Dra. Maria – Christie Bakhos – Lebanon
Photo by Ghina Fleyfel
Dra Maria- Christie Bahkos, stage directress, actress, researcher and associate professor from Lebanon, talked to Diafanís about the world of the art and in her words: “I hope that Lebanese and Arab theatre and dramatic arts will excel in shaping better reality and building better civilization capable of playing a leading and beneficial role in the human cultural evolution.
-You are dedicated to theatre and always work with Dr Talal Darjani. What would you tell us about your personal experience?
I am so grateful for being one of the fortunate persons who have the chance to work in the field they are passionate about. In fact, I admit that being introduced to Pr. Darjani since my first academic year in the acting school and having the bliss of working with him as aleading actress in three successive theatre shows and since my very early age and then being his assistant, this had the greatest impact on my artistic identity that I built very conscientiously over my professional journey as a practitioner and researcher.
As an actress and then assistant director, it wasan opportunity for me to experience practically what it really takes to build a spectacle at universal standard, to deeply analyze a play, tocreate and portray complex characters conceived by great writers like Alexander Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Fouad Kanaan, Khalil Gibran and so many others. Furthermore I got profoundly acquainted with fine and sophisticated literature and universal methodologies in acting and stage directing such as Stanislavsky’s system and Meyerhold’s constructivism and biomechanics.
Pr.Darjani is a highly demanding director and one of the most perfectionist artists an actor can met, however my work with him in his very strict conditions, instead of pushing me away, itencouraged me to face my weaknesses in this profession and helped me treat them in a consistent way, which means that since my very beginnings, I understood the crucial importance of perseverance and meticulous work in every successful journey: I learned how to develop my creative acting skills in order to master my part properly and create my role and play it genuinely to meet universal standards.
On the personal level, all the difficulties I used to face while trying to meet the required standards allowed me to refine my personality and opened up my heart and mind to the fundamental truth of being a theatre practitioner, and speeded up my intellectual, professional and personal maturity in so many regards.
Subsequently, I started practicingstage directing and staged universal plays amongst which “Hello Out There!” by William Saroyan, “The Bald Soprano” byIonesco and “The Miser” by Moliere, as I completed my specialization and got my PhD degree in stage directing.
Three years ago I published atwo-volume book in which I analyzed and scientifically documented the revolutionary technique of Pr.Darjani that makes of him the founder of an authentic contemporary directing school capable of effectively and positively influencing the Arab theatre’s evolution.
– What are the principles that guide your theatre work?
Immediately after high school, I decided to register in the faculty of Fine-Arts and study theatre, at that time my intention was to become a famous actress starring in TV shows and feature films, which is very normal and traditional for any young actress.
I was recruited for main roles in almost all the TV shows castings I attended, and I soon discovered that it was not my arena because of the very commercial profile of this industry in Lebanon, often headed by nonprofessional, nay corruptedstaff including the so-called directors.However it was not that easy for me in my early twenties to turn down such opportunities of quick fame, but I luckily did, and defeated my childish desire of worthless exposure. As timewent I became much peakier in my choices and extremely demanding toward myselfregarding my artistic image and identity. This led me to figure out my fundamental principle upon which I built my entire life plan which can be resumed in the following statement: “Mypassion in any domain of my existence is my chance to transcend dull reality towards enlightening and fulfilling life, therefore I will never reduce it to a mere means of survival neither make of it the victim of my Ego”, this has left me with a huge responsibility to keep my promise.
Thereby, my principles are defined by their potential to generate fine humane and artistic value in every project I am a part of.
I believe in Art and its crucial role in educating and enlightening the masses; this is due to its power to penetrate deep into our emotional system and interact with our intellect by pushing us to question the world within and around us, nevertheless I believe as well in the great importance of its aesthetic value.
Any human creation is the result of a need, and every creative actin art is the result of a need to communicate: Artists crave to express their inner world which is their very intimate version of the larger human experience, and from the other side, spectators crave more transparent and genuine visions to tap into, along their continuous quest of self.
It might seem that directors are much more independent and selective than actors in their choices and their relation to their work, because directors choose their projects but the actorsare chosen to fit the role and the expectations of the director.
As far as I am concerned, I used to approach theatre as an actress led by another artist, and also as a directress leading other actors, where in both cases I have to connect deeply with the script in order to fully appropriate its essence, knowing that it is the one and only way to contribute actively and creatively in its resurrection on stage as an authentic piece of art.
It is in this very process of getting connected to the universe of the text, its story and the humane truth it discusses, and then the entire work it requires to comprehend the philosophy and the intentions of the writer and the circumstances that led to the birth of the original script, it is there where both the actor and director dwell on their creative tools, personal sensibility and artistic particularities, that the spectacle is born and starts to evolve in the greatest symbiotic way possible between the artist and his own self, the artists between each other and with the spectators. It is a lifetime experience intensively lived over a very short period of time, the period of the creation and then the direct contact with the deepest intimacy of the public.
On the practical level, I strongly believe in the credibility and the accuracy of methodical work based on reliable scholar researches and creative experimentations. Personally, I adopt Stanislavsky’s method in text’s analysis, actor training and role creating, and the meyerholdian stylisation in the orchestration of the show.
-You participate to the play “Khalil The Heretic” from Khalil Gibran’s “Rebellious spirits”, what does this work mean to you?
The spectacle “Khalil The Heretic”, when launched will be an exceptional event on many levels.
The public will enjoy the great philosophy of Khalil Gibran through the directorial vision of PrDarjani and the aesthetics of his artistic style.
It publicly discusses the idea of “Freedom” and the concept of “rebellion” in their most transparent aspects and regarding the toughest taboos of our society which are religion and social justice while revealing the corruption of the leading political and cultural systems.
Even though the original text was written in 1908, it still of tremendous humane value, potent in portraying the actual crises of our modern societies.
This project presents a considerable added value to me, just like any project directed by Pr.Darjani where I have the chance to keep up with all the work’s phases: from the transcription of the novel into a dramatic play till the final production.
However, the richest of these phases is the rehearsals’ one, where I can witness and actively participate to the process of the spectacle’s genesis.
Being opened by the conceptual and dramatic analysis of both the text and the directorial vision, this prolonged period of rehearsalsis the hardest but also the most delightful labour that leads to the creation of each character in the play simultaneously with the composition of every scene in the universe of the scenography that condenses and embodies the soul and the dynamics of the show.
-As author and researcher: what are your favourite topics?
So far, I’ve experienced and practiced writing as a response to a desire of communicating visions or experiences I assume they deserve to be shared, I always thought that I don’t have specific preferences when it comes to opting for a topic to study or to discuss, until I noticed that I am almost attracted to controversial approaches in any topic of my interest.
While researching and diving in the subjects that intrigue me, I do it out of genuine scientific curiosity, and then I try to neutralize my prerequisites as much as possible.I constantly feel the urge to free myselffrom all sorts of indoctrination by questioning the very concepts and even the fundamental definitions related to the subject, because I’m keen on looking for my answers outside of traditional boxes by studying and figuring out new conceptual dimensions of what is regarded as unquestionable.
-Is it a challenge to be a woman, an assistant director, practicing theatre in Lebanon? How is it?
Being passionate of theatre in Lebanon is a continuous challenge per se, for both men and women, especially when we commit to it professionally and regard it as our call. The greater our passion the more perfectionist we tend to be.
In Lebanon, the financial resources that support cultural theatre or invest in it are extremely limited and almost absent, furthermore, there are no national theaters that may offer their places for free and exempt us from the burden of the rental expensesof the private theaters.
Thus, if we choose to go through this path, it will be out of pure and true love and a strong faith in the power of Art in shaping our future, creating better reality and building more humane community, where we, all of us, can decently, conscientiously and joyfully thrive.
In these very particular and challenging conditions we become more and more attached to what we believe it is worth our dedication and we learn how to enjoy every step of the journey and how to exploit our energy in projects that awaken our genuine devotion, emotionally, intellectually and culturally.
Personally, I deeply hope that I will succeed in achieving my future plans and projects, and get to add artistic and cultural value to my community through my scholar and artistic works.
-Would you please to tell us about your new projects?
Beside “Khalil the Heretic”, I am working on Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” which I intend to stage within the coming year.
With Pr.Darjani we are preparing for an exceptional project that will be announced in the few coming months.
– What are your wishes for the future of theatre activity in Lebanon?
I believe that Arts in general and theatre in particular are the civilizational diagnostic of any community that instantly reveals its bare reality and predict its future path.
So if the government is constantly ignoring or even denying its duty to support valuable artistic and cultural actions, our responsibility as Lebanese citizens is to beat this indifference toward our sacred right of living and enjoying fine arts and other elegant pleasures instead of struggling to just survive or settling for cheap sorts of entertainment.
Therefore, I hope that Lebanese and Arab theatre and dramatic arts will excel in shaping better reality and building better civilization capable of playing a leading and beneficial role in the human cultural evolution.
Interview by Mag. Marisa Avogadro Thomé, Argentine journalist and writer
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Photo by Ghina Fleyfel
- Tenured Associate Professor, at the Lebanese University – Institute of Architecture and Fine Arts.
- Vice-president of the cultural association “The Other Theatre”.
- Founder and Director of “The Other Theatre Acting Studio”.
– 2012: Doctorate PhD in Theatre directing and Actor training – mention: Very Honourable with the Congratulations of the jury – Holy Spirit University Kaslik (USEK).
– 2006: Master Degree in Drama Studies and Performing Arts – mention: Very Good- IESAV – Saint Joseph University.
– 2001: DES in Theatre Studies – Institute of Fine Arts- Lebanese University.
2019: Scientific article entitled “Lysistrata: “A Dialectic Of The Public” In Its Scenic Interpretation Between The Ephemeral Comic Verb And The Immortal Thought”, published in Al-Tarik journal.
2015: Two-Volume Book, in Theatre Directing, entitled “Talal DARJANI, The Dialectic of STANISLAVSKI & MEYERHOLD” vol 1 & 2 – Edition Dar Al FARABI. 2015.
2014: Scientific article entitled “Mimesis: Creation Or Plagiarism?” published in PUSEK- 3- Plagiarism: scourge of the 21st century- Proceedings of the colloquium 5 and 6 December 2013. Presses of the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, published in July 2015.
2010: Scientific article entitled “The Creativity Of The Director: Between The Imagination Of The Writer And The Reality Of The Actor In The Construction Of The Dramatic Character”, published in PUSEK- Learning and Training-Laboratory REFA- Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities-USEK. Initiation to 10.
Since 2006: Lecturer at the Institute Architecture of Fine Arts at the Lebanese University in the departments of Theatre and Cinema and Television.
Since the year 2014: Supervisor of Master Degree Theses.
1998: Main actress in «The prison number zero» Written, staged by Pr. Talal DARJANI.
1999: Main Actress in “Lady Peasant” by Alexandre POUCHKINE staged by Pr. Talal DARJANI.
2000: Main actress in Fouad KANAAN’s “Little kid, little smart, little exquisite!” staged by: Pr. Talal DARJANI.
– Actress in the radio series “The Letters of the Greats: Khalil GIBRAN, Maroun ABBOUD and Mikhail NAIMA.
IN STAGE DIRECTING:
2001: – Writing and directing the short film: “Bird fingers.”
2001-2004: – Concept and realization of advertisements for social awareness campaigns in the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs.
2004: – Staging(directing and scenography) “The Bald Soprano” by Eugene IONESCO.
2005: – Staging(directing and scenography) “The Miser” by Molière.
2008: – Assistant director with Pr. Talal DARJANI in “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” by Fyodor DOSTOIEVSKI.
2009: – Staging(directing and scenography) “Hello out there!” by William SAROYAN.
– Conception and realization of the documentary: “The Lycée, a History of lives” for the French Secular Mission in Lebanon, within the framework of the celebration of the centenary (1909-2009) of the Grand Lycée Franco-Lebanese of Beirut.
2018: – Assistant director with Pr. Talal DARJANI in “Pontius Pilate” by Mikhail BULGAKOV.
2019: – Staging(directing and scenography) “Miss Julie” by August STRINDBERG. (On going)
- Assistant director with Pr. Talal DARJANI in “Khalil The Heretic” by Khalil GEBRAN. (On going)
1998-2002:- Preparation and presentation of cultural and social radio programs: “Train of the sea”, “Between words” and “Wild Weeds”.
– Participation as a researcher at numerous symposiums, conferences and seminars, in Lebanon, in the Arab world and worldwide.
– Giving acting workshop in Lebanon and worldwide.
– Participation in numerous Arab and international theatre festivals.
– Publication of press articles.