A festival ‘by the youth, for the youth’

BEIRUT: “Students are the people responsible for running this festival,” Nidal Ashkar said.

“It is the first time there is this type of [gathering] of all arts in the theater and of all young people.” The founder of the Masrah al-Madina, Ashkar was referring to the Mishkal [kaleidoscope] Festival, which opens Monday and will run in Hamra until Sept. 21.

The purpose of this all-arts youth festival is to provide an artistic platform for the city’s emerging generation of artists, a space for them to present and discover their various creations.

With a program ranging from short film screenings to roundtables, workshops and music performances, Mishkal’s motto is to be a festival “by the youth, for the youth.”

Mishkal’s ancillary objective is to provide a space for arts students from different universities “to stage their visions on a shared platform.”

Supported by the European Union, Beirut Municipality, as well as the Lebanese Ministries of Culture, Education and Tourism, Mishkal’s organizers hope this kaleidoscope of young art will be the first among many.

“It is important to have people from different fields, backgrounds and universities together,” said Nagy Souraty, artistic director of Masrah al-Madina. “[Mishkal] took a hell of a dimension!”

Naturally, the older generation of artistic contributors won’t be ignored.

At its opening ceremony, the event will honor such personalities as theater director and playwright Yaacoub al-Chedrawi, poet and playwright Paul Chaoul, lawyer and playwright Oussama al-Aref, qanun maestro Iman Homsy and dramaturge and Masrah Beirut partisan Said Sinno.

The opening evening’s slate of events will be punctuated by a concert by Lebanese singer Mike Massy.

His latest album “Ya Zaman” has found some success and he was chosen to compose and perform the official tune for the 2012 Beirut Marathon. “[He] was chosen by the young people,” Souraty said.

The Lebanese Army will also be present on the opening day to play.

“They will not have guns,” Souraty said, “but instruments.”

They will perform their own repertoire, in addition to the E.U. and Lebanese anthems.

Mishkal day one will also see the launch of the “Fine Arts and Photography Exhibition,” which will be held in the theater.

Featuring the work of student artists like Christine Abi Rached, Bechara Samneh, Usra al-Madhoun and Emne Mroue, the show will run until the end of the festival.

Tuesday’s program features a capoeira workshop by Rami Eid. It will be followed by the first of several “Freestyle” events.

“Freestyle performances are not officially part of the festival,” Souraty said, “they are a festival off.”

These events will either happen outdoors (on Hamra street, closed for the occasion) or in the theater.

The performers will sing some of their own compositions and cover songs in their own way.

Among these “Freestyle” shows is a performance by BLOK (Beirut Laptop Orchestra), which, mingling computer arrangements with more conventional instruments, claims to be the first ensemble of its kind in the Middle East.

For those interested in more conventional forms of performance, director Rameen Halabi will present her adaptation (in Arabic) of the classic piece of theater of the absurd “The Chairs,” by Eugene Ionesco.

Film buffs will find the first of a series of programs devoted to locally made short film. Joanna Jarjoura, Nour Ouayda and Jean Bou Chaaya are among the filmmakers whose works are being showcased.

The day’s program will wrap up with a samba performance.

Among the many events scheduled for day three is the roundtable “Performance and Design.”

Moderated by Cornelia Krafft, the discussion will ruminate on the narrative potential and opportunities embedded in stage design.

The theatrical highlight of the day will be a performance of Issam Mahfouz’s play “Crime at the Hospital,” premised on an investigation of a crime at a mental clinic.

Later on, vocalist-guitarist Claude Jreidy and guitarist Chris Thomas (aka The LowHighs) will perform a round of their own acoustic compositions. They’ll be followed on stage by the enchanting voice of Lebanese mezzo-soprano Maya Hobeika.

There is a strong lifestyle component to Mishkal’s workshops, like the one devoted to laughter yoga, led, presumably with good-humored serenity, by Sabine Jizi.

Later on, Selim Mourad will present his 48mn production “X-La Conception,” followed by Dalia Yassine’s 9mn movie “Muddle.”

Lebanese composer and vocalist Dida Guigan will also be on hand to perform several of her own work. The day will close with a powerful performance of the Brazilian combative dance form, capoeira.

Some of Mishkal’s roundtables will address important social and artistic themes. On Sept. 21, Semaan Khawam will lead a roundtable on graffiti art.

Marc Roumi and Karim Al Amin are among the student filmmakers who will show their work “The Last Page” and “Caution Flying People.”

Vocalist and guitarist Sami Nassour will play some of his compositions.

The urban acrobatic Lebanese Parkour Team (LPK) has been chosen to close the Mishkal Festival.

They will perform what their Facebook page has described as the “art of displacement” – moving from one point to another using as little energy as possible.

How can you say no to that?

“Mishkal: A Youth Festival for all Arts” will be held in Hamra’s Masrah al-Madina and its surroundings from Sept. 17-21. For more information, please call: 01-753-010 or visit

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 17, 2012, on page 16.




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