The American University in Cairo
The American University in Cairo (AUC) brings to the stage one of modern Egypt's most provocative and uncompromising authors, Naguib Surur, in its upcoming production of the play Menien Aguib Naas (Is Anybody Out There?), opening Wednesday, April 6, in the Gerhart Theater at AUC New Cairo. Menien Aguib Naas is directed by AUC Professor Mahmoud El Lozy, with musical direction by Ahmad Salah.
Written in the 1970’s, Menein Aguib Naas is a musical drama based on the tragic love story of Hassan and Naima. It tells of Naima’s journey along the Nile and her efforts to gain assistance from the people she encounters to retrieve Hassan’s headless body from the river. This quest takes her on a long journey across Egypt, from the south of the country to the Mediterranean coast. In the course of her travels, Naima discovers a population in the grip of fear from a despotic, exploitative and corrupt ruling class at the service of a foreign occupier. Her personal dilemma becomes symbolic of the plight of a nation in the play’s penultimate scene, which reenacts the 1946 confrontation on Abbas Bridge when police opened fire on student protesters, and opened the bridge to cut them off and prevent them from reaching Abdeen Palace.
For this production, El Lozy has changed the 1946 demonstration scene on Abbas Bridge. “I rewrote that bit in a way that will resonate better without necessarily referring to the demonstrations in Tahrir,” said El Lozy. “I believe that one should produce plays that have the potential for resonating with a particular audience at a given moment in time.”
According to El Lozy, one can never predict the audience impressions on the play as they remain the ‘X factor.‘ “I suppose people will respond in different ways, as they usually do, when faced with a play that addresses issues pertaining to history. People bring their own very personal baggage with them when they come to the theatre and even though they experience the theatre as a group, they also experience it at a very personal level,” said El Lozy.
El Lozy’s primary objective is to teach something about acting and theatre to student members of the cast and crew, which they will take with them for the rest of their lives. “As far as the audience is concerned, if they feel the need to discuss the play and argue over it after they see it, then it would mean that they related to it in some way. And that’s the beginning of it all,” he added.
Cast members include Sara Shaarawi, Ali Attia, Tareq Ziad, Nada El-Shazly, Rafiq Ashraf, Hana Afifi, Yousra Shalaby, Nezar Alderazi, Rasheed Idou, Omar Madkour, Hanine Omari, Samia Asaad, Janine El Gamal, Hassan Abou El Rouss, and musicians Marwan Abdel-Moneim, Ahmed Safi El Din and Ahmed Mustafa. The production is designed by a team of AUC students, including Omar Madkour, Berfu Turkmenoglu, Tareq Ziad, Sara Shaarawi, Sandra Guirguis, and Marwan Qandil.