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LAU’s revised annual arts festival draws local and international talent and participation

Perpetually reinventing itself, the Department of Communications Arts transforms its annual theatre festival into a multidisciplinary event that reflects its eclectic curricula and a holistic approach to the arts.

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Visitors to LAU last week were treated to five packed days of workshops and performances in music, theatre, dance and writing during the launch of Festival NEXT, a multidisciplinary festival that evolved from LAU’s prominent annual theatre festival. “It’s been wonderful, very inspiring and felt like a retreat,” said German tourist Sarah Bebb who attended a workshop with a friend on the first day of the festival and kept coming back day after day.

“The new interdisciplinary program and name of the festival reflect where we currently are as a department,” explains Chair of the Communication Arts department Jad Melki. “We are on our next phase in moving toward the future of communication. We are the builders of the next generation of communicators in the region. We are what perpetually reinvents and continuously comes next.”

As the department recently expanded its offerings to four sharply defined yet interdependent programs in performing arts, multimedia journalism, television and film, and communication, Festival NEXT, says Melki, now reflects its multidisciplinary nature. “We’ve designed it so as to allow for the flexibility of incorporating in the future even more of LAU’s thriving artistic disciplines, such as design, fashion, poetry and literature.”

Such interdisciplinary festivals are highly instrumental in promoting a renewed appreciation for the arts undisturbed by commercialization, says Egyptian violinist Saeid Kamal, who ran a workshop on the Arabic violin and performed with fellow musician Amro Salah on the last night of the festival. “Commercial music has its place and purpose, but I love initiatives like this one that bring people together to create and enjoy music with artistic merit,” adds Salah.

Group work and collaboration were evident in every workshop and performance, including the Verbatim Theater workshop by Sahar Assaf, the Improvisational Acting workshop by Lucien Bourjeili, the scriptwriting workshop run by Tamer Habib and the Indian dance class and performance by Prathiba Netesan, to name but a few of the festival’s many activities.

Led by Assistant Professor of Music Amr Selim and Assistant Professor of Dance Nadra Assaf, the production of Festival NEXT was itself a collaborative effort between LAU faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. “Because of the team spirit and the quality of the workshops and performances, Festival NEXT succeeded spectacularly and offered us a proven concept and prototype for our next big Festival NEXT in 2018, which will coincide with the 20th anniversary of this festival,” says Melki, noting that it will likely be held in May or June.

Another purpose behind reinventing the festival was to engage more local artists and students, and this year Brummana High school students performed the play Mount Purgatory. Led by Omar Moujaes, the play also included actors from LAU and the community, reflecting the festival’s new spirit of strong and meaningful community engagement and service.

Each year, international artists are invited to participate in the festival and share their experiences and skills. Among those invited this year was renowned Colombian theatre director and psychologist Hector Aristizabal who ran a three-day workshop on theatre in action. “Theatre is the modern word for ritual, and ritual is the place where humanity heals,” says Aristizabal, who used to employ theatre in his work as a psychologist. “Before we had psychiatrists we had storytelling, and the theatre is a place where we can open up. It’s very therapeutic.”

Psychologist and LAU alumna Nadine Saidi agrees. “I’m interested in group dynamics and it has been an enlightening experience. I really enjoyed the playfulness involved.”

Communication Arts students at LAU express their pride in the department’s mission to #ReinventCommunication 

Watch full video: http://comm.lau.edu.lb

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