Five successful years later including three cherries on top -the three awards won at the Fes Theatre Festival last year- the UA Drama Club aka â€œMasra7jiyeâ€ is making a strong comeback this season with a new play that will take you back to a defining period in recent Lebanese history.
Michel Hourany, actor - UA Instructor in drama & communication skills and communication trainer, chose to work on a new genre this year, for continuous diversity through which the student actors can experience different styles in which they evolve. Though he did not have a specific play in mind first, Hourany elaborates: â€œI wanted to work on a war-related play because it is the pivot of our era, but with a touch of comedy instead of dramaâ€.
And so â€œPicnic Ø¹ Ø®Ø·ÙˆØ· Ø§Ù„ØªÙ…Ø§Ø³â€ was picked, a Spanish play by Fernando Arrabal, adapted locally by Raymond Gebara and kept intact in â€œMasra7jiyeâ€s hands. The play focuses on the Lebanese civil war back in the 70â€™s with a touch of avant gardism and comedy which made it ideal. Hourany says that what matters most in it is the problematic implied: why is there war in the first place? Why are humans willing to kill another human during war? and so on.
Direction wise, the main challenge was to find a way to portray the realism of the scenes, considering that many converged with the idea of war. Acting wise, the proper approach needed to be found in order to reflect a serious issue where the crowd could think but also laugh, thanks to a dash of humour, all without falling into ridicule.
How are the actors selected? Based on an audition conducted by Hourany and it happened that the ones selected for â€œFamily Totâ€, the 2015 winning play, are this yearâ€™s cast too! Therefore, the task was clearly a little easier on the playâ€™s director, since everyone was familiar with his work ethics and approach. Rehearsals began on a weekly basis until they became daily, where the actors were also involved in the technical aspect as well.
Now, meet the team behind the unconventional picnic you are about to attend. The actors are: Rahme Rayshouny, Nour Majed, Joe Kazzi, audiovisual alumni, Najib Rizk, journalism alumnus, Rashad Nasreddine, second-year audiovisual student, and Bassam Wehbe, engineering alumnus. Cynthia Tannous, audiovisual alumna, is the sound designer and light operator.
Joe Kazzi plays the role of the captive in the family who does the picnic on the frontline. â€œIn â€œFamily Totâ€, I had a very dynamic role to play whereas now, my role is very calm and fearfulâ€, he explains. Kazzi not only had to adapt to this different character but he also had to juggle between his tasks as an actor and as a production manager following up on every element of the play.
The youngest actor, Rashad Nasreddine, who plays the role of the son fighting on the barricade, admits that it wasnâ€™t easy to prevent himself from laughing in the funny scenes, adding: â€œIâ€™m sure the audience will love the play because they will laugh and cry both at the same time and will relate to the story, regardless of their ageâ€.
Najib Rizk and Rahme Rayshouny play the parents of Nasreddine, who plan on visiting their son on the barricade to do a picnic. Rizkâ€™s role involves a rollercoaster of emotions: anger, sadness, fear and toughness. Rayshounyâ€™s role is â€œthe typical Lebanese motherâ€ she says, requiring spontaneity and dynamism on one side and a good dose of affection and compassion on the other side. All that seems very far from her own personality and it demanded further efforts in her performance. However, she isnâ€™t complaining one bit because she believes that an actor can only grow and evolve through various characters.
Bassam Wehbe and Nour Majed play the roles of the paramedics, while Wehbe is also the stage manager. He says that the humanitarian side was definitely a factor in accepting his role but also, the overall awareness feel of the play, which avoided preaching. As for Majed, she explains how their role is the disruptive element of the play, since they always appear on stage to turn the mood of a scene. She is confident people will enjoy the play due to its comic side.
This coming summer, â€œPicnic Ø¹Ø®Ø·ÙˆØ· Ø§Ù„ØªÙ…Ø§Ø³â€ will participate in local festivals and next year the adventure will extend abroad hopefully. However what matters most now is the upcoming performance so note it down: Sunday June 11 at the Sunflower Theatre in Tayyouneh, 5:30 pm sharp.
See you all there!
By Carmen Yazbeck