How far must one go to defend his values? Pretty far sometimes, if we take a look at فولت معنا, a play written and directed by Hala Jebbé, theater instructor at Université Antonine, Zahleh campus.
The story of this play came to life following Hala’s strong inspiration by Nadine Labaki’s movie, وهلأ لوين؟. The film portrays the life of Lebanese women living side by side in a village, who desperately come up with the most unusual tactics to prevent their men from holding weapons and clashing with their enemies. Two years following its release, Hala was determined to make a similar impact through theater. And so she wrote a play about a young man named Elias, who falls in love with a girl from a different religious background and who has to deal with his family’s narrow minded opinions and old school values. Causing major tension within the men in his circle, the women suggest that he dresses as a belly dancer to entertain them and cool down their anger.
The script is without a doubt daring and bold, as it tackles sensitive topics such as inter-religious marriage, family pressure, social stereotypes, cultural clash... However, Hala relied on humour to make the play easier to embrace by the spectator and more fun for the actors.
فولت معنا was performed a few weeks back in UA Zahleh with the participation of twelve UA students who all shared their love and curiosity for the stage for the first time. Coming from various academic backgrounds, each one of them had his own special reason to join the Drama Club this year amongst them:
Sarah Abou Kater, a 22-year-old Physiotherapy student plays the role of Elias’ mother. She was first tempted to to join the Drama Club for the sake of emotional and physical release; she was then mostly pleased to meet her fellow actors with whom she shared this experience.
Mikael Sarkis, 21-year-old physiotherapy student who plays the role of Elias’ father has always been fond of acting. And though his role turned out to be very challenging, as he had to both act and sing, he says he enjoyed every bit of performing it as the he crowd’s positive reaction was an ultimate confidence booster.
Jad Skaff, a 23-year-old Physiotherapy student plays the main role of the play: Elias. Despite all the difficulties he faced while preparing his role, such as attending all the repetitions and portraying an edgy role, he recognizes that the strong message of the story made it all worth it.
As for their devoted drama instructor Hala, she expressed her joy of discovering each of their personalities, especially their caring side as well as their daring one. Their input and spontaneity in the script made a big difference in the play’s final version. However, Hala does not hide the fact that she was very worried at first, to be working with beginners who not only have never been on stage but come from a non-artistic background. Luckily, that feeling vanished quicker than she would’ve believed it and she was enjoying every moment of the repetitions until the big day.
The encouragement of the parents was also a great surprise for this talented scriptwriter and coach who believes that theater is a great therapy for any student, regardless of his career path.
She truly hopes her play can take life again on various stages in the country, for her message of tolerance and respect to spread as far as can be.