Music and theater set to spring forth in Beirut

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s cultural calendar has a seasonal quality. Among the handful of springtime events that flower in Beirut precincts, for instance, there are no less than two that call themselves The Spring Festival.

One is organized and hosted by the Dawar al-SHAMS cultural space in Tayouneh. The other is run by the Samir Kassir Foundation, the body created after the assassination of the Lebanese editorialist and intellectual in 2005.

The 2013 edition of the Samir Kassir Spring Festival, its eighth edition, offers a program of musical and theatrical events. The former features the work of Lebanese singer-songwriter Tania Saleh, the latter the work of Lebanese-Canadian writer, director and actor Wajdi Mouawad.

Saleh will open the festival with her concert “Chababeek Beirut” at the Samir Kassir Garden, Downtown. Known for blending Middle Eastern rhythms like dabke with jazz and rock’n’roll, Saleh has over the years collaborated with such acclaimed figures as Ziad Rahbani, Natasha Atlas and Khaled Mouzannar. She has recently released a live album.

Wajdi Mouawad (who in 2002 was made Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government) will be on hand for the staging of three different plays, scheduled for May 27-31.

Booked at Masrah al-Madina, “Incendies” tells the story of Lebanese-Canadian twins Jeanne and Simon who, after the death of their mother Nawal, discover new information about their father and discover the existence of a brother. This play, which was adapted to the screen in 2010, leads its audience on a journey of discovery reminiscent of Greek tragedy.

A couple of days later at the Roman Baths, renowned British actor and vocalist Jane Birkin will perform “La Sentinelle,” a play Mouawad wrote especially for Birkin. The play uses the story of the sudden disappearance of the crew and passengers of a ship to address themes of wandering, chaos and mysticism.

The closing event of this year’s festival will be one-man show “Seuls” (“Alone”). Mouawad himself will play Harwan, a Lebanese man who emigrated to Quebec during the Civil War. A graduate student writing on a famous Canadian playwright, he finds himself questioning his life. A mixed media performance, “Seuls” addresses identity, memory, and the relationship between writer-director and character.

The eight edition of the Samir Kassir Beirut Spring Festival will be staged at several venues in Beirut from May 26-31. For more information, please call 01-397-334.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 01, 2013, on page 16.




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