The brainchild of theatre maker Hytham Elhawary, Egypt's first Online International Theatre Festival will take place between 27 and 30 March. The initiative comes in response to the shutdown of all activities involving large public gatherings in the country.
The idea came when Elhawary had to postpone the 5th edition of the Youth of the South Theatre Festival (YSTF), which was scheduled for April and each year brings theatrical activities to southern Egyptian governorates, holding many creative activities in towns and villages.
"Due to the circumstances we are all going through, we had to postponed the 5th edition of the Youth of the South Theatre Festival (YSTF). ‘Why not go online,’ I thought. Isn't it a suitable way of keeping in touch with all theatre practitioners and our audiences?" Elhawary, who is also the YSTF's president, told Ahram Online.
The online festival is organised by the artistic association that Elhawary manages (the 'Seen' Association for Arts and Culture), in cooperation with Tunisia's Spring Festival for Theatre and is aligned with the International Theatre Institute (ITI).
"We rely a lot on cooperation with the Tunisian festival in marketing and promoting the online event as well as in creating vibrant links with international theatre practitioners," Elhawary adds.
According to Elhawary, the online festival accepts entries from all around the world until 26 March and the chosen plays will be presented between 27 and 30 March on the online platforms of the YSTF and the Tunisian festival. The plays’ duration should not exceed 60 minutes.
While the Youth of the South Theatre Festival targets specific theatrical content with productions capitalising on showcasing and promoting the heritage and folkloric arts, the online festival opens up to all topics.
"Preliminarily we were planning to present two plays per day, but due to a high number of submissions, we will include three plays daily. The plays will be uploaded online with a discussion option available for the audiences," Elhawary reveals.
Apart from the discussions encouraged by the management, Elhawary also reveals that the festival will upload the workshops/lectures given by the theatre specialists.
"The coronavirus outbreak and the closure of all artistic activities should not stop us from reaching out to each other and to our audiences. Though we do not present theatre on the stages, we won't stop our life. We should go outside the box and the online activities are a perfect way of doing so."
Elhawary also sees this as an opportunity to implement this format in the long-run.
“We will definitely go for more editions of the festival. This one is just the beginning and I am sure we will learn a lot throughout the festival's days and we will implement possible expansions in the event's upcoming editions.”
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