10th Egyptian National Theater Festival introduces audience award, honours late critic Nehad Selaiha

Fatma Khaled, Monday 10 Jul 2017

The 10th Egyptian National Theater Festival runs from 13 to 27 July in Cairo

National Theatre Festival
Press conference of the National Theatre Festival, 9 July 2017 (Photo: courtesy of the festival's organizers)

The higher committee of the Egyptian National Theater Festival unveiled new shows and prizes in a press conference on Sunday, as it gears up for its 10th annual edition kicking off 13 July and running through 27 July. The festival's official opening will take place at the main hall of the Cairo Opera House.

The 10th edition honours late renowned theatre critic, academic and writer Nehad Selaiha, who passed away earlier this year.

“Differences have always occurred among state, independent and amateur theatre troupes. By honouring the late Selaiha we affirm that all types of theatre performers act as one Egyptian theatrical movement, just as she always saw them,” said festival manager and president of the Theater House Ismail Moukhtar at the presser.

Festival sections include an official competition comprised of 20 competing performances produced within the past year.

The festival’s judging committee is comprised of Egyptian-Kuwaiti theatre critic Alaa El-Gaber, writer Mahmoud El Salamony, artist Ferdous Abdelhamid, art professor Rania Yehia, director Nasser Abdel-Moneim, professor and critic Mohamed Za’ema, young cinematographer Rami Benjamin, and artist Fadi Fokeh. 

The programme also includes the Critic Article Contest, in which young critics submit articles analysing and reviewing a festival play, and are awarded by a jury of critics. Critics on the jury include Mohamed El-Roby, Mahmoud Naseem, Alaa Abdel-Aziz, Mohamed Samir El-Khateeb, and Heba Baraka.

The 10th edition will also feature Special Theater, a segment which sheds light every year on street theatre. "Next year the focus will be on children's theater," said festival president Hassan Attia.

“The street performance will feature three performances including Za’aboba in the Windward from Suez governorate, Loss by Iraqi group Bablyon and Halm (Dream) by Karkouk theatre group,” Attia told Ahram Online.

The president explained that many participants in the festival come from other governorates, but that it is hard for the festival to feature performances in other governorates due to lack of funds for transportation and group accommodation.

Attia also revealed in the press conference that with a focus on theatre in the Arab world, the festival has chosen the UAE as this year’s guest of honour. 

Another segment called Selected Performances (Edged Performances, previously) will feature plays that participated in previous competitions.

The winning play from Selected Performances will be chosen by the audience, President of the National Center for Social Studies and member of the festival’s higher committee Nesreen El-Boghdady announced at the conference.

“We plan to raise a generation that has a taste for theatre and spreading culture,” El-Boghdady said.

“A theatre without an audience is no theatre; plays are the most privileged form of art as they receive instantaneous feedback from live audiences,” the president told Ahram Online.

She said that audiences would be surveyed during the Selected Performances for their preferences, evaluation of service, which scripts they enjoyed and their favourite performers.

The newly-announced award stirred controversy among participants at the press conference, prompting some to withdraw from the competition.

“Audience evaluation is important, although it has upset some directors. In my point of view this attitude indicates that they create works for themselves not for their audiences,” young critic and member of the festival’s higher committee Rana Abdel-Kawy told Ahram Online.

The General Authority for Cultural Places will be providing 100 books for each performing group as a gift -- a new aspect of this year’s edition. The gift includes theatre manuscripts and theatre-themed books.

Attia explained that TV channel DMC will also be screening six short films, each approximately two minutes, about the lives of honoured figures in theatre, as well as a 40 minute documentary about the life of Nehad Selaiha.

The closing ceremony will feature an open discussion with remarks from critics. It will aslo include a round table discussion on the effect of the 23 July revolution on the Egyptian theatrical scene and the role of theatre in shaping political and cultural platforms afterwards, according to poet and playwright Mohamed Boghdady.

The Higher Committee of the Egyptian National Theater Festival is composed of Attia, Abdelkawy, El Boghdady, director and college professor Gamal Bakout, Boghdady, president of the Theater House and festival manager Ismail Moukhtar, president of Arts Academy Ahlam Younis and chairwoman of the Cairo Opera House Inas Abdel Dayem.

Also on the committee are president of the Egyptian National Authority for Books Haitham El Hag, president of the Cultural Production Affairs Sector Khaled Galal, president of Cultural Development Fund Ahmed Awad, and president of the National Center for Theater Emaad Saeed.

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