Dr. Talal Darjani – Lebanon
Dr. Talal Darjani, a recognized theather director from Lebanon, talked to Diafanís about the Lebanese theather in particular and the teather in general; his new works, and many subjects about the current affairs and his theories.
1-As an innovative and studious professional of the theater in general and in Lebanese theater in particular, what are the principles that guide his theory about the current theater?
The fundamental principles and methodologies of the art of directing worldwide are one. And as any academic science, this art is entirely related to the human being and his consciousness and is based on the evolving discoveries.
So far, there are no alternatives to the methods of Stanislavski, Meyerhold and Brecht as practical and academic methodologies that contribute to the creation of a complete theatrical show through scientific, artistic and universal language.
Then, every director has his own style in applying these universal methods and making of their principles, the starters that trigger his self-improvement which is revealed in his creative ability to deliver every time a different and valuable spectacle.
The actual creativity consists in the capability of reflecting our reality through the aesthetic laws of these methods and by tapping into our environment and traditions in order to make of them a universal artwork that hold the essence of the humanity.
That is my conviction in which I believe while I prepare for my spectacle and work on the text, the scenography, the costumes, the lightings and the music with the writer, the actors, the set designer and all the artists in the team.
Lebanon and the Arab world suffer from a bulk of artistic crisis that is rooted in the past, especially in theatre, and has led to a historical disaster.
In the first place, the fact that our former so called pioneers or practitioners and since the very beginning, have never adopted the great universal literature nor referred to a proper theatrical schools, has led to their failure in building up an identity or even a History of our Arab theatre. This is the natural result of their violations when they misused and distorted the great classical texts of both the Arab and the universal literature and falsified them through erroneous translations or bad representations unlike the civilisations that succeeded to leave a precious and glorious cultural heritage to their descendants, and also to the other cultures.
The difference between the two cases: the successful and the futile, consists in their different approaches.
There is no chance for the theatrical art to exist and thrive in the absence of good writers such as playwrights, novelists, poets, etc.. or as well, in the absence of methodological practices in the text analysing, actor training and show conceiving and executing.
While in the case of the successful countries the efforts of their theoreticians and practitioners have founded the universal methods and schools that continue to be valuable and fruitful in all regards since “The poetics” of Aristotle till our modern times. The Arabs just did the exact opposite and since the very beginning.
The problem is that, those who are regarded as the great pioneers of the Arab Theatre: Maroun Naccash, Abu Khalil Kabbani, Mohamed Osman Jalal and Jacob Sanoa, seem to be mere imposters due to what they committed in terms of improper practices (cited above), and the worst is that those very practices turned to become the sacred blueprint of the huge majority of theatrical productions in our Arab world.
In the absence of proper academic curricula in the Arab so called theatre faculties or schools of theatre, artistic and cultural ignorance continue to manifest in the absence of educated and specialised artists and critiques able to stop this decay by solving the problem, and reversing this disastrous reality.
2-Your search of literary works to represent in the theatre, is focused on special themes and authors?
Actually, I am potentially interested in every valuable text that meets the high humane, ideological and dramatic standards, However when I opt for a particular text, I choose the one that interrogates and discusses the true concerns of mine and my local community in a particular period of my existence, in a way that can touch our larger human community.
At the end of the day, in depth, all the human concerns are alike and can easily trigger our human compassion, though the topics might vary according to the circumstances and challenges that a given community faces.
I believe that any authentic literary work whether is classical or modern, offer to the directors, the actors, the set designers and to all the artists creators of the spectacle, great opportunities to excel, with very rich platforms to explore and experiment in terms of topics, stories, ideas, actions, conflicts in order to create a high end artwork in form and content.
Since the main idea of the original script reflecting the identity of the writer is the seed of any eventual directorial vision evolving throughout the entire process of building and creating the final show, I personally rejoice in diving in the sufferings of my society and in the ones of the other cultures, by getting to comprehend their genuine particularities that make of each of their individual experience a universal treasure that enriches my aesthetic and philosophical vision flourishing in every single detail of the components of my work.
The universality of the text derives from its humanely intelligible language that allows intercultural dialogues and exchanges that enhance global development and improvement.
Thus, any spectacle succeeds to acquire the level of universality when it gets to touch any audience in the world, in other words when it is based on such sort of texts and then conceived through a proper methodology and made up of great aesthetics in acting performances, visuals, music, scenography and so on.
3-What was the lei-motiv to choose “Rebellious spirits” from Khalil Gibrán?
There is no literature without rebellion, because historically and until this moment, it aims to refuse injustice and corrupted reality.
Rebellion is the eternal friend of the human thought, it always suggests novelties and it is the main and strongest pillar of the unlimited evolution movement.
Rebellion means refusing to surrender and submit to the outdated laws that are based on personal interests.
Khalil Gibran, and through the different characters he created in his stories, got to describe and unveil the inner universe of the human being, in a very conscious way that helps our spirit revolting against ourselves and against all the artificial laws we submit our souls to.
However, rebellion differs from one person to another but what matters is that when one experiences it in his very intimate existence and relationship with his own self, like did Khalil the Heretic, so he gets at that very moment to resume the essence of the entire human experience and make of it a genuine artwork which is the main idea of my play “Khalil the Heretic”.
Theatre is not a medical description nor a psychotherapy or socio-educational instructions, theatre is artistic aesthetics, a provocative style to unveiling the secrets of the spirit and increasing the consciousness’ flow leading to the constructive rebellion and positive questioning about life purpose.. That is what distinguishes every universal spectacle.
In other regards, I always encourage my students and actors to revolt against me and against the other artists in the team and even against the writers we work on, because I believe that, as a result of this conscious and positive interaction, wonderful discussion is settled and great ideas are born, allowing the birth of a high end theatrical show.
However if their rebellion and their intervention weren’t valuable then they have to stick to the vision of the writer explored by the director.
Rebellion is one of the artist’s most important features that nourish his prospective vision in pointing, facing and discussing the dangerous aspects of life.
Wars, havoc, injustice, misery and other disasters can only be countered with conscious and honest rebellion.
I believe that the thinker and philosopher Khalil Gibran has revolted against his self being in the first place, and then against his environment before he became a universal rebel. And that is what makes his works universal and makes of him a great thinker on the humane level.
In our spectacle staging “Khalil the Heretic” we are looking for rebellion in the very core of the spirit’s secrets that might lift us to the highest circle of light, by revealing to us the truths and visions of this special rebellion.
-Are the themes of freedom, ethics, spirituality a concern in your theatrical work?
In our play “Khalil The Heretic”, and according to the original text of Khalil Gibran, liberty is the major character in the world of Khalil the heretic.
And it is the liberty/ freedom of: Love, empathy, revolution, refusal, peace and perseverance.
Life is united with its pillars and its paradoxes.. No human soul without freedom..
Freedom has its universal laws in the way it is spread amongst folks; it is the arrival point, the intersection and the common mission unifying all of the nations, religions and communities.
The highest degree of human dialogue is when one understands self-liberty and liberty of the other.
In the other hand, in Art for example, freedom is the foundation of all creation, though we should rely on universal schools and proper ethics and artistic education, in our process of theatrical creation and exploration through authentic studies and researches.
“Concern” has to be the authentic artist director’s best friend, since he chooses the text of his play until after the end of the shows. It becomes registered in his archives as future reference, and more, it continues to influence his future choices, and this activates a positive internal fighting of thoughts, delivering a new artwork in its entire hypothesis.
Thus, genuine creativity is born and keeps growing because it is based on the authentic thought and the great culture of the stage director who writes life through his own vision.
-Transmitting an atmosphere, a stage, emotions must be a complexity work. How has this theme resolved in this play?
The hardship and the joy of the theatrical show start with the choice of the text, because this stage will define whether the final production will succeed or fail.
Choosing the play, is the hardest step for me.. It is extremely delicate to determine the details of one director’s inner concerns while searching for the actual idea that lays underneath his personal experience and, at the same time, triggers a fruitful interaction with the audience, by sharing with it, his artistic and philosophical vision in the finest aesthetics possible..
Then, comes the planning that draws up on paper, the practical network of realising the directorial vision in its tiniest details and through the different methodological laws in the arts of: stage directing, acting, music, stage and costume designs etc..
This phase is the crucial vector that defines the work’s space, the characters’ structures and evolution, the conflicts’ conception and the way to follow in tracing the conductive line of actions and events, and their obvious and hidden objectives, in both, the text and the final show.
Smart director gets to resolve all the contextual and stylistic riddles of his show, and this is thanks to his analytical and methodological approach in breaking down the compounds of the text he is about to stage, and then converting each of them into a dramatic complete unit, through the laws of the art of stage directing.
Analysis has the greatest role in the success of any spectacle, and we have to spare for it, relatively long periods of, what Stanislavski called “Analysis around the table”, because it gives us the very precise and accurate insights on the text’s ideas and their embodiment.
Therefore, the practical results seem to be correct, clear and successful, able to touch the audience on a very positive and pleasant way, when every viewer is delightfully charged, by the end of the show, with new life changing ideas, and questions that trigger true debates in the society.
At that moment, art fulfils its purpose in the evolution of our existence.
-About the professionals that accompany you in this staging: what would you like to tell us?
All the members of the team are professional researchers and practitioners and scholar specialists in the field of theatre, each in his specialization: For example, my Assistant director is Dr. Maria Christie Bakhos (Ph.D in stage directing, director, author, researcher and assistant professor); and in the role of Khalil the heretic we chose the veteran Lebanese actor Fadi Ibrahim.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible to achieve such an intellectually and artistically sophisticated play like “Khalil The Heretic”.
Everyone who would like to join this project and work on it, has to own a highly fine culture, and has to be very well informed as well about the writer Khalil Gibran, his time and the other writers of that time, in order to see and be able to tell the difference between him and his fellows in that same epoch, so that the analysis is not in vain.
This hard but very enjoyable phase brings artistic and humane happiness to all of the workers in this theatrical show.
And before the project reaches the stage, it evolves to become a great workshop and a whole field of experimentation and researches, where we have to come up with new and original vision of “Khalil the Heretic”, in order to acquire success..
Before this huge theatrical laboratory, I have worked on this same text with my students at the university and over an entire decade and a half, and have presented it in 13 different directorial visions and compositions with different set designs and different acting students. However, I have strictly respected the text in my theatrical adaptation of it, and I was and am still fully faithful the great Khalil Gibran and his literature, because if not, we would be stealing or falsifying his thoughts and writings.
Not being faithful to the original text equals failure.
No authentic author admits to have his thought or vision modified. What we are allowed to do, is just transcribing the narrative text into a theatrical script, by respecting the conception of the characters, the space and time, the conflicts and all the writer’s suggestions, because the director’s genuine creativity consists in his mastery of converting what the author has offered in terms of story and thought, into a vital spectacle bringing this exact same story to life, through the aesthetic and structural laws of theatre. Otherwise we will end up committing plagiarism and falsification like our so called “pioneers of the Arab Theatre”.
-Where is “Khalil the Heretic” presented and will presented?
The play “Khalil The Heretic” will be presented in two versions (in Arabic and English), in Lebanon, the Arab countries, Europe, Australia and the American continent.
This “Gibranian” oeuvre will play a magnificent role in creating and enhancing intercultural dialogues on the finest human level and through the creative and original directorial vision of our spectacle.
– What are your wishes for the future of theatre activity in Lebanon?
I hope that Lebanon and the whole Arab nation become, on the international level, true partners in the global artistic creativity.
I hope as well, we effectively contribute to the development of the theatrical art: its methods and styles, and we accompany the academic modern theatre worldwide and the universal classical masterpieces.
This is the main introduction through which we will gain our place in the ship of the genuine art where we involve our Lebanese and Arab universities and schools of Theatre to adopt the proper scholar curricula and to keep updating them through researches and seminars that reveal all the imperfections of the past in order to draw, in the future, a new solid artistic path for our citizens and the entire humanity.
Interview by Mag. Marisa Avogadro Thomé, Argentine journalist and writer
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pr. Talal DARJANI
Tel: +961 3 68 12 74
Facebook page: Al Masrah Al Akhar.
- Stage Director, Researcher and University Professor.
- Tenured Professor at the Lebanese University since 1992.
- Chairman of the Artistic and Cultural Association “The Other Theatre” and one of its founders.
1988: PhD in theatre directing – With the Universal stage director Pr. Andrei GONCHAROV – National Institute of Dramatic Art GITIS Moscow.
1989: “Lien certificate in Theatre Directing” – GITIS Institute.
1984: MA in theatre directing – with the Soviet stage Director Pr. Mikhail RAZNIKOVICH- Karpenka Kary- Kiev.
1980-1984: Works at the laboratory of the scenographers Daniel LEADER and Mikhail FRANKEL.
1983-1984: Works at Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theater – Kiev- with the Soviet director Sergei DANCHENKO.
1984: Works with the stage director Giorgi TOVTONOGOV in BDT The Great Drama theater/ Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater – Leningrad.
1984-1990: Director and directing and acting professor at the Institute GITIS and at the Moscow Mayakovsky Academic Theater, With the Universal stage director Pr. Andrei GONCHAROV.
– Professor and lecturer at various Arab universities.
2004-2013: Lecturer, professor and supervisor of master’s and doctoral theses in the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik.
- His work has been the subject of study in several research and scientific papers including the book “Talal DARJANI, The Dialectic of STANISLAVSKI & MEYERHOLD”, written by Dr. Maria Christie BAKHOS, and published by Dar Al-Faraby -2015
- Has many research and scientific articles translated into foreign languages and a collection of short stories and plays.
- Wrote, prepared and directed numerous radio dramas.
- Has registered a scientific discovery in a scholar paper entitled ”The pioneers of the Arab theatre are imposters not creators: : Maroun NAKKACH, Abou Khalil KABBANI, Mohamed Osman JALAL et Jacob SANOA”.
- Participated in numerous seminars, conferences and lectures about theatre in Lebanon, the Arab world, and worldwide as a researcher, among which:
- Taras SHEVCHENCO national university- Kiev- Ukraine- 2016.
- Sorbonne University- Paris- France- 2017.
- INALCO Institute- Paris- France- 2017.
- Participated in many Arab and international theatre festivals.
- Recipient of many Arab and international awards and certificates notably:“The Alexander Pushkin Medal” in 1999.
On the Soviet theatre stage:
1983: “The Devil’s Disciple” by George Bernard SHAW at The Theatre of youth- Kiev.
1984: “The region- Zarudin” at the Ivan FRANKO National Academic Drama Theater- Kiev.
1984: “The Word” – a play on the life of the global poet and painter Taras SHEVCHENKO at the Ivan FRANKO National Academic Drama Theater – Kiev
1984: “Hello out there!?” by William SAROYANE at the Studio Theater- Kiev.
1985: “Tanios CHAHYNN- The Peasants revolt” – Kharkov- Moscow- Kiev.
1986: “The dead souls” by GOGOL at The Black Hall – Moscow MAYAKOVSKY Academic Theater.
On the Lebanese and Arab stage
1994: ‘’Exercises’’- Text, directing and scenography.
1995: “Parliament of Ain Kifaa” by Maroun ABBOUD – Dramaturgy, directing and scenography.
1997: “The Loaf” by Toufic Yousef AWWAD – Dramaturgy, directing and scenography
1998: ‘’Prison No. Zero”- Text, directing and scenography.
1999: ‘’The Lady Peasant” by Alexander PUSHKIN – Dramaturgy, directing and scenography
2000-2001: “Oh smart little kid, exquisite hustler!” by Fouad KANAAN – Dramaturgy, directing and scenography
2008: “The dream of a ridiculous man” by Fyodor DOSTOEVSKY – Dramaturgy, directing and scenography.
2018: “Pontius PILATE” by Mikhail BULGAKOV based on the novel “The Master and Margarita” rated among the 10 best novels of the 20th century- Dramaturgy, directing and scenography.
2019: “Khalil The Heretic” by Khalil GIBRAN- Dramaturgy, directing and scenography. (On going)