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LAU marks International Theater Day with the replays of two student productions

April 3, 2008—

Two of this year’s most memorable student productions, The Bald Soprano, a satire about time and language, and R.A.W. (‘Cause I’m a Woman), a feminist play, both originally produced as part of Play Production I class, were repeated on March 27 to celebrate International Theater Day.

Dr. Mona Knio, the teacher of the student directors, said that she chose the two productions to be rerun, mostly because they were very successful. In addition, she wanted to select plays with different subjects and durations to be presented in the Gulbenkian and Irwin theatres, in Beirut.

The Bald Soprano, the longer play directed by Maher Kaidbey, ridicules bourgeois society frozen in meaningless formalities, and satirizes the fact that people often speak to fill space.

The set was decorated with square boxes representing the minute and hour hands of a clock. As they engaged each other in repetitive and often nonsensical conversations, the characters haphazardly moved the boxes to show the irregular passage of time.

The play featured two bourgeois couples, played by Amir Haidar, Nour Saikaly, Muhannad Hariri, and Mariam Al-Naser, who stayed within the confines of the “clock” center stage. According to Kaidbey, they symbolized “two-dimensional, very flat,” unreal characters “stuck in time.”

On the other hand, Maya Sabban and Sany Abdul Baki, playing a maid and a fire chief respectively, moved outside the broken clock area, because they represented real people with feelings.

“First, when I was chosen [to rerun the play], I was very happy and excited, but then I realized how much I had to work,” admitted Kaidbey. In fact, he improved some aspects of lighting, music and gestures for the replay, based on a brainstorming session he conducted with his collaborators and the advice of his instructors. He also felt that the actors did a better job the second time around, because they knew what to expect from the audience.

His interest in The Bald Soprano, written by Eugene Ionesco, began when he learned it in school and later saw it performed in Paris. “I fell in love with it…[and] I wanted to express my own vision of the play,” he said.

Dalia Yassine, the director of R.A.W. (‘Cause I’m a Woman), the other production that was repeated, had come up with the idea of creating a feminist play before picking the actual script. In an interview with The Daily Star, she said, “The emotional, sexual and psychological stereotyping of females begins right from the start. To be a woman, if not a defect, is at least a peculiarity. I had this little recording playing in my head for years and years…”

R.A.W. (‘Cause I’m a Woman) focuses on the stereotypes of four Asian women, especially as geishas, exotic virgins and suicidal Miss Saigons.

The women, played by Yassine’s friends Dania Jarakji, Assil Ayyash, Joy Telvezian and Rana Abi Abdallah, stood in four boxes symbolizing a doll’s house. Moving like dolls, they wore kimonos and Asian make-up at the beginning of the play. They later stripped down to skin-colored leotards symbolizing nakedness, and removed their make-up to show their liberation from the objects they were made into.

Yassine modified the original script, written by Diana Son, to prepare a 25-minute performance, during which each woman spoke about her struggle to break a common stereotype and to be seen simply as herself.

According to the director, the distinctive feature of her production was its “very blunt” style; instead of following a traditional story line “with a beginning, a middle and an end,” R.A.W. (‘Cause I’m a Woman) consisted of “lines after lines, story after story,” she explained.

Despite the hard work needed to produce the play especially the first time, Yassine said it was so fun working with her friends that she “would do it again a thousand times.”


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