Al-Madina Theater in Beirut  will showcase today, September 18, the first production of Mishkal (kaleidoscope), a four-day festival of artistic works by Lebanese youth.
Mishkal has offered young people the opportunity to express themselves within a wider community of artists and like-minded peers.
The event was organized by renowned theater director Nidal al-Ashkar in cooperation with the European Union and Agonistik Performing Arts.
Mishkal, which bills itself as a youth forum, gives young artists the chance to use the theater's stage and the space to express themselves through music, plays, films, and art exhibitions.
Everyone working on this first production of Mishkal compares it to a beehive. All worked hard to ensure the festival’s success, and hopes and spirits are high. Organizers say the schedule includes a rich variety of performances aimed at breaking the barriers between artistic genres.The program includes four plays, 14 films in Arabic, English, French, and Russian, including some that have been previously screened, and 10 musical performances. There are also seminars and roundtable discussions on censorship (Tuesday, 6:36 pm, with Nidal al-Ashkar and journalist Pierre Abi-Saab), contemporary poetry (Thursday, 6:36 pm with Abbas Baydoun), and graffiti (Friday with Samaan Khawam).
The films to be screened at the forum touch on a variety of themes and issues.
Some are considered escapist or surreal, such as Jean Boushaaya al-Kassir's Big Film (Tuesday, 9:09 pm), which plays with the space between fact and fiction, and Mark Roumi's Last Page (Friday, 9:09 pm), about a girl who does not stop dreaming.
Others are more overtly political. Pascal Abu-Jamra’s controversial Olive Trees Behind Me  (Wednesday, 9:09 pm) is about the Lebanese who fled to Israel with their families.
The more serious films are followed by lighter fare, such as Dalia Yassin’s comedy Muddle (Thursday, 9:09 pm).
Most of the films come from student directors from different universities, but the theatre portion of the program is dominated by Lebanese American University (LAU) graduates.
LAU students are directing and producing the works of three playwrights: Chairs by Ranim Halabi (Tuesday), Crime in the Hospital by Mazen Saadeddine (Wednesday), and Women in War by Rami al-Rabih (Thursday). The Other Dimension(Friday, 8:08 pm), written by Ahmad Hijazi and Tamara Hawi, will be directed by Lebanese University students.
Modern, eclectic musical performances reflect the nature of the youth-driven festival, with pop, rock, soul and even classical with Maya Hobeika (Wednesday, 10:10 pm). Another highly anticipated show is that of the BLOK Laptop Orchestra, which specializes in electronic music.
At the opening event today, the forum will honor writers and thespians Yacoub al-Shadrawi, Paul Shaul, Osama al-Aref, and Said Sinno – the "godfather of Beirut's theater.”
The opening ceremony also includes a special appearance by Mike Massy singing solo to the piano (9:00 pm). Massy told Al-Akhbar that the festival "is a unique opportunity in our Arab world, where we lack adventurers to help build the dreams of the youth."
The forum also includes an art exhibition of paintings and photography by young artists, which will remain on display throughout the event.
Mishkal – Youth Forum at al-Madina Theater opens Tuesday, September 18, and runs through Friday, September 21; al-Madina Theater, Hamra, Beirut. For information: 01-753010.