Artists discuss the crisis of the Tunisian theater with the launch of Carthage Day

Today, the 23rd session of the “Days of Theater in Carthage” festival opens in the Opera – City of Culture theater hall. The opening begins, as usual, every year with a popular artistic celebration at four o’clock in the afternoon in Habiba Bourguiba Street, which is attended by the audience and passers-by, and includes a musical performance by the Dandary group. , followed by the Paparoni circus show.

The official opening begins with the presentation of two Tunisian plays, “I am the king” directed by Moez Hamza and “Shouq” directed by Hatem. 82 theater performances from 23 countries participate in the festival. The festival consists of eight sections: official competition performances (12 performances), non-competition performances (31 performances), world theater (12 performances), children’s theater (seven performances), in addition student experiences (Six acts), Hobby Theater (four acts) and Freedom Theater (10 acts).

The Tunisian theater play “I am the king” directed by Moez Hamza, is taken from the play “Oedipus the King” by the writer Tawfiq al-Hakim, but deals in a contemporary way with the story of a country where the rich stole the revolution of the poor and turned it from a revolution into a state , and from the state to wealth, in a swing between the past and the present, with which the play reshapes the current creative moment.

The second play, “Shawq” directed by Hatem Darbal, deals with the desire of the eldest son to meet his family after a long absence, in order to tell them the truth about his illness. Brother, mother, sister and brother-in-law gather to welcome him and celebrate his return, but old feuds quickly surface. Guilt, reproach, nostalgia, longing and struggle reveal the fragility of the characters and the depth of their pain and isolation over the past years.

Among the most prominent plays participating in the festival are “Hamlet Upside Down” directed by Mazen Al-Gharabawi (Egypt), “Light” directed by Al-Taher Issa Bin Al-Arabi (Tunisia), “Wanderers” directed by Nizar Al- Saidi (Tunisia), ” The Eagle Regains Its Wings” directed by Walid Omar Babiker (Tunisia). Sudan), “Sun and Glory” by Oussam Ghanem (Syria), “Antigone” by Aqbaoui Cheikh (Algeria), “Jewelry” by William Cham Witish (Democratic Congo), ” Secret Gardens” by Mohamed El Hor (Morocco), “Al Diyar” directed by Aronapa (Senegal), “Ezdan” by Muhannad Ali Hameed (Iraq), “Landmine” by Georges Ibrahim (Palestine), “Sentimental Cocktail” by Jana Matar (Lebanon). .

The Carthage Theatrical Days festival honors nine icons of Arab and African theater. Playwrights from Tunisia were awarded: Aladdin Ayoub, Salwa Muhammad, Muhammad al-Yangi, Muhammad al-Awni, Fatima bin Saidan, actress Suhair al-Murshidi (Egypt), actor Ayman Zaidan (Syria), dramatist Qassem Bayatli (Iraq), and playwright Habib Dembele (Mali).

Since its inception, the ancient festival “Theatrical Days in Carthage” has adopted African Arabic calligraphy as part of its official program and has been a reflection of the diverse artistic, cultural and social reality of these countries. This is where the talk about the heritage of Tunisian theater and its regional leadership begins. Although more than a century ago it formed one of the most important arts that contributed to the development of the cultural movement in Tunisia, it now faces numerous problems that prevent its inner brilliance.

Before the launch of the “Carthage Theater Days” festival, “Independent Arabia” examined the opinions of a number of playwrights and experts about the reality of Tunisian theater and its most important challenges.

Outdated legislation and lack of financial support

Actress Fawzia Badr begins to talk about the difficulties that the theater faces in Tunisia today, and says that it is mainly represented, in her opinion, “in the absence of material and moral support, so people in the theater demand the law of artists”. and review the issuing of professional certificates, and the formation of commissions responsible for studying accompanying files. In addition to the absence of a clear cultural policy that supports theater businesses, in the conditions of the dominance of theater genres that attract the audience and invite them to laugh from thinking and questioning, such as “The Colors of the Man Show” that broadcasts commercial culture. The other side of the difficulty is the lack of spaces equipped with sound and light technologies, along with the worn-out exterior of the exhibition halls in Tunisia.

Fawzia Badr concludes that the Tunisian theater is “witnessing a relative decline in the Arab world due to its marginalization, so all the actors are waiting for a lot of work and a lot of effort”.

Playwright Hatem al-Tlili identifies, in our conversation with him, four crises from which the Tunisian theater suffers: “First, a cognitive and aesthetic crisis. Serious critical pens are present in Tunisian theater life and have been replaced by media pens that lack critical concepts and remain mostly impressionist, and thirdly, a structural and legislative crisis that has had a terrible impact on the production and creative process, because the theater institution is still looking for old legislation and laws that have not been renewed. Fourthly, a formational crisis: Training institutes and specialized spaces rarely produce playwrights, directors or good actors.

In the same context, the Tunisian director and director of the Center for Kinetic and Dramatic Arts in Kairouan, Hammadi Wahaibi, says: “The difficulties that the Tunisian theater is going through include all creators. On the professional card to support the mechanisms that are no longer suitable for the development of the theater movement in Tunisia , that policy must be reconsidered.

In another context, Hammadi Al-Wahaibi questions the sense of distributing subsidized plays in spaces where audiences do not come, and where theater operators do not make the necessary publicity. And also about the technical differences between performance halls within the country and the feasibility of creating this large number of drama centers.

Al-Wahaibi says that these examples are “among the main problems that must be taken into account and others, in order to study the reality of the theater sector.

But despite the pitfalls and problems, Tunisian theater is good.

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Actor and theater director Ghazi Al Zaghbani describes this period as one of the worst periods in Tunisian theater, especially since it came after the Corona pandemic, which contributed to the escape of the audience to the digital world, despite the limited number of events in private life. halls and a series of events and festivals.

Al-Zaghbani listed here the real problems in the theater sector in the lack of perception and perspective of a specific cultural policy, in addition to the problems of production and promotion, and the disparity of theater infrastructure between countries.

Zaghbani added: “Despite the difficulties, Tunisian theater – far from pioneering – remains a well-informed and diverse theater open to Western theater and very present in festivals, given Tunisia’s geographical location and cultural history.”

Theater artist Wafaa Al-Taboubi talks about the leadership of Tunisian theater in his Arab region, stating what he presents annually, from about a hundred works between professionalism and hobby, and theater for children aimed at adults. It is second to none in the Arab world in terms of quantity, boldness and variety, and represents an annual challenge for the Tunisian theatre-maker, as Tunisia always leads in the number of requests to participate in Arab festivals.

Wafaa Al-Taboubi adds: “Besides the usual classical theater, the future of this Tunisian leadership will be in private institutions that will be started by playwrights to produce, become and add to the stage many amateur and professional theaters a year, thus supporting both television and cinema.

Despite this optimistic view, the playwright Taboubi did not deny the great obstacles and challenges that the theater faces, the first of which is the lack of a real cultural policy that seeks to develop the Tunisian theater, the absence of an artistic law, weak support for theater creators, weak support for private spaces and support for artistic initiatives . Wafaa al-Taboubi concludes: “Tunisian theater is good because production is continuous and because theater is fundamentally an act of struggle.”

Despite its leadership, boldness and diversity, especially in the Arab region, the Tunisian theater still needs, according to experts, a strict legislative and legal framework to encourage investment in it, specific policies and objectives and significant financial resources. support, in order for it to be a theater that reflects society, anticipates its reality and presents its fundamental and important problems.

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