LAU students take the lead in organizing Mishkal 14
Students from different disciplines get involved in the regional student arts showcase in Beirut.
“A celebration of students’ work and creativity in theater, music, dance, film and visual arts” is how LAU student Awad Awad described Mishkal 14, the five-day festival that was held at Masrah Al Madina in Hamra in September.
Awad headed the ten-person student committee that organized the third edition of the annual Mishkal festival, named after the Arabic word for kaleidoscope and founded and hosted by Lebanese theater veteran Nidal Achkar.
“This year also marks twenty years since I founded Masrah Al Madina, also known as Al Madina Theater, for the youth, as well as those without a voice who can’t find a place to perform or watch in,” explains Achkar, who is very passionate about the student festival. “Mishkal means a lot to me. Every year we give opportunities to young Lebanese artists to present the best that they have—and it’s all good!”
This year the Mishkal stage also showcased artists from Syria, Palestine and Egypt. While plays from Syria and Egypt were hosted indoors, a separate structure was erected outside the theater to put on 11 Palestinian performances. “I am Palestinian and what is happening in Gaza breaks my heart. This stage was a tribute to show solidarity,” explained Awad.
A communication arts student, Awad has been involved in Mishkal since its inception and last year presented his own play at the festival. Fellow LAU student Ziad Ismail showcased his photography at this year’s fine arts and photography exhibition, which ran throughout Mishkal 14. “It’s a lovely festival,” said the architecture student, whose photographs of cityscapes hung alongside works by school and university students. “It is a platform for all students—a meeting point for performing arts in Beirut.”
The media agreed, with newspapers and television channels promoting the event in advance and attending to cover performances. “Interest was regional, with Dubai TV and Al Jazeera, in addition to Lebanese channels, covering the event,” said Maya Akil, one of five LAU students on this year’s organizing committee, who was tasked with media relations.
“We launched a website to encourage submissions from other Arab countries and Europe. This year, we were able to host actors from Syria and Egypt but are already working on selecting and supporting applicants from countries like Jordan, Iraq, Poland, Austria and Italy for the next edition,” enthuses Awad.
Having previously been organized by an NGO in cooperation with Achkar, this year was the first time the organizing committee was made up solely of students. “Putting together a festival is a unique experience,” says Dr. Mona Knio, associate professor at the Communication Arts department. “It’s an excellent learning experience and great for their resumes. After working in student productions and the LAU festival, Al Madina Theater is like an internship for our students.”
Referring to Mishkal as “a festival by students, for students” Awad agrees, pointing out the many opportunities presented by the festival. “It is an chance for students to see what their fellow artists do and it helps high school students, especially those interested in studying arts, to learn about different majors—enabling them to make the right choice. It is a sort of orientation.”
Also of great interest were the workshops that were held on the days leading up to and during the festival, in which established cultural actors shared their time and knowledge, expanding the horizons of the students participating in and attending the festival’s fifty individual presentations.
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