Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1288, (24 - 30 March 2016)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1288, (24 - 30 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

A man for all stages

From the Creativity Centre to the Cultural Production Department, writes Nevine El-Aref, the young filmmaker Khaled Galal has a story to tell

Galal
Galal
Al-Ahram Weekly

Over the last ten years, since his return from the Art Academy in Rome where he was studying, Khaled Galal has been variously described as a “star maker” and “the Ministry of Culture’s spoilt child”. In reality he is a talented director, perhaps the most important of his generation, as well as a showbiz wiz who knows how to package and present his work. Through leading the Creativity Centre and the Students Theatre Studio – which he likes the most – Galal managed to introduce a number of talented artists, directors, designers and screenwriters. Many graduates of the centre’s Academy for young actors have already made their names on TV.

Only two months ago Galal accepted the position of head of the Cultural Production Department (CPD), which supervises the production activities of the Creativity Centre, the Folk Arts Centres, the National Theatre House, the National Film Centre, the Al-Hanager Centre, the Cairo Library and the Islamic Civilisation Library. The CPD also manages the Ismailia Documentary Film Festival, the Afaaq Festival and the Arab Theatre Festival, and sponsors the Alexandria Film Festival. Galal has a very promising plan to develop the organisation and push forward its more sluggish departments, backed by a clear cultural strategy in line with the establishment.

“This could be achieved by injecting the CPD with new creative blood as well as appointing new heads for every CPD department,” he explains. Monthly meetings will also be held to discuss each’s plan and provide a monthly schedule with assignments.

“When I took the post I was astonished and sad to realise the Al-Hanager Centre has abandoned its original role of supporting amateur and experimental theatre.” Like the Cairo Library, Al-Hanager has been in decline for many years. Galal remembers that when he was a fresh graduate Al-Hanager was a small ministry of culture within the Ministry of Culture, holding workshops and hosting major figures from all around the world as well as such Arab stage directors as Karam Metaweia and Jawad Al-Asadi. “In this context my goal is to give Al-Hanager back its original spirit after a long period of collapse in which it turned into a free for all stage where anyone wanting to show anything could use its stage.”

To this end Galal appointed award-winning stage director Mohamed Al-Dessouki, then head of Al-Talia Theatre, head of Al-Hanager. Along the same lines, he made the celebrated writer Khaled Al-Khamisi director of the Cairo Library in Zamalek.

Galal also speaks of sprucing up the Folk Arts Centre with a view to attracting viewers to shows by its two dance groups, the Reda and the National Groups, who have not been performing locally since the Balloon Theatre, their main venue, was closed down for renovations a year ago, though the celebrated Reda Group did go on a global tour and performed as part of the Egypt-China cultural year.

In an attempt to promote the Reda Group on the occasion, Galal is in the process of producing a documentary recounting its legendary status and history since it was founded in 1959 to be screened alongside performances. “The legendary Reda Group is part of Egypt’s intangible cultural heritage which we should preserve,” he says, showing sartorial as well as musical and dance traditions painstakingly documented 60 years ago. Together with the National Group, the Reda Group will resume performing at the Balloon Theatre in Agouza within three months.

The National Film Centre – which has produced such successful films as Mohamed Khan’s Factory Girl and Amr Salama’s Lamu’akhza (Beg Pardon) – has an LE20 million grant for the production of a film to be determined through a competition juried by such directors as Dawoud Abdel Sayed, Khan and Khairi Bishara, among others. Under Ahmed Awad’s administration, the Ismailia Festival’s year-round activities have been resumed.

The National Theatre House is on the right track, too, according to Galal. It is to show a number of plays by young artists as of the end of March, when the National Theatre’s main stage will be named after the renowned actress Samiha Ayoub in a ceremony that includes the screening of a documentary on Ayoub which, as Galal puts it, “also shows the history of Egyptian theatre”.

Likewise the National Circus: all performers are to receive training courses, with a group travelling to China for this purpose next month. Galal intends to keep the circus in its headquarters in Agouza, which he feels is a landmark. Via an agreement with the Cairo Opera House, which will undertake the task, the training is to be extended to blue-collar staff in the theatre and film sectors, who do not have the knowhow to operate newer sound and lighting equipment.

***

How will Galal reconcile his new responsibilities with his activities at the Creativity Centre and the Students Theatre Studio, however?

The actor, writer and director says he may well have to give up his new role if it comes in the way of the centre and the studio. “Two years ago when former Minister of Culture Saber Arab appointed me head of the Cultural Development Fund, I resigned after three months because the new post took me away from the Creativity Centre.” When he was offered to head the Theatre Art House on condition that he should leave the Creativity Centre, Galal declined.

“I have an inner connection to the Creativity Centre,” Galal says. “Since 2003 when I first led the centre, former minister of culture Farouk Hosni asked me about my plans and whether I wanted to transform the centre into a theatre house or a stage like Al-Hanager, but my idea was to create a school for amateur actors that would teach them all kinds of arts in two years. My aim was to introduce as many talented actors as possible who are also mentally balanced and have the requisite professional attitude...”

Four classes – three free, one paid – have graduated from the studio. According to Galal, each went through tough tests during six months, including singing, poetry reading and dancing.

“We choose the best 160 students to be granted the scholarship offered by the Ministry of Culture for students of the studio,” he explains. “The chosen students are taught by high profile professors in all aspects of acting, including attitude issues, because we are keen on producing a new generation of actors who combine great talent with great attitude. Contrary to the usual, the fourth class was not preceded by auditions. The door was open to all candidates willing to enrol in a six-month internship. We worked with 30 people, 24 of whom had never stood on stage or been involved in any theatrical performance. The real challenge lies in training young people to become real actors.”

It was in this spirit, focusing on team effort, that the studio’s most recent performance, After Nightfall, opened. The fourth group, on the other hand, is to stage a new Broadway-like performance.

“With this Studio, we can guarantee the emergence of top quality graduates. It is very important to develop young acting talents and I will happily spend the rest of my career doing this,” Galal affirms. “But,” he adds, putting on his administrative had again, “the important thing is to make good use of these talented young people’s energy within the relevant institutions, in order to bring back the popularity of state-supported theatre. We have to produce plays that will attract young people.”

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