests, in the open air, there was painting and music and theatre as well as prayers (Muslim and Christian); there were creative and hilarious responses to the oppressor outside and the apathetic onlooker at the doorstep. There was a flowering of graffiti; giant drawings seemed to crawl on the asphalt. Many of the smaller signs were literary gemstones, and video footage was quickly converted into songs. Photos were made into artworks of immediate relevance… Kites in the colours of the flag were constantly flown high in the sky; and the military helicopters, which the protesters did not always trust, seemed to circle them.”

This took me back to the late 1950s, when, as school children, we were herded to Tahrir Square in buses, pumped full of enthusiastic slogans, given little flags to wave, and made to sing national songs after Mohamed Abdel Wahab, who was there in the flesh, like a glorious, ruddy moon (this is how his face looked to me then), momentarily and miraculously descended to earth. Then too, Tahrir Square, indeed the whole of Egypt, had seemed like a utopia where freedom, dignity, social justice and equality were upheld principles. Rakha and his generation, however, luckily or otherwise, were not rushed into Tahrir Square by a charismatic national leader with a definite political programme. In Tahrir Square, in the late 1950s, we had no Islamists amongst us; our future Egypt was to be a democratic, secular, socialist state, we believed. That it would not become either democratic or socialist, and would be secular only in name and outer gloss, we were later to discover at a terrible cost.

Nevertheless, I wondered, shouldn’t a revolution have a ‘brain”, a clear ideological vision, declared goals and basic principles, and a manifesto? This has been an irking question since 25 January. When questioned about these very same points on the BBC Arabic Service, a prominent Islamist said: “Suffice it that we agree on bringing down the regime. This is our common goal now. Our ideological differences and political visions will be sorted out (fought out?) later.” Rakha, among many others, acknowledges as vital factors in the success of the revolution the logistical help provided by the very well organized Moslem Brotherhood and the positive neutrality of the army.

With the benefit of hindsight and the wisdom of old people I could have told dear Yusef Rakha that a revolt cradled between the wings of the military and Islamic bigots could not lay the foundation for a free, civil and democratic society. Elated as I was that people had finally got up enough courage to say ‘No’ and ‘Enough’, I could not help telling one of my students one night, when everybody was celebrating the army taking charge of the country, that since I had lived all my life under the rule of the military, I had hoped I would be free of them before I died.

In all my life I have learnt one thing: never to argue with the military or with self-proclaimed ‘true believers’. A dialogue in either case is at best futile, at worst, bloody and vengeful. While the former have military might; the latter have no fewer supporters than God Himself. How could one conduct a dialogue with people who would not even acknowledge your individual rights as a human being, a free thinker, and a free arbiter in matters of faith, gender roles and sexual identity? Islamic fundamentalists have no truck with such issues; they possess truth, the whole truth, and so help them ‘their’ god. Such a god as they uphold thought it worthy to sanction the killing of unbelievers — a sanction that culminated in the Luxor massacre, on 17 November 1997, at , not to mention the almost lethal attack on Naguib Mahfouz and the assassination of Farag Fouda, among others.

Media reports from Tahrir Square on the first day had sentimentalized and romanticized the event, comparing it once to a merry carnival and commending the self-restrain of the security forces. It made the whole thing seem disturbingly unreal, and I was strongly reminded of Fernando Arrabal’s Picnic on the Battle Field. Even the whitest of revolutions must have its fair share of innocent victims and martyrs; when the regime finally bared its ugly face and the first martyrs fell, the revolution became real — an open struggle for power, as all revolutions, indeed, ultimately are.

And, like all revolutions, this one brought out the best in people and the worst. It was hardly 10 days old and still fighting for survival, when the demented scramble to claim the largest bite possible of the prospective cake began. It was sickening to watch. The will of the nation, which had seemed unified behind its youth, soon splintered into many self- interested fighting factions, each with its own agenda and each claiming sole possession of Truth and Right. The first principles of democracy and human rights — principles the revolution champions had hoped to instate — namely: the right to differ without being called a traitor and the right of a defendant to be considered innocent until tried and proven otherwise — were shamelessly trampled on in the media. Daily, rumours spread like wild fire, ignited by old feuds, petty grudges, vengeful impulses and greedy ambition, leaving in its wake many an innocent victim and shrouding the truth in thick, impenetrable clouds of smoke. Rather than honourably seek out the truth and verify the facts, the media has turned it, wittingly or otherwise, into a hazy, ever elusive ball, feverishly bandied about by grim contesters and impossible to glimpse but for a fleeting second.

You know what happened afterwards; the referendum on the constitutional amendments, maliciously turned into a sectarian fight between Muslims and Copts, felt ominous and seemed to confirm my worst fears. Casting about for a ray of hope, I decided to put aside for a while the wisdom of age (my daughter had told me she had had enough of it, that it was thoroughly depressing and futile, and that every generation had to fight their own battles according to their altered circumstances) and set forth in search of hope; and I found it, albeit fleetingly, in the community of young theatre people.

While the was fiercely raging all over the country, and Mubarak was still acting deaf and grimly holding on to power, Cairo’s independent theatre troupes, many of them had already been in Tahrir Square from Day 1, took turns at fighting alongside the revolutionaries and improvising, singly or in impromptu coalitions, short performances to cheer up everybody, ease out the long hours of waiting for the good news, or the next eruption of violence, and generally keep up the morale. When things got too hot in the square, a number of these performances moved to a safer, but hardly more congenial, location across Kasr Al-Nil Bridge

The derelict space outside Al-Hanager Centre (once the home of many independent troupes but now closed, and has been so for nearly 4 years now, allegedly for renovation, but really for being politically naughty and potentially subversive) was the new venue, offered by the ever valiant Hoda Wasfi, the director of the centre. There, barricaded from the rest of the Opera grounds on all sides by a corrugated iron fence, a section of which they contrived to remove to let in spectators, surrounded by mounds of sand, cement and rubble and constantly harried and harassed by the architect in charge and his builders for being in the way, 6 independent theatre troupes — Sabeel (Public Drinking Fountain), Hala (A State of Mind)), Soo’ Tafahom (Misunderstanding), Halwasa (Hallucinations), Nas (People), and Ana El-Hikaya (I am the Story) — presented their performances over 5 evenings as one event, christened “Layali El-Meidan” (Nights at the Square).

Two weeks later, 3 of these performances — Sabeel’s Tahrir Stories, Pages from the Tahrir Diary, a collaborative work by a coalition of 3 independent troupes (, and El-Hikaya), and ‘ Tafahom’s It Was a Misunderstanding — were hosted by the Cultural Palaces organization at Manf hall, together with 2 new works, Halwasa’s By the Light of the Revolution Moon and Hamada Shousha’s Sahra Thawriyya (An Evening Celebrating the Revolution), some concerts, films, political colloquia, a book fair and a photography exhibition, in a big event that lasted from 14 to 28 and was called Hikayat Yanayer (Tales of January).

Pages from the Tahrir Diary, written, acted and directed by Hani Abdel Naser, Siham Abdel Salam, Mohamed Ti’eema and Mohamed Mahrous, with Naglaa Yunis giving a hand with the acting, Soo’ Tafahom’s It Was a Misunderstanding, collectively improvised by the troupe and directed by Mohamed Mabrouk, and Shousha’s Evening, also collectively devised by the members of his troupe, with music by Hussein Abu Al-Derda’ and choreography by Rasha and Leebi, were political cabaret shows, consisting in varying degrees of poems, music, songs, brief, satirical sketches, mime acts, some storytelling and group dances. Though predominantly humorous and vastly entertaining, there were moments when the feeling of elation and the celebratory mood gave way to profound grief and sorrow over fallen friends and comrades.

However, of the spate of shows created in the first flush of the revolution, the most moving were the ones that documented this historical event through the testimonies of people (artists or otherwise, alive or dead) who actually took part in the Tahrir demonstrations, told real stories of other demonstrators, and paid homage to the Tahrir martyrs. These were: Sabeel’s Tahrir Stories, put together and directed by Dalia Basiouny in a ritualistic vein, and Halwasa’s confessional By the Light of the Revolution Moon, written and acted by Hani Abdel Naser, Mohamed Abdel Mu’iz and Ahmed Fu’ad and directed by Hani Abdel Naser. Delivered in person or by proxy, the testimonies there had the authentic ring of truth; they were simply phrased and candidly delivered, had no trace of empty rhetoric or hollow sounding heroics; they intimately dwelt on what going to Tahrir Square had been like and what it had meant and done to the testifiers. In all, one major theme was ‘breaking the barrier of fear and feeling empowered’. Another was recovering a sense of belonging to something called Egypt and taking pride in the fact, together with a sense of dignity and personal worth. If the revolution has done nothing else and achieves nothing in future, this would be enough and well worth all the sacrifices.

More Tahrir Tales

by Nehad Selaiha – AL-AHRAM Weekly

Nehad Selaiha ponders the problematic of staging reality as she watches more theatrical takes on the Tahrir Square demonstrations
In her Introduction to Dramaturgy of the Real on the World Stage — an exciting collection theoretical, historical and performance texts that projects documentary theatre from fresher perspectives — Carol Martin, who edited the book and contributed one of its essays, takes up and profoundly investigates the issue of the elusiveness of truth in relation to the staging of ‘reality’ — a theme that has recently haunted me with grim persistence. “Despite the postmodern assertion that truth is not entirely verifiable,” she notes, “most people live guided by convictions about what they believe to be true. It’s this world — the world where truth is championed even as we experience our failure to ever know it with absolute finality — that theatre of the real attempts to stage.

Its assertion,” she goes on to say, ministering a strong antidote to my pervasive skepticism, “is that there is something to be known in addition to a dizzying kaleidoscopic array of competing truths. Skepticism and irony are still present,” she concedes, “but no longer centre stage.” Postmodernism notwithstanding, she concludes, almost chidingly, “A new generation of artists and scholars is committed to understanding theatre as an act of positive consequence.” In her own essay, ‘Bodies of Evidence’, which opens Part I of the book, Martin remarks, touching directly on the kind of theatre I have been watching since January 25: “In practice, much of contemporary documentary theatre is written contemporaneously with the events that are its subject matter…” and, therefore, “can directly intervene in the creation of history by unsettling the present by staging a disquieting past.” Though most of the performances I have seen lately do not generically qualify as documentary theatre and were neither consciously intended nor billed as such, they were uniformly, at least in part, concerned with putting real life scenes and experiences on stage in a variety of forms. Invariably, and however technically unsophisticated, or intellectually naïve, as some of them indeed were, they indirectly led one to question the relationship between facts and their interpretation by people as truth and/or reality, the role of the media in shaping our images of the self and understanding of facts, and the difference between ‘reality’, personally and concretely experienced, and ‘reality’ mediated through writing and the aesthetics of theatrical representation.

“A revolution cannot be televised,” says Dalia Basiouny (the founder of Sabeel, an independent theatre troupe established in Cairo in 1997,and one of that generation of committed artists, intent on making theatre an “act of positive consequence”), some American song, in her latest theatrical creation, entitled Solitaire. Originally, this dramatic monologue, which I saw at Rawabet theatre downtown on 30 March, was one of three, representing different generations of Egyptian women, in different socio-political contexts and at different historical junctures — a mother of the 1960s’ generation and her two daughters — and voiced at crucial moments of painful self discovery and identity definition.

I had read the 3 monologues, grouped together under the title Solitaire and courteously sent to me by Dalia, a few months before the revolution. While Dalia, as all independent theatre artists normally do when hoping to mount a production, was diligently fishing around for venues and funds, she suddenly found herself in Tahrir Square, among the revolutionaries. Her emailed reports to her friends from there during the 18 days preceding Mubarak’s’ stepping down are detailed, graphic and vibrant records of that historical event and have led her, within a few days of the eruption of the uprising, to collect and stage her Tahrir Stories, which I reviewed on this page last week.

But Solitaire still in Dalia’s mind, clamouring to be aired in March, as it had been promised by its authoress. And Dalia, famous for being irritatingly punctual and maddeningly scrupulous about keeping promises, fulfilled this one, at least in part. In one of the monologues, Dalia had drawn on her own personal experiences in New York, as an Arab Ph.D. student, after 11 September. Using a fictional persona — an expatriate, Egyptian, Muslim pharmacologist, happily married and with a charming little daughter — as a thin disguise to achieve a measure of dramatic objectivity as writer, she had drawn a memorable character, racked by questions of identity, torn between loyalty to the old homeland and the new adopted country, striving to find her own bearings in a fast-developing cosmopolitan culture, and grappling with the new world order’s double moral standards, historical prejudices, hegemonic drives and palpable injustices.

Like Dalia herself, her dramatic persona is a Sufi at heart, in search of peace and harmony, and the founts of spiritual energy at the mystical heart of the world. But she is also a determined political activist who believes for a while that demonstrations and sit-ins can stop the war on Iraq and the rabid campaign against Muslims in the West, and force the super powers to give some attention to the plight of the Palestinians. Without real religious convictions of its necessity, she nevertheless wears the Islamic veil in sympathy with her fellow Muslim female sufferers. She is sadly disillusioned, however, vows to quit demonstrating, having realized its futility, and seriously considers becoming officially an American citizen, as her easy-going and ‘practical’ husband had long advised, and taking the loyalty oath.

Disenchanted with the efficacy of public, popular protests, as Dalia was upon coming back from the States, she, nevertheless, rushed to Tahrir Square on 25 January. And there, her faith was restored. The original monologue was promptly rewritten to connect the events of in the United States to the Egyptian Revolution, highlighting both events as main catalysts in the change the world has been, and will be, undergoing in the 21st Century. With her meager funds, she decided to stage the re-written monologue at Rawabet, at her own expense, and it came across as a confessional monodrama about self-discovery and the slippery path connecting private and public spaces, the personal and political, and aesthetics, truth and reality.

Professional and more technically sophisticated than any of the records of the Revolution I have seen so far, Dalia’s Solitaire — a multi- media performance that, true to her Sabeel troupe’s objective, focuses on ‘promoting women’s work, researching ways of integrating theatre and video to create non-traditional plays and perform them in alternative spaces,’ as Dalia states in the play’s programme — sheds light on the changing identity of Arabs in the past decade and feelingly, humorously and wittily documents the crisis of identity, brought about by world events, that she experienced in her sojourn abroad, and her tormenting search for peace with self and the world.

With a few simple props, meticulously chosen and thoroughly elegant — a screen at the back for video projections, a cushion on the floor, stage centre, placed in front of a small brazier, a slim, modern chair, upholstered in gaudy red, with a small side table on one side, and a large shawl that eventually serves as an Islamic veil — and evocative, mood-sensitive lighting, Dalia, plainly dressed in turquoise, with her long, curly hair let down, introduced the performance as a personal, private ritual into which we were for this once admitted, and deftly proceeded to cross the narrow, slippery path between fact and fiction, reality and artistic truth. Sincere as she invariably sounded, she was careful throughout to preserve for her audience a certain aesthetic distance that allowed them to critique her narration as an eye witness account of a reality mediated through theatrical representation. That the performance raised more questions than it answered, prodded you to question the narration even while you were artistically persuaded to credit its truth, was a mark of profound intellectual integrity and artistic proficiency.

As a true revolutionary, Dalia Basiouny took her Solitaire to the first theatre festival of Gulamekhak in Sulaymanyah, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which featured a number of one woman plays from Kurdistan, in addition to monodramas from Egypt, Germany, Sweden, and Belgium. In the Gulamekhak festival (Gulamekhak is the Kurdish name for the carnation flower, a symbol for Kurdish women), Solitaire, true to its nature as an authentic, thought- provoking piece, caused commotion in the artistic and political circles on account of its opposition to the American invasion of Iraq, which is considered by many Kurds a liberation for their region.

Of such qualities as Dalia’s Solitaire vaunted — namely, intellectual integrity and artistic proficiency, Al-Tali’a’s A Ticket to Tahrir Square — collaboratively written by the performers in an improvisation workshop under the guidance and supervision of Yusef Muslim, with lyrics by Mohamed El-Azayzi, music by Ahmed Hamdi Ra’of, scenography by Fadi Fouquet, and directed by Sameh Basiouny, and featuring scenes from the Tahrir demonstrations, punctuated by songs, video projections of Mubarak’s last speeches and Omar Soliman’s announcement of the president’s decision to step down, individual statements and several personal stories and monologues of varying length — had little to boast.

In this kind of show, one assumes the performers’ statements, stories and confessional monologues to be authentic and their own, rather than fictional approximations of things that could have happened to others, or appropriations of real stories of absent demonstrators, dead or alive, acted in absentia by performers acting as surrogates. I doubt very much that this was the case here; this was not a straightforward, confessional piece like Dalia’s Tahrir Stories, or Hani Abdel Nasser’s By the Light of the Revolution Moon (both reviewed last week). The improvisation workshop which produced this text may have used some personal experiences of the performers who took part in the Tahrir events; however, the fictional, meta-theatrical framework chosen by director Sameh Basiouny and his dramaturge, Muslim, worked against the illusion of authenticity, so necessary in this kind of show, and damagingly highlighted its performative strategies and innate artificiality as a theatrical fabrication.

Humorous as it was, the meta-theatrical framing device in this show — which featured a young couple professing to be members of Al-Tali’a theatre troupe and hell bent on stopping or disrupting a performance called A Ticket to Tahrir Square the troupe is about to present because its director, Sameh Basiouny, had excluded them from the cast — not only seemed tediously hackneyed, having been tiresomely overworked by young directors in the past two decades, but also made a mockery of the show’s proclaimed pretensions to being a ‘faithful documentary’.

The heavily made up faces of the beautiful female performers; the confusing preponderance of red shirts worn by both sexes, signifying for some the red flannels of a leading Egyptian football team (Al-Ahli club’s), communism for the maturer in years, and blood and violence, passion, love and a myriad of other denotations for the ideologically innocent; the invariably declamatory mode of acting in the single monologues, embarrassingly sentimental, constantly hovering on the edge of melodramatic exaggeration, and always striving for ‘effect’; the dearth of visual documentary material; the apparent artificiality of the writing; and the ponderous vociferations of Mr. Muslim, bearded and all, as he punctually walked in and out of the performance space, acting as commentator-cum- oracle, and freezing the actors in medias res to provide background tableaux vivants to his words, not to mention the historically simplistic and shallow approach to the whole event, made A Ticket to Tahrir Square morally bankrupt and not worth the buying.

Ironically, as if to confirm my feelings about this Ticket, Imad Abu Ghazi, the new minister of culture, a thoroughly affable and modest person and a decen scholar, happened to be there on the night I watched it. The flurry and flutter his presence occasioned before the show and his subsequent mobbing by the actors at the end of it were clear pointers that nothing has really changed. Having often watched such pathetically obsequious spectacles previously mounted for the pleasure and gratification of the former, long-reigning minister of culture, Farouk Husni, I was thoroughly disoriented, seeing one mask of power exchanged for another without the viewers seeming to notice the change. For a fleeting second, time rolled backwards. Once more, I was left thoroughly doubtful and casting around for hope with a sinking heart.

Nehad Selaiha ponders the problematic of staging reality as she watches more theatrical takes on the Tahrir Square demonstrations
In her Introduction to Dramaturgy of the Real on the World Stage — an exciting collection theoretical, historical and performance texts that projects documentary theatre from fresher perspectives — Carol Martin, who edited the book and contributed one of its essays, takes up and profoundly investigates the issue of the elusiveness of truth in relation to the staging of ‘reality’ — a theme that has recently haunted me with grim persistence. “Despite the postmodern assertion that truth is not entirely verifiable,” she notes, “most people live guided by convictions about what they believe to be true. It’s this world — the world where truth is championed even as we experience our failure to ever know it with absolute finality — that theatre of the real attempts to stage.

Its assertion,” she goes on to say, ministering a strong antidote to my pervasive skepticism, “is that there is something to be known in addition to a dizzying kaleidoscopic array of competing truths. Skepticism and irony are still present,” she concedes, “but no longer centre stage.” Postmodernism notwithstanding, she concludes, almost chidingly, “A new generation of artists and scholars is committed to understanding theatre as an act of positive consequence.” In her own essay, ‘Bodies of Evidence’, which opens Part I of the book, Martin remarks, touching directly on the kind of theatre I have been watching since January 25: “In practice, much of contemporary documentary theatre is written contemporaneously with the events that are its subject matter…” and, therefore, “can directly intervene in the creation of history by unsettling the present by staging a disquieting past.” Though most of the performances I have seen lately do not generically qualify as documentary theatre and were neither consciously intended nor billed as such, they were uniformly, at least in part, concerned with putting real life scenes and experiences on stage in a variety of forms. Invariably, and however technically unsophisticated, or intellectually naïve, as some of them indeed were, they indirectly led one to question the relationship between facts and their interpretation by people as truth and/or reality, the role of the media in shaping our images of the self and understanding of facts, and the difference between ‘reality’, personally and concretely experienced, and ‘reality’ mediated through writing and the aesthetics of theatrical representation.

“A revolution cannot be televised,” says Dalia Basiouny (the founder of Sabeel, an independent theatre troupe established in Cairo in 1997,and one of that generation of committed artists, intent on making theatre an “act of positive consequence”), some American song, in her latest theatrical creation, entitled Solitaire. Originally, this dramatic monologue, which I saw at Rawabet theatre downtown on 30 March, was one of three, representing different generations of Egyptian women, in different socio-political contexts and at different historical junctures — a mother of the 1960s’ generation and her two daughters — and voiced at crucial moments of painful self discovery and identity definition.

I had read the 3 monologues, grouped together under the title Solitaire and courteously sent to me by Dalia, a few months before the revolution. While Dalia, as all independent theatre artists normally do when hoping to mount a production, was diligently fishing around for venues and funds, she suddenly found herself in Tahrir Square, among the revolutionaries. Her emailed reports to her friends from there during the 18 days preceding Mubarak’s’ stepping down are detailed, graphic and vibrant records of that historical event and have led her, within a few days of the eruption of the uprising, to collect and stage her Tahrir Stories, which I reviewed on this page last week.

But Solitaire still in Dalia’s mind, clamouring to be aired in March, as it had been promised by its authoress. And Dalia, famous for being irritatingly punctual and maddeningly scrupulous about keeping promises, fulfilled this one, at least in part. In one of the monologues, Dalia had drawn on her own personal experiences in New York, as an Arab Ph.D. student, after 11 September. Using a fictional persona — an expatriate, Egyptian, Muslim pharmacologist, happily married and with a charming little daughter — as a thin disguise to achieve a measure of dramatic objectivity as writer, she had drawn a memorable character, racked by questions of identity, torn between loyalty to the old homeland and the new adopted country, striving to find her own bearings in a fast-developing cosmopolitan culture, and grappling with the new world order’s double moral standards, historical prejudices, hegemonic drives and palpable injustices.

Like Dalia herself, her dramatic persona is a Sufi at heart, in search of peace and harmony, and the founts of spiritual energy at the mystical heart of the world. But she is also a determined political activist who believes for a while that demonstrations and sit-ins can stop the war on Iraq and the rabid campaign against Muslims in the West, and force the super powers to give some attention to the plight of the Palestinians. Without real religious convictions of its necessity, she nevertheless wears the Islamic veil in sympathy with her fellow Muslim female sufferers. She is sadly disillusioned, however, vows to quit demonstrating, having realized its futility, and seriously considers becoming officially an American citizen, as her easy-going and ‘practical’ husband had long advised, and taking the loyalty oath.

Disenchanted with the efficacy of public, popular protests, as Dalia was upon coming back from the States, she, nevertheless, rushed to Tahrir Square on 25 January. And there, her faith was restored. The original monologue was promptly rewritten to connect the events of in the United States to the Egyptian Revolution, highlighting both events as main catalysts in the change the world has been, and will be, undergoing in the 21st Century. With her meager funds, she decided to stage the re-written monologue at Rawabet, at her own expense, and it came across as a confessional monodrama about self-discovery and the slippery path connecting private and public spaces, the personal and political, and aesthetics, truth and reality.

Professional and more technically sophisticated than any of the records of the Revolution I have seen so far, Dalia’s Solitaire — a multi- media performance that, true to her Sabeel troupe’s objective, focuses on ‘promoting women’s work, researching ways of integrating theatre and video to create non-traditional plays and perform them in alternative spaces,’ as Dalia states in the play’s programme — sheds light on the changing identity of Arabs in the past decade and feelingly, humorously and wittily documents the crisis of identity, brought about by world events, that she experienced in her sojourn abroad, and her tormenting search for peace with self and the world.

With a few simple props, meticulously chosen and thoroughly elegant — a screen at the back for video projections, a cushion on the floor, stage centre, placed in front of a small brazier, a slim, modern chair, upholstered in gaudy red, with a small side table on one side, and a large shawl that eventually serves as an Islamic veil — and evocative, mood-sensitive lighting, Dalia, plainly dressed in turquoise, with her long, curly hair let down, introduced the performance as a personal, private ritual into which we were for this once admitted, and deftly proceeded to cross the narrow, slippery path between fact and fiction, reality and artistic truth. Sincere as she invariably sounded, she was careful throughout to preserve for her audience a certain aesthetic distance that allowed them to critique her narration as an eye witness account of a reality mediated through theatrical representation. That the performance raised more questions than it answered, prodded you to question the narration even while you were artistically persuaded to credit its truth, was a mark of profound intellectual integrity and artistic proficiency.

As a true revolutionary, Dalia Basiouny took her Solitaire to the first theatre festival of Gulamekhak in Sulaymanyah, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which featured a number of one woman plays from Kurdistan, in addition to monodramas from Egypt, Germany, Sweden, and Belgium. In the Gulamekhak festival (Gulamekhak is the Kurdish name for the carnation flower, a symbol for Kurdish women), Solitaire, true to its nature as an authentic, thought- provoking piece, caused commotion in the artistic and political circles on account of its opposition to the American invasion of Iraq, which is considered by many Kurds a liberation for their region.

Of such qualities as Dalia’s Solitaire vaunted — namely, intellectual integrity and artistic proficiency, Al-Tali’a’s A Ticket to Tahrir Square — collaboratively written by the performers in an improvisation workshop under the guidance and supervision of Yusef Muslim, with lyrics by Mohamed El-Azayzi, music by Ahmed Hamdi Ra’of, scenography by Fadi Fouquet, and directed by Sameh Basiouny, and featuring scenes from the Tahrir demonstrations, punctuated by songs, video projections of Mubarak’s last speeches and Omar Soliman’s announcement of the president’s decision to step down, individual statements and several personal stories and monologues of varying length — had little to boast.

In this kind of show, one assumes the performers’ statements, stories and confessional monologues to be authentic and their own, rather than fictional approximations of things that could have happened to others, or appropriations of real stories of absent demonstrators, dead or alive, acted in absentia by performers acting as surrogates. I doubt very much that this was the case here; this was not a straightforward, confessional piece like Dalia’s Tahrir Stories, or Hani Abdel Nasser’s By the Light of the Revolution Moon (both reviewed last week). The improvisation workshop which produced this text may have used some personal experiences of the performers who took part in the Tahrir events; however, the fictional, meta-theatrical framework chosen by director Sameh Basiouny and his dramaturge, Muslim, worked against the illusion of authenticity, so necessary in this kind of show, and damagingly highlighted its performative strategies and innate artificiality as a theatrical fabrication.

Humorous as it was, the meta-theatrical framing device in this show — which featured a young couple professing to be members of Al-Tali’a theatre troupe and hell bent on stopping or disrupting a performance called A Ticket to Tahrir Square the troupe is about to present because its director, Sameh Basiouny, had excluded them from the cast — not only seemed tediously hackneyed, having been tiresomely overworked by young directors in the past two decades, but also made a mockery of the show’s proclaimed pretensions to being a ‘faithful documentary’.

The heavily made up faces of the beautiful female performers; the confusing preponderance of red shirts worn by both sexes, signifying for some the red flannels of a leading Egyptian football team (Al-Ahli club’s), communism for the maturer in years, and blood and violence, passion, love and a myriad of other denotations for the ideologically innocent; the invariably declamatory mode of acting in the single monologues, embarrassingly sentimental, constantly hovering on the edge of melodramatic exaggeration, and always striving for ‘effect’; the dearth of visual documentary material; the apparent artificiality of the writing; and the ponderous vociferations of Mr. Muslim, bearded and all, as he punctually walked in and out of the performance space, acting as commentator-cum- oracle, and freezing the actors in medias res to provide background tableaux vivants to his words, not to mention the historically simplistic and shallow approach to the whole event, made A Ticket to Tahrir Square morally bankrupt and not worth the buying.

Ironically, as if to confirm my feelings about this Ticket, Imad Abu Ghazi, the new minister of culture, a thoroughly affable and modest person and a decen scholar, happened to be there on the night I watched it. The flurry and flutter his presence occasioned before the show and his subsequent mobbing by the actors at the end of it were clear pointers that nothing has really changed. Having often watched such pathetically obsequious spectacles previously mounted for the pleasure and gratification of the former, long-reigning minister of culture, Farouk Husni, I was thoroughly disoriented, seeing one mask of power exchanged for another without the viewers seeming to notice the change. For a fleeting second, time rolled backwards. Once more, I was left thoroughly doubtful and casting around for hope with a sinking heart.

No words can describe the frustration in Tahrir Square

The disappointment felt by Egyptians is matched only by their determination to fight on against Mubarak

The cool breeze in the air is not capable of calming the flames of anger that Mubarak’s speech ignited last night. I was in Tahrir square with hundreds of thousands of people. The square has never before been that busy at night. People of every age and background were flooding the place all afternoon and evening when they heard that the president was going to address the nation. You could sense the excitement and feel the elation as you walked next to people discussing all the possible scenarios after the president stepped down. Many impromptu parties were being formed, with drumming, dancing and chanting. The Egyptians would be free of the dictator who ruled and corrupted Egypt for 30 years. TV and radio stations had been announcing the charges against many of the symbols of the system; previous ministers and ruling party officials were going to be tried for their crimes and corruption.

The joyful jubilation continued around the square for hours, as the speech was delayed. Songs of solidarity were broadcast and people sang loudly with hoarse voices, the result of days of chanting and shouting pro-democracy slogans.

Then everyone hushed down to listen to Mubarak. Some couldn’t hear the loudspeakers, they were listening to their radios. Next to me a young artist was listening to the radio on his mobile and repeating the speech word for word for his group to listen. People remarked on how defeated his voice was. They thought the people’s demands would be met. But Mubarak’s old rhetoric did not change, and the language he was using was slowly making people realise that the old tactics have not changed. Tears formed in some of the eyes of those who heard it first; they understood what he was going to say. He is not stepping down. Anti-Mubarak chants echoed here and there, but the crowd continued to listen and their anger continued to rise. When he finished, we were all stunned. A middle-aged man who has been in the square since the beginning shouted a swear word. People behind me picked it up and made it into a short chant. The crowds in all parts of the square were enraged, chanting, screaming, crying.

Many had no words. They just sat, or smoked nervously, or looked at each other with vacant eyes. A young woman next to me asked her sister. “Didn’t he give his authority to his vice president? Why is everyone upset?” The people demanded that he stepped down, and he didn’t – confusing the population with technicalities. This trick did not fool millions of Egyptians who woke up during this revolution, and are willing to give up their lives for freedom.

Then there was a speech by the vice-president – most of those listening to it stood in front of the largest loudspeaker holding one of their shoes in their hands. Some chanted: “No to Mubarak. No to Suleiman. Both are working for the Americans.” Others threatened: “If you don’t leave, we’ll come to the presidential palace to take you out.”

There are no words to express the disappointment and frustration that fell on Tahrir Square and millions of other Egyptians last night. But there is also no way to describe the determination in the eyes of those who are staying in the square. They will continue to fight till they win. They have no other choice. If they leave now, in a matter of hours they will all be in detention accused of conspiring against the system. People who learned that they have rights are going to defending these rights “till the last breath”, as many vowed last night.

صواريخ ملونة لا تبعث على البهجة

بواسطة داليا بسيوني – كتب في “جدلية”

أعشق الصواريخ الملونة التي تطلق في الهواء فتنير السماء. تبتسم شفتاي رغماً عني أينما كنت إذا ما رأيت صواريخ ملونة. أعرف صوتها جيداً، وأميزه وسط أي ضوضاء. يتحرك رأسي باتجاهها، وكأنما يجذبه مغناطيس للاتجاه الصحيح. غالباً أكون أول من يرى الصورايخ الملونة. أقفز فرحة في الهواء، وكأنني أود أن أصعد أنا أيضاً في اتجاه السماء لأمسك بهذه النجوم التي تتلألأ لثوان معدودة ثم تختفي. آلاف النجمات في تشكيلات متلألاة، متداخلة، ينفجر بعضها نوراً من داخل بعض. الصواريخ الملونة علامة من علامات الفرح التي تدخل على قلبي السعادة.

اليوم رأيت صواريخ ملونة.. ولم يمتلئ قلبي سعادة!

كنت في بلكونة عالية وسط المدينة، ورأيت السماء خضراء، ثم حمراء، ثم ذهبية، وبعد قليل من إتجاه آخر ظهرت ألوان أخرى. وسمعت أصوات طلقات رصاص، وأصوات صواريخ، بعد ثوان قليلة أدركت سببها. يحتفل مؤيدو الإخوان المسلمين بالقرارات الرئاسية التي صدرت اليوم بإحالة كبار رجال الجيش للتقاعد، وتسليم بعضهم مواقع حيوية خارج الجيش، وتعيين قيادات جديدة ذات توجهات إخوانية.

أصدر مرسي عدداً من القرارات الكبرى التي ستكشف الأيام عما وراءها. لم يفرج عن آلاف الثوار المعتقلين إثر محاكمات عسكرية متعجلة، أو حتى يدعو لمحاكمتهم أمام محاكم مدنية. لم يتخذ قراراً واحدا ينصف المصابين، أو يرد حق من بذلوا دمهم واستشهدوا دفاعاً عن مبدأ. عزل وعين. ألغى دستوراً مكملاً، وحل مجلساً عسكرياً، بدل قيادة بأخرى، وأمسك بزمام كافة السلطات، فنزل مؤيدوه يحتفلون.

أحارب الزحام في شوارع وسط المدينة المهمومة بشراء ملابس للعيد الذي اقترب موعده. أتفاوض مع البشر، والباعة، والبضاعة المعروضة على الرصيف وفي نهر الطريق، أصارع حتى لا تصرعني سيارة ضج قائدها من شدة الازدحام، حتى اقترب من الميدان. ميدان الثورة. قابلت فيه أنبل من في مصر، رأيت فيه بطولات يومية، وتضحيات، وابتسامات، وشجاعة لم أعرفها من قبل سوى في كتب الملاحم. تعلمت فيه الكثير، وفتحت قلبي لصداقات جديدة غيرتني كما غيرت بلدي. ميدان التحرير.

طاقة الميدان مختلفة تماماً هذه الليلة. لا يشوبه أي شعور بالأمان. تزاحم وتدافع وهرج. سيارات تتحرك وسط تلاحم البشر. هتافات وأناشيد ذات طبيعة مختلفة. شعارات ولافتات مؤيدة للرئيس. أناس كثيرون.. لكنهم ليسوا أصدقائي. لم يتجمعوا هنا ليدافعوا عن حقي في أن أكون، أو أن أقول رأيي. لم يأتوا هنا من أجل حرية الوطن، وتحرير الثوار. أتوا ليدعموا قرارات، يعتقدون أنها تحررهم من العسكر، وتوسع سلطة رئيس الدولة. فرحهم المبالغ فيه، هتافاتهم ذات النبرة الإسلامية، صواريخهم الملونة لا تثير في سوى شجون.

أقف إلى جوار “أبي الثوار” وسط الميدان. عينا العجوز كالصقر تجوب الميدان في قلق حذر. أقول له جئت لأطمئن عليك، يقول لي “ظفرك برقبة الإتنين دول!” يقصد من يجلس على كرسي الرئاسة، ومن كان يرأس المجلس العسكري. “ظفر أي شابة أو شاب مصري برقبتهم كلهم!” تتجمع دموع لا تنزل من عينيّ. يخشى الرجل الحكيم من الصدام بين أبناء الشعب بسبب القرارات الرئاسية التي لم يتضح بعد ما وراءها. لقد رأى كثيراً من الدم الطاهر مراقاً في الميدان والشوارع المحيطة، ولا يود أن تزهق دماء مصرية أخرى.

وسط الميدان يتفجر بلون أحمر مضئ، ألعاب نارية أرضية. يدور عدد من الشباب حولها في سعادة. بينما ينقبض قلبي وأنا أرى الصواريخ الملونة تطلق من ميدان التحرير، بعدما سمعت الهتافات، والأناشيد، والشعارات، ورأيت اللافتات المؤيدة للرئيس.

اليوم لم يعد للصواريخ الملونة معنى سعيداً مبهجاً، بالنسبة لي!

A spiritual meeting of religion and culture

by Dalia Basiouny – Daily News Egypt   on 08 – 12 – 2009

Under the bright light of a perfect full moon, Cairo Opera House hosted an evening of Egyptian spiritual music last week, bringing together Sufi chanting and Coptic hymns, in addition to Egyptian and German music compositions.

This unique performance was the brainchild of Egyptian composer Basem Darwisch, the ambassador of Egyptian music in Germany. Darwisch collaborated with famous German pianist and composer Matthias Frey, the versatile German musician Budi Siebert, and the gifted Egyptian composer and qanoun player Hossam Shaker on a quest to explore the secrets of Egyptian spiritual music. Their search led them to uncovering the roots that connect Sufi-inshad and Christian hymns.

The musical journey that culminated in the Opera House performance was an attempt to seek the sacred roots of both types of music while reaching for the branches in contemporary spiritual music in Egypt. The concert featured the renowned Egyptian spiritual singers Sheikh Al Helbawi with his son Ali Al-Helbawi and Maher Fayez’s group Al-Karouz for Christian music.

The spiritual concert started with the powerful voice of Sheikh Mohamed Al-Helbawi, who delivered three Sufi chants. The purity of his inshad required no music accompaniment. His virtuoso performance set the energy for the rest of the evening in an ode to divine love.

The four musicians Frey, Siebert, Shaker, and Darwisch, presented “Alpha and Omega and “Music Siwa; two compositions that connects East and West, linking their varied music heritages and their research in spiritual music that spanned a number of cultures covering India, China and Mexico in addition to the European and Egyptian traditions.
Next on stage were Maher Fayez and Al Karouz Choir presenting “Before I Go to Pray and the crowd-pleaser “I Close the Windows. Many of the audience members joined in the chanting, creating a community feel that connected stage to auditorium.

After the intermission, there was a surprise appearance by Egyptian singer Ali El-Haggar. El-Haggar’s inimitable voice chanted just one word, “Allah. He joined the musicians in a medley of his well known song, “Where Did We Pray the Dawn, with solo improvisations showing the range of abilities of each of the accomplished musicians on stage.

The second set also presented Ali Al-Helbawi, Sheikh Mohamed Al-Helbawi’s son, representing the new generation of Sufi-inshad. The young Helbawi performed the heartwarming “Ya Rab and a chant to the Virgin Mary, creating more links between the constituencies of both religions.

Maher Fayez and Al Karouz Choir performed three more modern Coptic hymns. Though not offering much variety with lyrics not always fitting the music, their popular beats were embraced by the audience members.

The sole down side of the performance was the poor visuals. The stage was cluttered with badly executed cut-out geometric shapes behind the performers, golden dangling beads above them, and long strands of silver beads around them. The tacky decor crowded the space and added a makeshift, amateur feel to the performance.
This successful music event presented separate acts in succession: the inshad, followed by the new spiritual music compositions, followed by Coptic music. It raised an expectation of the magic that could have taken place if these performers were on stage at the same time.

This is not an unreachable dream; musicians around the world are working on such collaborations, across cultural and religious boundaries. In 2003 Syrian Sufi Shiekh Ahmad Al-Azrak presented an awe-inspiring performance in Toronto Music Festival where he collaborated with a Gregorian choir, mixing inshad with the hymns. The highlight of that performance was Al-Azrak performing a Gregorian chant to Arabic maqam music, truly embracing the two traditions to spawn a new hybrid genre.
Egyptian Spiritual Music was more than an evening of music and songs, it was a gathering of hearts and minds in search of what connects humans to what they deem sacred in themselves and the other. Those seeking a cure for the “clash of civilizations should look into music as a language that is able to transcend cultural differences and create human and divine connections

An ode to love in Pina Bausch’s choreography

by Dalia Basiouny – Daily News Egypt   on 04 – 10 – 2009

After a long wait, Egyptian audiences witnessed the magic of Pina Bausch’s choreography at the Cairo Opera House this week. The grand finale of the 50th anniversary of Goethe’s Institute in Egypt was two dance performances by the German choreographer and director.

Tanztheater Wuppertal, the company Bausch led for 36 years before her death in June 2009, presented two pieces at the two ends of the spectrum of styles of the internationally acclaimed choreographer.

The unknowing eye would not attribute “Bamboo Blues and “Le Sacre du Printemps (Rites of Spring) to the same artist. Yet the genius of master choreographer and dance innovator Pina Bausch is evident in both pieces.

Egyptian audiences watched the first act of “Bamboo Blues which was conceived as a collaboration with India in 2007, in the artist’s signature style of “intra-national work, reflecting the troupe’s responses and feelings about India. The end result is truly a “blues, a slow meditation on the state of humans, and an ode to love in its different forms.

In homage to Bollywood, the female dancers move across the stage in colorful flowing dresses. After a few romantic exchanges between couples of lovers experiencing the different stages of love, the female dancers, in languid movements, arrange themselves in a group lying down lazily on stage while slowly chewing. The eternal wait of women is beautifully condensed in this tableau that is repeated during the performance.

Far from being a slow performance, the immaculate dances of solos, couples and trios were pulsating with life and energy. Bausch had set out to explore love, Indian style, and she was going to present the full range: the innocence of flirtation, the protected intimacy of a new couple, the intense passion of another, the possessiveness, the jealousy, the violence, the forced love, the unrequited love, the unfulfilled love, the attempt to gain love, and to be in love. Happiness is fragile and does not last long in the world of “Bamboo Blues.

The music, as varied as the Indian subcontinent itself, had an undercurrent of happy-sadness or sad-happiness that is described in Arabic music as “shagan.
One of the remarkable dance sequences that stand out in this hour-long act is a female Indian dancer performing classical Indian movements, with specific hand gestures, to a Western pop song. The Indian dancer, Shantala Shivalingappa, has been a guest dancer with Pina Bausch’s company for the past 10 years.

She told Daily News Egypt that her classical training in Kuchipudi (a classical Indian dance form, traditionally performed by men and only recently opened to women) shaped her body language and influenced her movement. In her signature style, Bausch selected some of the routines and movements that Shantala suggested.
“Pina encouraged dancers to produce movements and explore moves, then she would select the sequences or steps that fit best into the theme and her vision, Shivalingappa said.

This approach was not only her method with dancers but her collaborative work style with all the creators of the work. Fernando Jacon, responsible for the lights, refused to call himself a light designer. He explained to Daily News Egypt that in Tanztheater Wuppertal each member of the group proposed elements of design or dance and gave ideas to Bausch, who experimented with different ways of arranging them. “We work for Pina’s eyes. She is the final light designer, he was happy to declare.
“Le Sacre du Printemps. the second part of the show, is one of the earlier works of Bausch. She created this piece, which put her name on the international dance map, in 1975.

The powerful 35-minute performance brought the audience literally down to earth. The stage was covered in thick dirt which created an immediate juxtaposition to the delicate sheer dresses of the dancers, who gather to celebrate the return of Spring. Instead of the joyful festivities that mark the return of the sun to the Northern hemisphere, the music of Igor Stravinsky, carries a foreboding of an innocence about to be lost.

Bausch’s choreography emphasizes the frailty of human condition, and fragility of youth in the face of powerful changes. The vigorous dancing evokes tribal rituals, and rites of passage that modern society lacks as it disconnects itself from earth’s natural patterns.

In “Le Sacre du Printemps Bausch puts her dancers in physical touch with earth, which changes the meaning of every step they take. Their struggle is real, the effort to move with such speed in the thick dirt causes palpable exertion that the audience can see and feel in the dancers bodies and energy.
During the pauses between the music interludes the panting of the dancers fills the space. Instead of a celebration of the joys of Spring and the pleasures of youth, Bausch offers a thoughtful reflection on the meaning of life and love.

Like love itself the work of Pina Bausch lures the audience in, so softy, only to move them and shake them and change their world beyond recognition.
What a loss that the grand dame of choreography was not able to come to Egypt before her departure, and record her experiences in a dance piece about Cairo. What a loss that Bausch will not enrich the world theaters with new inspiration and her unique choreography.

Dance show fails to present ideas of pioneering feminist

by Dalia Basiouny –  Daily News Egypt   on 18 – 02 – 2010

The Egyptian Modern Dance Theatre Company presented its latest production, “Women of Kasem Amin at the Opera House’s Gomhoryia Theater this week.
Walid Aouni’s ambitious project to present major figures from Egyptian contemporary history previously paid homage to modern sculpturer Mahmoud Mokhtar and filmmaker Shadi Abdel Salam.

The theme of the current production, apparent in the title of the performance, is the work of Kasem Amin, the Egyptian social thinker of the late 19th century, whose books “Women’s Liberation and “The New Woman sparked controversy in Egyptian society at the time, because of his call for women to remove the traditional face cover and participate more fully in society. This call was directed to the upper middle class women, as most working women, whether in rural or urban areas, never covered their faces to begin with.

Aouni’s program notes describe the task he sets out to achieve. “In dealing with a historical figure like Kasem Amin, our performance should not only focus on his defense for women or his analysis in his two books. . But it should reveal the beginning of a new social, political, religious, and cultural age. A formidable task for a dance performance.

The performance starts with a haunting image of nine women in long black dresses, their heads covered in black fabric that extends from their faces to the top of the stage. The stretchy tubes of fabric elongate the bodies of the slender performers further and allow them a limited range of movement, creating a phantom feel.

There is no logical continuum in this dance performance that claims to represent the history of modern Egyptian women. The sequencing of dances was baffling. After the female dancers remove their hair covers, and dance a couple of numbers with their hair showing, they appear with their faces covered again.

When the women remove their head covers, they start to move hysterically across the stage and mimic shouting at the men. They run and fall under the feet of the men in hysterics. When the director literally projects the names of Egyptian beacons of the women s liberation movement in Egypt like Hoda Shaarawi, Safia Zagloul, Bahethat Al-Badya and May Ziada on the back of the stage, it is not befitting to play to the flawed Freudian rhetoric that saw women as hysterical because of Freud’s erroneous judgment on the case of Dora.

Once the female dancers are “liberated they perform in a style that flirts with the notion of a harem, the furthest thing from Kasem Amin’s ideology.
It’s understood that most modern dance stems from the ego of the dancer or is a representation of it. But Aouni’s ego pushed him into unforgivable indiscretions. In the Arabic program notes he writes that the woman was “nothing before “Kasem Amin gave her the responsibility of motherhood, nation and the future. Who, in their right mind, can reduce the role of women in any society to “nothing ? Who can deny the struggle of women for generations? Its seems Mr Aouni does.

The second major faux pas was in the middle of the performance, when the women create a circle on stage, and the director/choreographer stands in the middle of the circle in a heroic posture. After a few still moments, the music changes to disco beats and Aouni starts to move vigorously, as if he is an uncoordinated child expressing his anger. He rolls his arms and jumps up and down, in an immature metaphor denoting shaking the status quo. So now it’s not Kasem Amin who’s liberating the women; it’s Walid Aouni, and this liberation will happen through a juvenile disco dance.

This dance performance only pays lip-service to the liberation of women, but many of the images it offers show women as subordinate or helpless. The examples are numerous. After the female dancers remove their vertical connection to the roof, they are moved around by the male dancers who seem to dress them as if they are lifeless mannequins, placing clothes on their extended arms, or covering their faces.

Toward the end of the performance, the female dancers appear in colorful dresses, and dance in couples with the men, who eventually sit on the ground, under the feet of the women who shake their hips, reducing the liberation of women to belly dance.

Though the ideas are problematic, “Women of Kasim Amen has some interesting visuals: the contrast of the colors with black and white, the trick of the cut-out dolls in black – when turned they show happy floral patterns – as well as the light design.

Light created a window-like effect at the back of stage. Later these “windows were used by some of the dancers, who were back-lit, to present their moving shadows. Unfortunately, the program, that has a long list of the director’s achievements and awards, does not list the name of the light designer.

This could have been an acceptable dance performance, with some reservations, if it did not insist on accomplishing what it is not capable of, namely presenting the “new social, political, religious and cultural age. Relying only on the vision of someone who is not a visionary wasted the energy of the well-trained young dancers, who executed the dance routines with excellence. They could have shone more brightly in a performance with an authentic vision.

YEAREND SPECIAL: A year of adaptations in Egyptian theater

by Dalia Basiouny – Daily News Egypt on  22 – 12 – 2009

The powerful art of theater is losing its grip on the public in the face of the fierce competition of satellite TV, with the range of choices they offer from the comfort of one’s sofa. For many Egyptians, theater is reduced to the comedies they watch on television. For the decreasing number of spectators who are willing to go through the effort of leaving their homes and facing traffic to attend live performances in Cairo, the Egyptian theater did not offer much incentive this year.

There was not one major hit or must see performance in 2009 from any of the active theater-producing bodies in Egypt: private theaters, government theaters, department of public culture, Artistic Creativity Center, Hanager Art Center, independent theater companies, Sawy Culture Wheel and universities. The bulk of the performances presented this year were adaptations of previous works. It appears that the current Egyptian theatrical writing effort directs its energy to variations on dramaturgy, whether it is “based on, “derived from, “adapted, or “inspired by, with little room for original ideas.

The Creativity Center at the Opera grounds lived off the success of its 2008 production “Ahwa Sada (Unsweetened Coffee), extending it for a few months this year. Their main offering in 2009 was various adaptations of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet by their directing students. The most notable of these was Hani Afifi’s “I’m Hamlet. The ambitious project of finding a connecting thread between Hamlet’s anguish and the distress of Egyptian young men worked visually, but did not translate to the core of the play. Nonetheless, Mohamed Fahim, the Egyptian Hamlet, still managed to nab the award for best actor from the Experimental Festival.

In its last breath, before a complete gutting for renovation, the Hanager Art Center presented a season of plays in the spring by independent theater companies that had less verve than previous Independent Festivals. Two of these plays “Under Threat and “Viva Mama won awards from the National Festival.

Many plays participating in the two major festivals – the National in July and the Experimental in October – were mainly re-workings of classical texts. The festivals highlighted some of the challenges facing Egyptian theater.

In its fourth edition, the National Theater Festival lit 12 stages across Cairo with 36 performances, 27 of which participated in the official competition. Most of the offerings in this year’s festival were based on canonical plays, both European and Egyptian.

The official rhetoric of the National festival, evident in its daily publication, was a celebration of some kind of renaissance in Egyptian Theater. While the plays presented suggested that Egyptian theater is in a deep slumber, its faint pulse originated from a handful of 1960s plays infused with song and dance to mask their age. Regardless of their date of creation, many of the plays were below the average competition level for any kind of theater award.

Unfortunately, the Experimental Festival, with its 26 competition entries, was not better off. The advent of Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater signals a special surge in the theater arena. While some expected a better festival this year, as it reached the age of maturity in its 21st edition, many had resigned their hopes of improvement, and accepted that the festival that once infused the Egyptian artistic scene with energy and vitality cannot be rescued from the sliding slope of mediocrity.

The mediocrity was evident this year in the poor quality of most performances. Many of the performances in the official competition lacked the cutting-edge, avant-garde experimental feel that set apart the entries of the early years of the festival.

The largest production of 2009 was Teatro’s “Praxa with a reported budget of LE 3 million. “Praxa is an adaption of the classical comedy of Aristophanes, and Tawfiq El-Hakim’s re-working of it. Nader Salah Eddin’s “Praxa was a grand production, performed at the Main Hall of the Cairo Opera House in an elaborate décor and lavish costumes by a large cast of 62 actors and dancers, in addition to the six main characters, including singer Boushra.

If one managed to forget the difference between this production and the great originals it is based on, and the main theme of women’s equality it fails to address, a more pressing question remains. With all this talent, high production values and Salah Eddin’s undeniable skill in song writing, why rely on an ancient text and mess it up? Why not write your new original performance?

Al-Ghad Theater’s noteworthy production “Suktom Buktom (Silence, Not a Word) was also an adaptation. It pays tribute to Salah Jaheen’s “El-Leila El-Kebira. The young dramaturg and director Doaa’ Te’eema bases her work on the celebrated characters of the operetta, infusing it with other works by Jaheen: film dialogue, popular songs, cartoon commentary, shadow puppets and Qaraqouz, and off course the Quartets, some in the voice of the poet himself.

The most exciting performance this year was a small production in an unknown venue in Gamalaya district, behind Al-Hussein. Ali Samir, founder of Sobyan We Banat Theater Troupe, worked with the area’s youth as part of the developmental projects of Wekalet Al Kharoup, and after a year of training they produced an adaptation of Yoursy El Guindy’s “Ali Al-Zeibaq. The tale of this popular hero was presented with devoted spirit and passion that connected the stage to the audience through enchanting storytelling, simple beats and popular songs. It regained the faith in the power of theater which does not require elaborate sets or high tech, just the magic of people sharing a space and believing in the story and its transforming power.

The ailing Egyptian theater could regain some of its energy in 2010 if some of the millions spent on festivals are directed to workshops, nurturing young talents, training new writers and creators, producing new works and offering candid criticism for them to grow into healthy creative talents.

مسرحية “سوليتير” تجوب المهرجانات العالمية

بعد عرض مسرحيتها (سوليتير) في مسرح روابط في القاهرة لأربعة ليال متتالية في أواخر آذار الماضي، وفي مدينة السليمانية العراقية في اطار مهرجان جولا ميخاك، تتوقع داليا بسيوني الحاصلة على منحة من آفاق عام 2009، صيفاً متخماً بالمواعيد.

فالمونودراما التي تعالج أزمة الهوية لدى المرأة المصرية في ظل التغييرات الاجتماعية والسياسية المتسارعة، من المتوقع أن تشارك في مهرجان “الوسائطية والفرجة المسرحية” الذي سينظم في المغرب في حزيران 2011، قبل أن تنتقل الى أستراليا في شهر تموز فالولايات المتحدة الأميركية في شهر آب حيث ستشارك في مهرجان “Between the Seas Festival for Mediteranian Art”.

يذكر أن الكاتبة والمخرجة داليا بسيوني قد أسست فرقة “سبيل” عام 1997 وهي فرقة تعالج قضايا المرأة العربية من خلال عروض مسرحية متعددة الوسائط.

“سوليتير “مسرحية تربط بين 11 سبتمبر و25 يناير

تقدم فرقة سبيل للفنون مسرحية “سوليتير” للكاتبة والمخرجة المصرية داليا بسيوني على مسرح روابط بوسط البلد أيام 28-29-30مارس الحالي .
حيث تربط المسرحية بين أحداث 11سبتمبر في الولايات المتحدة، وأحداث الثورة 25يناير، كحدثين من أهم الأحداث المفجرة للتغيير في القرن الحادي والعشرين.
وصرحت د. داليا بسيوني لبوابة الوفد أن مسرحية سوليتير التي كتبتها وأخرجتها وتقوم أيضا ببطولتها عبارة عن عرض بصري متعدد الوسائط يلقى الضوء على تغير الهوية العربية في السنوات العشر الأخيرة كما يوثق العرض دراميا وبصريا بعض ما حدث للعرب و الأمريكيين عقب أحداث 11سبتمبر وتأثير ذلك على الوطن العربي. أكمل القراءة

“سوليتير” تناقش أزمة الهوية العربية ب”جولا ميخاك”

شاركت الكاتبة والمخرجة المصرية د.داليا بسيونى مؤخرا بمسرحية “سوليتير” فى مهرجان جولا ميخاك الأول للمسرح فى مدينة السليمانية بإقليم كردستان العراق.

يتناول العرض الذى قدمته فرقة “سبيل” أزمة الهوية العربية فى القرن الحادى والعشرين منذ أحداث 11سبتمبر فى الولايات المتحدة وحتى ثورة 25 المصرية، من خلال عيون امرأة مصرية تعيش فى الولايات المتحدة.

وأحدثت “سوليتير” ضجة كبيرة فى الأوساط السياسية والفنية بإقليم كردستان، لأن المسرحية ضد الغزو الأمريكى للعراق، والذى يعتبره عدد كبير من الأكراد تحريرا للإقليم. أكمل القراءة

مسرحية عن الثورة المصرية في اليوم العالمي للسلام

 

تقدم فرقة سبيل للفنون مسرحية سوليتير للكاتبة والمخرجة المصرية داليا بسيوني علي مسرح مركز الجزويت بالإسكندرية 21 سبتمبر 2012، اليوم العالمي للسلام.
تعرض سوليتير كجزء من مهرجان “سبتمبر صولو”. وتربط المسرحية بين أحداث سبتمبر في الولايات المتحدة، وأحداث الثورة المصرية، كحدثين من أهم الأحداث المفجرة للتغيير في القرن الحادي والعشرين.
وصرحت د. داليا بسيوني إن مسرحية سوليتير التي كتبتها وأخرجتها وتقوم ببطولتها هي عرض بصري متعدد الوسائط يلقي الضوء علي تغير الهوية العربية في السنوات العشر الأخيرة. حيث يوثق العرض دراميا وبصريا بعض ما حدث للعرب والعرب الأمريكيين عقب أحداث سبتمبر، وتأثير ذلك علي الوطن العربي. كما يسجل مشاهدات من ميدان التحرير عبر أيام ثورة 25 يناير، من خلال عيون إمرأة مصرية تغير وتتغير في رحلتها لتشكيل هويتها والبحث عن السلام مع النفس ومع العالم. أكمل القراءة

مسرحية للثورة المصرية في مهرجان بالعراق

تشارك الكاتبة والمخرجة المصرية د‏.‏داليا بسيوني في مهرجان جولا ميخاك الأول للمسرح في السليمانية بالعراق الذي يتوافق مع احتفالات يوم المرأة العالمي‏,. ويعرض عددا من مسرحيات المونودراما التي كتبتها النساء وتقدم داليا بسيوني مؤسسة فرقة سبيل للفنون عرض‏(‏ سوليتير‏)‏ وتقول داليا بسيوني‏:‏ إن مسرحية سوليتير كتبتها وأقوم ببطولتها وإخراجها وهي عرض بصري متعدد الوسائط يلقي الضوء علي تغير الهوية العربية في السنوات العشر الأخيرة حيث يوثق العرض ما حدث للعرب والعرب الأمريكيين عقب أحداث سبتمبر‏,‏ وأثر ذلك علي الوطن العربي كما يسجل مشاهدات من ميدان التحرير عبر أيام ثورة‏25‏ ينايرمن خلال عيون امرأة مصرية تغير وتتغير في رحلتها لتشكيل هويتها والبحث عن السلام مع النفس ومع العالم‏.‏

كانت فرقة سبيل قد قدمت مؤخرا حواديت التحرير وهو أول عمل مسرحي تسجيلي يوثق الثورة المصرية من خلال شهادات للمشاركين والمشاركات في الثورة‏,‏ وتكريم أسماء شهداء الثورة وتعيد الفرقة عرضه عقب عودتها من العراق‏.‏

كتبه –  علاء محجوب – الأهرام اليومي – 07 – 03 – 2011

مسرحية عن الثورة المصرية تشارك في مهرجان بالعراق

تشارك الكاتبة والمخرجة د‏.‏ داليا بسيوني في مهرجان جولاميخاك الأول للمسرح في السليمانية بالعراق‏,‏ والذي يتوافق مع احتفالات يوم المرأة العالمي‏.‏ ويعرض عددا من مسرحيات المونودراما التي كتبتها النساء‏.‏

وتقدم داليا بسيوني مؤسسة فرقة سبيل للفنون عرض سوليتير الذي يربط بين احداث سبتمبر في الولايات المتحدة‏,‏ واحداث الثورة الشعبية المصرية‏,‏ كحدثين من أهم الاحداث المفجرة للتغيير في القرن الحادي والعشرين‏.‏
وصرحت داليا بسيوني بأن مسرحية سوليتير التي كتبتها واخرجتها وتقوم ببطولتها هي عرض بصري متعدد الوسائط يلقي الضوء علي تغير الهوية العربية في السنوات العشر الأخيرة‏,‏ حيث يوثق العرض دراميا وبصريا بعض ماحدث للعرب والعرب الأمريكيين عقب احداث سبتمبر‏,‏ واثر ذلك علي الوطن العربي‏,‏ كما يسجل مشاهدات من ميدان التحرير عبر ايام ثورة‏25‏ يناير‏,‏ من خلال عيون امراة مصرية تغير وتتغير في رحلتها لتشكيل هويتها والبحث عن السلام مع النفس ومع العالم‏.‏
كانت فرقة قد قدمت مؤخرا حواديت التحرير وهو أول عمل مسرحي تسجيلي يوثق الثورة المصرية‏,‏ عن طريق عرض شهادات للمشاركين والمشاركات في الثورة‏,‏ وتكريم اسماء شهداء الثورة‏,‏ والذي سوف تعيد الفرقة عرضه عقب عودتها من العراق‏.‏

كتبه – خالد عيسي – الأهرام المسائي

 

فيديوهات متنوعة

مسرحية مصرية لأول مرة بإقليم كردستان بالعراق

شاركت الكاتبة والمخرجة المصرية د‏.‏ داليا بسيوني بمسرحية سوليتير في مهرجان جولا ميخاك الأول للمسرح في مدينة السليمانية باقليم كردستان بالعراق‏.‏

يتناول العرض الذي قدمته فرقة سبيل أزمة الهوية العربية في القرن الحادي والعشرين منذ احداث سبتمبر في الولايات المتحدة وحتي الثورة المصرية‏,‏ من خلال عيون امرأة مصرية تعيش في الولايات المتحدة‏.‏

أكمل القراءة

مسرحية “سحر البرلس” على مسرح الجمهورية اليوم


تعرض فرقة سبيل للفنون مسرحية “سحر البرلس” على مسرح الجمهورية اليوم وغداً الأربعاء، وتدور أحداث المسرحية فى قرية متخيلة تطل على بحيرة البرلس فى شمال مصر، وتتناول “سحر البرلس” قلق المجتمع من التغيير، وعلاقة النساء بالقمر، والصراع بين المألوف والجديد، وبين العلم الحديث والمعارف البدائية والمتوارثة.

أكمل القراءة

“سحر البُرلس” تجوب محافظات مصر للقضاء على الخوف من التغيير

يتجول فريق مسرحية “سحر البرلس” فى محافظات مصر المختلفة لعرض المسرحية أمام جماهير المحافظات، حيث تعرض اليوم فى المنيا لتسافر بعد ذلك إلى الإسكندرية، وذلك عقب عرضها مؤخرا على مسرح الجمهورية بوسط البلد.

مسرحية “سحر البرلس” من إنتاج فرقة سبيل، وتدور أحداثها فى قرية متخيلة تطل على بحيرة البرلس فى شمال مصر، وتتناول قلق المجتمع من التغيير، وعلاقة النساء بالقمر، والصراع بين المألوف والجديد، وبين العلم الحديث والمعارف البدائية والمتوارثة، وتتضمن عدداً من الأغانى التراثية، وبعض الأغانى الجديدة عن الطاقة والقمر والشهور القبطية.

وتقول مخرجة العرض داليا بسيونى مديرة المركز الثقافى الأمريكى: طلب منى إعداد مسرحية أمريكية عن محاكمات الساحرات فى “سالم” وهى حادثة شهيرة وقعت فى عام 1692 وأدت إلى سجن وإعدام عدد من الذين اتهموا بممارسة أعمال السحر والتعامل مع الشيطان، وحاولت فى مسرحيتى المقارنة بين عالمى النساء والرجال والنشاط الروحى لكل منها، وذلك من خلال امرأة حكيمة تدعى “أم سعادة” تعيش فى “البرلس” تعلم السيدات والبنات القراءة وتعطيهن معلومات عن الأعشاب والعطارة وغيرها من المعلومات لتساعدهن على اتساع وعيهن، إلا أن تلك السيدة تهدد الطبيب الشاب الذى درس الطب فى الجامعة فتسعى والدته لإقصاء تلك السيدة من طريق ابنها فتدعى أنها تمارس أعمال السحر على البحيرة، وأنها تعاشر الجن هى ومن معها وتنتشر الشائعة وتصل لعمدة القرية فيأمر بحبسهن وفى النهاية يتم حرقهن لتنتهى المسرحية بتلك المأساة.

والمسرحية من بطولة لبنى ونس، وعبير منصور، ونادين الشيتى، ويارا حسن، ومنة الليثى، وندى الشاذلى، ومريم الشهابى، وسهيلة إبراهيم، وطارق كامل، ووليد فوزى، ومصطفى محمود، وشهاب إبراهيم ومحمد جمال.

يذكر أن فرقة سبيل للفنون تأسست فى القاهرة 1997، وتعنى بتقديم أعمال المرأة، والبحث عن صيغ فنية جديدة تدمج المسرح والفيديو، وعرض المسرحيات غير التقليدية فى فضاءات مسرحية وغير مسرحية، وكان آخر أعمالها مسرحية “سوليتير” التى تتناول المرأة والثورة المصرية، والتى لاقت نجاحاً كبيراً فى العديد من دول العالم، كان آخرها الولايات المتحدة وزيمبابوى.

كتبته شيماء عبد المنعم وخالد إبراهيم – اليوم السابع