Remembering Egyptian actor, theatre director Saad Ardash

Ati Metwaly , Thursday 15 Jun 2023

Renowned Egyptian theatre director, actor and academic Saad Ardash was born on 16 June 1924 in Damietta. He lived a rich creative life in Egypt and died on 13 June 2008 in the US.

Saad Ardash

 

Ardash studied at the Theatre Institute in Cairo, graduating in 1950. Later on, he worked as a professor at the High Institute of Theatrical Arts.

He also studied law at Ain Shams University, graduating in 1955.

Following his theatre passion, Ardash applied for a scholarship to continue his education in Italy. He obtained his PhD from the Theatre Academy in Rome (1961).

The early 1960s were active in introducing new art forms to the Egyptian audiences and developing the cultural scene.

Known as the Golden Age of modern Egypt, this time helped Ardash create numerous projects that benefited from his studies in Italy. He brought many ideas on acting and directing from the West to Egypt, reforming the approaches to the art of stage in his home country.

Years later, in his articles, Ardash often analysed the conditions of the Egyptian theatre prior to the mid-1950s, pointing to the productions being mainly commercially driven and responding to the tastes and expectations of the foreign audience.

It was Ardash who greatly contributed to shaking that status quo and reframing the theatre in his own country.

Not only did his research tackle the art of playwrighting, directing, and acting, but it also extended to theories on the scenography, costume design, lighting, etc. In the sector of playwriting, Ardash promoted the importance of texts that would deal with the socially relevant issues.

On the other hand, Ardash was particularly inspired by German Bertolt Brecht and the absurd theatre as formulated by names such as Euegene Ionesco and Samuel Beckett.

Strongly influenced by the European experimentation in theatre, upon his return to Egypt, Ardash founded a Pocket Theatre (Geib Theatre) in 1962, a company which presented avant garde works, introducing Ionesco and Beckett to the Egyptian audiences for the first time. Later on, the theatre was renamed El-Taliaa (Avant Garde Theatre).

Revolutionary at heart, Ardash used the Western formats to meander within the social and political contexts on the Egyptian stages, while encouraging his students to discover the new language.

When reaching out to the Egyptian texts, he presented them in a revised and often experimental format.

Ardash played an important role in founding the Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre in 1986, and held the position of its president in the festival's first edition.

In theatre circles, Ardash is considered one of the most important academics and directors of his generation. Many young directors and actors consider him as a father of modern Egyptian theatre.

As a director, Ardash worked on many Egyptian stages, including the National Theatre, with numerous well-known actors. His portfolio includes more than 30 plays besides dozens of smaller projects implemented with his students at the Theatre Academy.

To the general public, Ardash was known through his work as an actor. He appeared in more than 120 films and television series. The notable titles include The Other Face (1987), Motawie and Bahiya (1982) and Men Don't Marry Beauties (1965).

The late artist won many awards and honours, including the Science and Arts Medal in 1967 and the State Appreciation Award from the Supreme Council of Culture.

 Ardash passed away after a long struggle with illness.

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