Lebanese American University


Faculty, students and alumni behind hugely successful play Anbara

Instructor and theater director Aliya Khalidi involves LAU students and alumni in the recreation of her grandmother’s verve and rectitude and inspires the audience.

In her most recent play, Anbara, Aliya Khalidi honors her grandmother Anbara Salam Khalidi who had been an example of fortitude to Arab women. “Every woman in the family used to consult her on all matters and her advice was always supportive and progressive,” says Khalidi. “She experienced three tragedies, three great losses in her life, and yet she was such a pleasant positive person and a role model for us all.”

Anbara was in fact a role model for all feminists in Lebanon and across the Arab world. Her records of the many challenges and changes she witnessed and experienced during her life in Lebanon and Palestine were the impetus behind her granddaughter’s production. “I had read the memoir in the original Arabic many years ago, but I was recaptured by it after reading my father’s translation in English, published in 2013,” recalls Khalidi.

Any biography of Anbara is sure to mention that she defiantly removed her face veil before giving a speech at AUB in 1927, and while this is certainly a poignant moment in Khalidi’s production, it is the preceding decade that most occupies the story and the stage. In preparing the script, Khalidi pored over the pages of Anbara’s memoir with dramatist and LAU graduate Noura Sakkaf.

Khalidi and Sakkaf had worked together on previous projects, as they had with other members of the production team, most of whom are LAU students and graduates. “As a faculty member you tend to establish very good relations with your students, both current and former,” says Khalidi, explaining the richness of LAU talent in the crew.

Khalidi first taught students of the communication arts programs in 1994 and has for the past six years been a regular fixture at the department. “They see how I work, and the established teacher-student relationship builds trust and a bond that is very positive.”

Her former student Walid Saliba, goes further to say that he also very much enjoyed the development of the relationship with his former teacher. “Our communication became both more professional and more personal,” says Saliba, who has been the house and media manager for the production. “Aliya is very creative and works out of trust. It was a wonderful experience with her and the others,” he adds, noting that he felt at ease and at home among fellow LAU members who had the same outlook and education as himself.

While most of the crew members were recent graduates, some were Khalidi’s students over a decade ago. “I’ve never worked on a production without my students. I aim to guide them through life through theatre, rather than teach them about theatre,” says Khalidi, adding that appreciation of the art form is an important aspect of her work. “Theatre contains almost every element of art you can think of. It’s about staging beautiful pictures with beautiful acting, lighting, design, music … that is the beauty of theatre. It can give credit to each of these elements while drawing out each of their strengths collectively.”


The extended run of “Anbara” at Babel theatre will end on Saturday 28 May. To reserve your ticket, call the theatre on 01 744 033.


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