The play 80 Steps directed by LAU lecturer Aliya Khalidi takes center stage at the Arab Theatre Festival in Sharjah.
Dr. Aliya Khalidi, lecturer in the communication arts and humanities departments, has just returned from the UAE where the Arab Theatre Festival had taken place in Sharjah. Her play 80 Steps was among the eight plays selected to compete in the highly competitive theater event.
“Even if we didn’t win, we were selected out of 150 applicants from around the world to perform at the festival,” Khalidi declares adding, “I am very pleased that 80 Steps was able to receive international exposure. In addition to the personal satisfaction, this stands as a testament to LAU’s commitment to excellence in the arts.”
The director’s aunt, Randa Khalidi, an English literature graduate, scripted the play. “My aunt wrote it many, many years ago, but it was only when I turned 50 that the play really began to resonate with me,” she says.
80 Steps is a biting commentary on the pleasures and perils of aging and tells the story of three elderly people and their male housekeeper, who cohabit a large house built 80 steps above ground level. The man of the house is retired Admiral Ahmad. He shares it with his uptight unmarried 65-year old sister Fayzeh and his wife Lamya, who is coming to terms with her sexual frustration and a deep sense of lost beauty and youth. Ahmad and Lamya have a single daughter, who comes to visit them from time to time.
“The play revolves around the themes of old age, retirement, tolerance of others and the acceptance of one’s life and death,” Khalidi explains. It examines the process of aging with a critical eye, which is at times both humorous and deeply touching. Most memorable are the scenes where the threesome bicker with each other—“due to a familiarity that breads contempt”—according to Khalidi. Despite the strains of isolating themselves in a bubble and though the story focuses on the trauma of the passage of time, it is also a story about the strength of familial bonds.
Associate Professor of Communication Arts Dr. Lina Abyad played the role of Fayzeh. “In developing the character, I was inspired by different women I have encountered in my life,” she says. “I wanted to create a character that the audience didn’t simply laugh at, but someone who was vulnerable. I wanted the audience to be moved by her desire for all the opportunities she had lost by not being married,” she adds. Abyad, a renowned theater director and actor herself, triumphed at the same festival last year when she presented her highly acclaimed play, Al Dictator, written by Issam Mahfouz.
“80 Steps is brilliant, it corrects the assumptions we make about the lives of the elderly,” says AUB linguistics student Nathalie Khairallah, who watched the play in Beirut. “The theme of self-perception and the hard-to-accept fact that the future no longer holds infinite possibilities is beautifully addressed,” she adds.
The participating actors are: Fayzeh played by Lina Abyad, Ahmad played by Faek Humaissi, Lamia played by Raeda Taha, Mounir played by Ali Sammoury, and Laila played by Nazha Harb.