Bringing theater back to life
LAU appeal hopes to raise funds towards refurbishing one-of-a-kind Gulbenkian Theater.
All the world’s a stage, but not all stages are equal. In the days of William Shakespeare, the preferred stages of thespians were “thrust” style, with an extended stage so that the audience can surround it on three sides. Although the thrust stage went out of fashion for a while, it’s made a fierce comeback in recent decades and arguably remains the favored stage type for Shakespeare productions across the world.
LAU is itself home to a much-loved thrust stage, at Gulbenkian Theater on the Beirut campus. The only indoor amphitheater in the Arab world, Gulbenkian opened its doors in 1971 with the stage production Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Since then, theater has played a central role in campus life. But Gulbenkian Theater seems to hold a particularly special place in the hearts of Communication Arts students and faculty.
“Gulbenkian was my home at LAU when I was a student,” says Lina Khoury, an LAU communication arts graduate who now teaches theater here. “I was practically living in there- we stayed so long we used to get kicked out every night by the security guards. The theater has a special feeling to it. I love it and I think everyone who has worked on a performance there feels as passionately about it as I do.”
Now LAU is looking to breathe new life into the theater space with a special Spring Appeal. The fundraiser hopes to generate enough cash to renovate or refurbish key areas of the theater, such as replacing audience chairs or upgrading equipment. Whatever money is raised by the appeal will be matched by the university.
For many, the thrust stage offers a more intimate experience than the more common recital hall theaters. “From an architectural point of view, Gulbenkian provides perfect acoustics and sightlines,” says Mona Knio, associate professor of theater. “We are proud of Gulbenkian’s storied history and look forward to celebrating another 50 years of theater excellence in its unique space. We want to continue to provide an inspiring environment for directors, writers, actors and set designers.”
Youmna Bayyoumi is a senior communication arts student who has been involved in six major productions at Gulbenkian and staged her own performance, As-Sarkha, there in March. “I’ve been to many theaters in Lebanon and Gulbenkian is easily one of the best. It has a luxurious feel to it and makes the actor feel special onstage,” she says. “I’m planning to take Play Production 2 just to be able to put my next play on stage there.”
If you are interested in helping refurbish Gulbenkian Theater, please visit the following link: http://campaign.lau.edu.lb/ways-give/online or call LAU’s Development office on 01-786456 Ext: 1731.