BEIRUT: Launched eight years ago at the Al Madina Theater, the Miskal Festival celebrated art in all its forms, wrapping up a memorable group of shows Tuesday.
Under the motto “by the youth, to the youth,” it was also priced affordably for student at 5,000 L.L. – equivalent to the price of a sandwich.
Known as the only cultural students’ festival in Lebanon and the Arab region, Mishkal is specifically organized to help fresh graduates, university students, and high school students exhibit their work and demonstrate their potential. It gives young artists the chance to use the stage and the space to express themselves through music, plays, films, and art exhibitions, organizers noted.
Founder of Al Madina Theater, veteran theater director, play writer and actress Nidal Ashkar launched Mishkal in 2010, with the aim of initiating a platform for Lebanon’s young artists.
“As we first started Al Madina Theater 25 years ago, we wanted to initiate a festival for the youth, but the idea never came to light until eight years ago,” said Ashkar. “We lost trust in the older generation because it was them who built this version of the world that we live in, and thus today our first and only concern is the youth, for they are the ones who will spark a change.”
The organizing committee headed by TV/Film graduate Awad Awad comprises students from different universities, including the Lebanese University, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, the Lebanese American University, the American University of Beirut, Saint Joseph University, and the Lebanese International University.
“Students who apply to work at Mishkal are interested in many work positions, but as they unfold the different aspects of directing and producing a festival, they discover the one job they want to focus on,” said Awad.
Just like every year, students took full responsibility of the festival. They held positions in production, technical production, public relations, design, social media, advertising, organization, and many other fields that added to their experience.
According to Jana Al-Hindi, undergraduate student at the Lebanese American University and an organizer at Mishkal, the festival has become a big part of her life ever since she joined it last year.
“Mishkal taught me the interdisciplinary communication we use with artists, as much as it taught me how to plan neatly and properly,” claimed Al-Hindi. “I faced some hardships and at some point, I was all over the place, but it all got back together, and now I can say that I know how to organize a festival.”
The hashtag chosen by the organizers for Mishkal 2018 is #Badda_Nafda, which translates to “renovation is needed.”
“Lebanon in general needs renovation, we have many issues that call for change, like the garbage crisis, the electricity problem, the non-acceptance of others and many more,” said Ashkar. “We aim to shed light on these issues through the themes we’ve chosen for the round table discussions, plays, dances, visual arts and even the decoration we used.”
This explains the intention behind the garbage art that was hanging from the ceiling and eating up the corners.
Making sure no artist feels excluded, this year, Mishkal added drag queen shows.
“Drag shows are part of the art scene, and thus should not be overlooked,” said Awad. “Ever since Shakespeare, men were taking female roles and doing exceptionally well.”
On the first day, Mishkal opened with a musical parade composed of Al Jarrah Scouts and a Palestinian Dabke troop, the parade exhibited a cultural mix that Mishkal is well-known to endorse.
Exclusively for the festival, a theatrical production directed by Awad under the title of Kingdom of Rats followed the parade. The play communicated a story about the evolution of people into rats, as it was their only way to adapt to the toxicity of the garbage atmosphere they live in.
“People can’t live under the circumstances of a toxic, impoverished, poor, and oppressed atmosphere, rats on the other hand can,” said Awad. “The message behind the play is exactly that, and the solutions are obvious, these beings should either go for a change or evolve into rats to become accustomed to the atmosphere they are living in.”
An art exhibition took place right after the play, along with a musical performance by Rebecca Hawat, a freelance musician.
For the rest of the days, a round table discussion took place, starting at 5:00 p.m., followed by a live music performance, a theatre production, a standup comedy show, a dance performance, a film screening, a drag show and finally a band performance to wrap up the day.
According to Rachid Hneineh, an undergraduate at the Lebanese American University, he was glad to be given the opportunity to feature his play “Azemet Lsenet,” that translates to Tongue Feast in the festival.
“Being part of Mishkal was a huge responsibility for me and for the whole team, especially that we had a message to commute,” said Hneineh. “Mishkal is an amazing, yet challenging journey that gave us the taste of the industry.”
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