On Wednesday, organisers of the ninth annual National Theatre Festival announced details about the upcoming edition, which will bring 37 plays from 11 governorates to 14 stages around Cairo, starting next week.
This year's festival is named after the actor Nour El-Sherif, who died last year, and the festival’s opening event will take place at the Cairo Opera House on 19 July.
Details of the festival were revealed by head of the festival, theatre director Naser Abdelmoneim, and members of the festival’s organising committee, writer Mohamed El-Salamony and the head of the National Centre for Theatre, Mostafa Selim.
Other active members of the festival's committee are Sayed Khattab, Essam El-Sayed, Mohamed Fahmy El-Khouly and Nehad Selaiha.
Abdelmoneim stated that this year’s festival promises to be more organised, and highlighted several new additions, underlining that this year’s selected plays are of higher quality and represent an eclectic variety of visions.
The festival showcases plays from a diverse range of institutions, some from the public sector such as the culture palaces and the High Institute for Theatre, and others from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and some from independent theatre troupes.
“This is the most geographically diverse edition yet, as we have plays participating from all four corners of the country, including for the first time, the Shelatin tourpe,” Abdelmoneim stated.
He also listed a number of other participating cities, Marsa Matrouh, Qena, Sohag and Assiut, highlighting that number of cities encompassed has increased and that the festival strives to include more every time.
“This year we are proud of Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s participation, with two plays, as [a representative of] civil society,” he said.
For the second consecutive year Al-Ahram establishment is participating, with a play by Ahram Theatre Troupe. The play is titled Helm Wala Elm (“Dream of Reality”) and is directed by Sherif Samir.
Abdelmonein highlighted the cooperation of multiple cultural sectors in bringing the festival to life, and noted the support of the Culture Development Fund and the Artistic Theatre House as “the spine of the festival.”
This year’s honorees will be Abdelrahman Abo Zahra, Abdelrahman El-Shafei, Farida El-Nakkash, Fawzia Mahran, Mohamed Enany, Nagy Shaker, Nabil Moneib, and Nour El-Sherif.
The 37 plays were selected by a board of six members, which comprised of Nehad Selaiha, Basem Sadek, Wafaa Kamal, Khaled Raslan, Mona Shedid and Hend Salama.
The participating plays will then be juried by another committee headed by Samiha Ayoub and including jury members Sanaa Shafea, Kamal Eid, Ashraf Abdelghafour, Noha Barrada, Sameh Saber, Ahmed El-Haggar, Mohamed Samir El-Khatib and Ibrahim El-Husseiny.
The 9th National Theatre Festival offers 20 prizes which in total amount to 300,000 EGP.
The first and second place prizes are granted to two “best plays”, while the remaining 18 are for other categories.
“This year is bigger than last year, and it is evident in the significantly increased value of the prizes,” Salamony said.
He noted wryly that the salaries of those working on the festival had not been increased in the same way.
Abdelmoneim stressed that “the festival’s aim is motivation and encouragement for creatives.”
Several activities will take place on the peripheries of the festival, including a book fair at Hanager Art Centre, and another at Taliaa Theatre.
New in this year’s edition is a travelling book fair that will rotate between theatre venues.
A two day seminar on the subject of “Theatre and Terrorism” will also be held on 24 and 25 July at the Higher Council for Culture. The first day will discuss resistance through theatre in the international scope, and the second day will focus on the local and regional examples of such works.
“During the seminar we will offer one of the most important books produced by the National Centre for Theatre, El-Masrah Men Agl El-Watan ('Theatre for the Country'), which includes articles on the most notable plays regarding political and social activism in theatre,” Mostafa Selim stated.
On Wednesday 27 July, the National Centre for Theatre will honour the life and work of actress Aida Abdelaziz at the National Theatre premises.
Two book signings events will be held on 25 and 25 July, the first for the book of the scripts that won the Tawfik El-Hakim playwriting competition, and the second for Abo El-Ela El-Salamony titled Egtehadat Masreya fi El-Benya El-Drameya ("Egyptian Endeavours in Theatre Structure").
During the press conference's Q&A session, some questions addressed the selection process; why most were foreign scripts, and why certain plays were not selected.
Abdelmoneim explained that the festival only selects from the pool of works submitted from the producing entities, which are the top winners from competitions held by each entity.
“The festival doesn’t influence the works produced, but merely presents it,” he said.
“Theatre will thrive when freedoms are expanded. We must not fear theatre, it is an expression of the moment and as such will be political in nature. We need to protect that and encourage youth to express themselves.”
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