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LAU sets stage for internationally acclaimed theatrical performance

An internationally acclaimed one-woman play directed and produced by LAU’s Lina Abyad and her alumni will be staged at LAU tomorrow.

LAU Professor of Theater Lina Abyad’s latest production ‘Where Can I Find Someone Like You, Ali?’ is written and performed by Raeda Taha, the eldest daughter of Ali Taha, who was killed by Israeli agents during a plane hijacking in 1972. After a sold out run of performances at Beirut’s Babel Theatre and a plethora of media acclaim, the one-woman performance will this week be staged at LAU’s Gulbenkian Theatre.

Raeda Taha opens the family’s intimate archives to shatter the halo of The Martyr and its stereotype, stripping it of its heroism. Ali Taha is a husband, a father and a brother. He departed and his women were left to continue his life for him and to continue theirs through him. In the process and in painful candour, Raeda Taha faces the reality of being an orphan, of loss, and of the absence of a father who can never be replaced, not even by Yasser Arafat, who had visited Raeda and her sisters during her father’s wake, and with whom she would later work as an adult.

The play, throughout which Taha speaks directly to the audience as if in conversation, opens with a disturbing account of an attempted rape. Taha’s anger is palpable, as she talks us through the most recent of various personal accounts. Others are met with rapturous laughter. Scene after scene, we learn more about the women of the Taha family and through them about the struggle of Palestinian women in general.

The strength of the writing and Raeda Taha’s performance is matched by the quality of the direction and production, undertaken by a team of LAU graduates under the direction of LAU professor of theatre Lina Abyad.

Abyad tries to employ LAU alumni and students in professional productions off campus as often as she can. Read what Abyad and her team had to say about working on this production and with each other in the slide show opposite.

In collaboration with the Department of Communication Arts, “Where Can I Find Someone Like You Ali?” will be performed in Gulbenkian Theatre, LAU Beirut Campus on Tuesday March 24, 2015 at 7 pm sharp

 

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Stage Director Dr. Lina Abyad: “It’s important for students to feel continuity between what they learn and what they practice. I think they feel very rewarded to be working with their professor, to be chosen, to be part of a team in which their input is taken seriously. They transition in a very smooth way between being a student to becoming a collaborator with a major part in the production. It’s very rewarding for them, for their self esteem and even good for their parents, who come to the performances and suddenly see that their children are working professionally. First of all it’s about the trust I put in the education that LAU provides these students, be it with me or Mona Knio or the whole Communications Arts program. Second, having worked with these students in the major production on campus and having seen them work on their own productions has allowed me to help them develop their tools, potential and skills. Thirdly, it’s our responsibility towards our alumni to provide them with jobs and opportunities to further develop professionally and prove themselves. I’m very biased towards our students — I give them priority when I’m hiring.”

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Raeda Taha is the playwright, who also took the role of the protagonist. As the daughter of hijacker Ali Taha, she explains how her family was affected by his actions and how the illusions that accompany martyrdom translate to real life.

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Fouad Halwani is an LAU alumnus who majored in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Radio/TV and Film. He worked on this play as a lighting designer. He says: “This is my eighth production working professionally with Dr. Abyad. Each new play brings new challenges, since she is the type of director who always wants to try new things in how she experiments with theater. It always makes me think more about the lighting design in general. The fact that her plays are very well attended is also very rewarding for us, to see people appreciate the work and the effort we put in.”

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Ghina Sibai is an LAU alumna who majored in Interior Design. She worked on this play as a set consultant and props designer. In her own words: “I’ve been working with Dr. Abyad for the last 15 years, and have had had a part in almost every play she has directed. What she gave me is something I cannot even measure. I learned everything I know now backstage at LAU. While working on her plays I learned how to design props, puppets, costumes, scenography. I got to learn about carpentry, different materials, as well as electricity. When I worked on a historical TV series, my theater background with Dr. Abyad gave me everything I needed.”

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Julien Chehouri is a graduate of the Communication Arts department with an emphasis on Radio/TV and Film. For this play, he served as film director, creating the video for the play. Explaining why he chooses to work with his professor even after graduation, he says: “Dr. Abyad gave me a major role, which required my full attention and dedication to the project. I worked actively with the entire team, and meticulously shaped the play alongside the set designer, the operators, technical director and stage manager, as well as the visual designer. Dr. Abyad is a perfectionist when it comes to her work and always allows as much room as possible for creative decisions, for trial and error and pushing ideas to their limits.”

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Kalil Kadri is another graduate of the Communication Arts Department, with an emphasis in Radio/TV and Film. On this play, he was stage manager and also the lights operator. Kadri says of the experience: “Its been really amazing for me- its my first proper theatrical experience outside of university. Lina helped me transition from the university world to the professional world, she didn’t shelter me at all at work. It gave me the opportunity to grow. Lina makes a real effort to bring in alumni. She recognises how difficult the real world is and helps us put our foot in the door.”

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Noura Nassar is a current student, majoring in Graphic Design. She worked on the play as a designer of visuals. When describing the experience, she said: “As a Graphic Design student, Lina leads me, helping to discover my own style without imposing her vision. She is demanding, in a good sense. She gives you guidelines but let you explore ideas and find your inspiration on your own.”

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Dounia Nassar is an LAU alumna who majored in Graphic Design. She worked on this play as a poster designer. “Having the opportunity to work with my mother, who also happens to be the most talented person I’ve ever met, is amazing. She knows the importance of design and even though her name is enough to get people to the theater she still puts a lot of importance in having a poster that engages people and intrigues them. She gives the designer creative freedom and is very supportive throughout the process. I first started working with her five years ago, while I was still a student at LAU and she helped me build confidence in my work and learn how to turn an idea into a poster that communicates the essence of the play.”

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Sari Shreiteh is a Communication Arts alumnus who worked on the play as a technical director and light operator. In his own words, “This is my third production with Dr. Abyad. LAU helped us create a community of like-minded theater professionals who know how to work together and form good teams. We’ve being doing that with Dr.Abyad since we graduated. We’ve created projects that’s we were proud of and proud to be a part of.”

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Walid Saliba is an LAU Communication Arts graduate who managed the play’s public relations and press contacts, while also working as house manager. “I love working with Lina. She taught me at university and now she brought us graduates to work with her like real professionals. She helps us maintain our dream of doing theatre. Her choice to work with us students makes us feel that she is supporting and trusting us and so is LAU,” he says.

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