LAU theater festival unites performers from Middle East and Europe


A scene from the opening play of the festival, the LAUproduction Mirror, Mirror


The Palestinian Circuna Troupe members show their acrobatic skills during their outdoor show on July 24.

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August 3, 2009—

The 12th International University Theatre Festival, which took place onLAU’s Beirut campus from July 23–30, featured over 200 performing arts students and professors as well as many professionals from Germany, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Organized by the Department of Arts and Communication of LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences, the weeklong festival featured plays every night from 7–10 p.m.

They ranged in theme from Arab history and legends such as the Kuwaiti play Antar Who Protects Her — inspired by the story of an Arab pre-Islamic warrior and poet — to theater philosophy in the LAU 30-minute production Mirror, Mirror. The Moroccan production A Balance With One Plateportrayed the idea of a flawed justice system. 

“There are so many festivals organized this time of the year, but we managed to attract a lot of attention,” says Dr. Maurice Maalouf, associate professor of communication and performing arts at LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences in Byblos, and a member of the festival’s organizing team. 

“We are very pleased with the number of people coming to see the plays. The majority are university students, but we also have general audience,” Maalouf adds.

LAU’s Irwin and Gulbenkian theaters were packed during the sixth night of the festival during which audiences enjoyed productions by the Kuwaiti and Syrian Higher Institutes for Performing Arts.

The Kuwaiti The Crookbacked Bird, the story of detainees in a big prison longing for the outside world while being tortured by a sadistic guard, made a deep impression on spectators.

The same success had the Syrian students with their presentation ofThe Days of Negligence, a play in classical Arabic about student life and graduation mixed with personal stories of treason.

LAU students and graduates participated with five productions — the opening play Mirror, MirrorSex, Drugs, Rock ‘N’ RollBlack Swans,Finding the Sun and Silicon Bomb.

The event also attracted many professionals to the diverse range of presentations and workshops that included circus and clowning skills, reading skills, and poetry reading, as well as the concerts organized on campus.

“Since we have the equipment and the technique, we have to give students the opportunity to produce their plays and be in front of the audience that judges their performance,” Maalouf says. That way, “they have the chance not only to show the world what they have to offer, but also to see what the outside world has to give them,” he adds.

The participants were happy with the facilities and experience they gained during the festival. The Kuwaiti Al Jeel Al Waie Theater Troupe came to the festival after the members realized how much there is to learn from such events.

According to one of the troupe’s directors, Esam Al Kazemi, the actors were very pleased with the well-equipped room they performed in and the “helpful and efficient” LAU organizing team.

Al Kazemi says they feel close to Lebanon too and remembers that in 2006 they donated all their earnings from their theater productions to the people who lost their homes in the war.

Maalouf, who has been with the growing festival team since it began 12 years ago, says he hopes it evolves into a high-standard regional Middle Eastern event.