BEIRUT: It’s back. For the third consecutive year the Collectif Kahraba theater company is calling Mar Mikhael residents and visitors to the streets after dark for its annual “Nehna wel Amar wel Jiran” (“We and the moon are neighbors”) festival.
This year’s edition, which runs Friday through Sunday and opens at 7 p.m. each evening, returns once again to the Vendome stairs with photography, theater, dance and music lined up.
But if you missed Friday’s opening night, fear not – most of the performances and events, are scheduled to play all three evenings, and all are free of charge.
Festivalgoers are invited to peruse what organizer Aurelian Zouki says is a real highlight of the event – photography and video installations exhibited throughout the neighborhood.
The subjects of the photos are the “neighbors” themselves, Zouki said, adding that the local residents “really played the game” over the past two months as photographer Rima Maroun, alongside fellow photographers Lara Tabet and Elsie Haddad, met, interviewed and was inspired by their stories and memories.
Zouki adds that it’s significant that the exhibition was supported by the contemporary art gallery Galerie Janine Rubeiz, claiming that this is a step toward building bridges between the contemporary art scene and the world of popular expression.
Other attractions over the course of the festival are the Lebanese theater companies’ original productions. Three shows are performed each night, but due to overlapping running times, Zouki recommends visitors return on multiple nights to catch them all.
Two of the performances are advertised as suitable for children. “The Bread Festival” is recommended for ages 6 and above, while “Noun” is suggested for children ages 8 and up.
The former is an interactive performance involving a deliveryman, a donkey and a catering crisis.
The latter, performed by the Waraq Company and sounding considerably more serious, tells the tale of an 8-year-old boy in wartime Beirut. Zouki recommends it, however, mentioning that the interactive piece entails taking a walk with the actor around the neighborhood.
The other theater performance each night is a contemporary dance piece. According to the event program, “‘Eight People and Eight Rules’ is a performance resulting from a three-week laboratory proposed by Clara Sfeir, involving eight dancers and two musicians.”
The theatrical events are followed by a unique musical performance each evening.
Last year the festival attracted some 2,000 visitors. Zouki is hoping for a similar turnout this year. He describes the location at the Vendome stairs as “very intimate and cozy” saying that it’s not an event designed to attracted many thousands. At any one time there are generally between 300 and 500 people present, he added.
Zouki also pointed out that two separate genres of audiences appear to attend each night. Early evenings tend to be for families, while the later events are predominantly populated by young people. An overlap, he suggests, may occur during the contemporary dance performance.