On the Occasion of the Re-launch of the Egyptian Centre of the International Theatre Institute

English version by Hazem Azmy based on the Arabic Original Message read by Nora Amin at the Opening Ceremony of the Sixth National Festival for Egyptian Theatre (Main Hall, Cairo Opera House on 27 March 2013)

We are the founding members of the newly revived Egyptian Centre of the International Theatre Institute. We speak to you from a present-day Egypt whose revolution is still well in progress. Indeed, and in the teeth of all apparent challenges, we remain driven by the hope that our country will relive the spirit of Tahrir. This is the spirit that once lent expression to our people’s longing for

freedom, justice and human dignity, only to become a world-wide icon of resistance to oppression.

Within this same spirit of camaraderie, we begin with a deserved salute to Dario Fo, the maverick Italian theatre artist who authored this year’s World Theatre Message. Fittingly enough, he chose to open with a reminder of Power’s historical aversion to the players of commedia dell'arte, but ended on a note of hope in new generations of theatre activists capable of confronting the hegemonic culture of exile and exclusion. As a footnote to Fo’s words, we hasten to remind all of the memorable contributions of Franca Rame, Fo’s wife and partner all through his difficult years. Our experience in the aftermath of the revolution has taught us the hard lesson that women should never be forgotten come time for premature celebrations of unfinished endeavours.

By the same token, we pay special tribute to Egypt’s long marginalized voices in theatre, whether belonging to independent or non-mainstream groups, or working under the umbrella of the State’s bureaucratic machinery. These have long had to make do with the least resources, not to mention the material and moral recognition overdue to them. And yet it is thanks to their tenacity that Egyptian theatre is still alive today, resistant as ever to the forces of darkness and vile coercion.

Because we, like them, still believe in theatre’s capacity to decentre and destabilise, we have come together to revive the Egyptian ITI Center, hoping that, precisely at this juncture, it would emerge as an all-inclusive non-governmental entity supporting the local theatre industry and responding to its most pressing needs. In the same breath, we envision it as a powerful national and regional link of ITI’s global network. To our theatre friends all over the world, we say it is time we explored together all possibilities of cooperation. Like you, we believe in theatre’s role in re-imagining our common future.

It is no coincidence that the rebirth of our Centre coincides not only with World Theatre Day, but also with the launch of the sixth edition of the National Festival for Egyptian Theatre, the first since the outbreak of first wave of the revolution. We cannot be more eager to connect with our theatrical past and all those who found in the theatrical arts the means to raise awareness and resist. Indeed, in much the same vein, we also see our mission as one of mobilisation and revival of hope. For the tunnel is not as dark as it may first seem, and the light that we should find at its end can only be the fruit of our united efforts, our shared dream to keep the theatre a beacon of freedom and independent thinking.

We are but a glimpse of Tahrir, inspired by its spirit and determined to keep it aflame. We aspire to liberate our souls, our bodies, our theatre, to free our imagination from any tradition shackling it in the name of custom and established belief. Religion has always been meant as a guiding light for all, and we will not sit by and watch while some are using it to dismantle an entire way of life predicated on diversity and tolerance.

Founding Board of the Egyptian ITI Centre (in Alphabetical Order)

Ashraf Abdel-Ghafour Nasser Abdel-Moneim Nora Amin Hazem Azmy Samia Habib Mohamed Samir El-Khatib Essam El-Sayed (Vice-President) Nehad Selaiha (President) Hazem Shebl (General Secretary) Girgis Shoukry Gamal Yaqut