Mishkal is back in the Masrah al-Madina: all art's youth festival going on for five days!
Jahida Wehbe is one of the performing artists coming to Mishkal this year. (Image: Facebook)
Masrah al-Madina will once again open its doors to young people Wednesday evening. The opening night of Mishkal (kaleidoscope), the theater’s all-arts youth festival, will feature an eclectic array of work by a variety of performers including Jahida Wehbe and Ziad al-Ahmadie and his band. Over the course of five days, Mishkal will bring these fresh talents together in the spirit of promoting creative expression “by the youth, for the youth.”
Veteran theater director, playwright and actor Nidal Ashkar launched the event in 2012 with the aim of creating a platform for Lebanon’s of young artists.
The organizing committee comprises students from five different Lebanese universities and schools, including the Lebanese University, the Lebanese American University and Saint Joseph University.
“We started preparing and working late this year,” Ashkar told The Daily Star.
“With all the recent struggles in the country, we thought we might not be able to hold Mishkal, but we knew we had to go on.”
Built around the theme “From the students of Lebanon to the students of Gaza,” Mishkal will come to life in collaboration with various Palestinian organizations and refugee camps, presenting over 15 performances on behalf of Palestinian students or as a tribute to their cause.
A small open-air stage has been set up outside the Hamra Street theater, which will host daily shows by Palestinian musicians and dancers.
The festival will also see Masrah al-Madina stage pieces of theater from different parts of the region, including “Hysteria,” by Syrian playwright Jihad Saad and “Al-Kammama,” by Egyptian dramaturge Azzouz Adel.
“We have decided to expand Mishkal and transform it into an international festival by next year,” Ashkar said, “hopefully bringing in more groups from Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and other countries.”
Mishkal’s wide-ranging program includes film screenings – scheduled to commence daily at 8:50 p.m. – and music performances, workshops, roundtable discussions and a festival-long exhibition of art and photography featuring work by 15 young artists.
The object is to allow participants to discover one another’s creations.
Noted director and producer Lucien Bourjeily will lead a workshop on improvisational acting, while Corinne Skaff will conduct a contemporary dance workshop.
Drama therapist-cum-filmmaker Zeina Daccache will be discussing her twin documentary projects with male and female inmates in two Lebanese prisons, entitled “12 Angry Lebanese” and “Scheherazade’s Diary.”
With the support of various civil society organizations, the Beirut Municipality and the Lebanese of Culture and Tourism ministries, the festival has thrived in the first two years of its existence.
It has contributed to the diversification of an alternative art scene whose artists suffer a dearth of exhibition spaces.
For Ashkar, the 2014 edition is particularly unique because it marks the anniversary of the Masrah al-Madina, the institution she herself founded 20 years ago and which the students have revived in preparation for the festival.
Ashkar emphasized that this five-day artistic celebration would not be possible without the work of the student organizers and youth associations. A myriad of the country’s young innovators is also involved, including the founders of Zoomaal, the Arab world’s first online crowd-funding platform.
“I want [the youth] to still have hope that they can express themselves at any time, in any art they would like,” Ashkar said. “Whatever is happening around us, we can still give them hope.”
The Mishkal Festival runs through Sept. 21 For more information, see mishkalfest.com or ring 01-753-010.
By Ellen Francis
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