Spring 2010


A Celebration of Success

The Golden Age

Beyond Literary Bounds


What's Up With Downtown

From Inside AUC

Discovering A Foreign Land

Queen Rania Al Abdullah ’91 speaks at AUC, new Board of Trustees member appointed, PhD program begins, provost starts new lecture series, Arabic Web site launched


Professor Salah Arafa honored for environmental work

Ethar El-Katatney ’07 is the first Egyptian to win CNN’s African Journalist of the Year Award

Nevine Loutfy ’74 is the first woman in the Arab world to head an
Islamic bank

Gala El Hadidi ’05, ’07 is the youngest singer to join the Cairo Opera Company


Gihane Refaat, a graduate of the
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship and Leadership Center, recounts the lessons learned from the program









  Dalia Kholeif ’05, Ali Nasser ’07, Ramsi Lehner ’05 and Amina Khalil ’09 in Marmalade Gumdrops

By Dalia Al Nimr

    As the lights went out signifying the start of the play, the giggles came to a halt. The children, who were seated right up at the edge of the black box stage near the actors, turned excitedly to watch. The play employed simple, brightly colored props, and the actors were dressed in black, wearing add-on jackets and gowns as appropriate to the scene. As an interactive children’s theatre, actors sometimes spoke directly to the children during the performance, asking them for direction, help or input. And the children joined in the fun, shouting out comments, pointing in different directions and jumping with excitement as one scene led to another.

    The play, Marmalade Gumdrops, was the second production put on by the newly formed Alumni Community Theatre (ACT) group last winter. The brainchild of Leila Saad ’66, performing and visual arts professor at AUC, Nimet Naguib ’71 and the late Sophie Sarwat ’70, the group was officially founded in 2009. It is managed by alumni and is supported by the university’s alumni office and performing and visual arts department. ACT is currently made up of 40 members, mostly theatre majors, but also graduates of degrees ranging from biology to business administration. As a communitytheatre group, ACT presents goodquality theatre to the public while giving alumni an outlet to express their talent.

    “University productions naturally cater to students, so we thought of forming a group for alumni of all ages who want to give back good theatre to the AUC community and the Egyptian community at large,” said Saad, explaining the purpose behind ACT. “We are all pros and are giving it 110 percent.”

    The commitment is apparent. The group meets once a month, and auditions for a play take place at AUC New Cairo in the evenings, after everyone is finished with their work. “When I began my new job,” said Amina Khalil ’09, assistant producer for Karma Edutainment, “I told my boss about ACT and that I do not intend to miss any auditions or meetings, and I didn’t, which meant that during peak times at work, I sometimes came home at 6 am.”

Photo by Ahmed El-Nimr

    But Khalil has no regrets. “When I have a night of auditions,” she explained, “I go to work the next day with a huge smile on my face. ACT brings out the best in me. It keeps me going and keeps the fire in my life. It’s a place, home and family for everyone sharing a passion for theatre. It gives you space to follow your dreams.”

    Ali Nasser ’07, who works at a bank in Giza, said that despite having to drive from work all the way to AUC New Cairo and stay in rehearsals until 9 pm, the trouble is all worth it. “I sometimes feel like I lead two separate lives,” he said. “The nature of my job is highly demanding and I have to be serious and formal with clients, so I need to let loose at times. Some people might prefer going to the gym or watching a movie at home, but for me, ACT is the most appropriate outlet. I am able to leave my emotional and professional luggage behind and come with a totally different agenda ––– one that is challenging and demanding, yet fun. We’re all in it together, driven by a common drive and passion for theatre, and the sense of camaraderie and mutual respect keeps me going.”

Luke Lehner ’05 and Reem Kadry ’08; Photo by Amira Gabr

    ACT’s inaugural production, Celebration and Party Time, held in October 2009, was written by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter and directed by Hani Sami ’08. The two one-act plays focused on the dysfunctional relationships that can characterize the human experience in a complex and sardonic way. The two plays depict different situations: one in which an unhappily married couple celebrated a wedding anniversary at an elegant restaurant, and one about a gala party where elites discussed an unknown occurrence taking place outside.

    For its second production, the group turned to a light-hearted play for children. “It was pretty jarring at first,” said Nasser. “The Pinter plays had heavy themes and a specific style of performance, but we went into the children’s play with an entirely different mindset. The children also helped a lot in making the performance much more lively than during the rehearsal days.” The group’s third production, Oleanna by David Mamet, is scheduled for April 2010. The play is about the power struggle between a university professor and his female student, and addresses the issue of sexual politics on campus.

    It’s not just about performance. All aspects of the creative process are completely managed by alumni, from the design of stage props, costumes, posters and programs to sound, light and production management. Backstage, the stage manager — sometimes referred to as the magician behind the show — is responsible for all logistics, acting as a liaison between the director and actors, and keeping everything running smoothly. For Yasmine Riad ’07, a professional ballet dancer who specialized in stage management as an undergraduate, working as a stage manager with ACT is more fulfilling than the type of work she did during her university years. “As a student, everything was ready for you, but here, you have to do things from scratch,” she said. “At the end, when you see all your efforts come to fruition on stage, you feel a great deal of pleasure and self-confidence.”

Photo by Ahmed El-Nimr

    ACT is made up of several committees, including fundraising, special events, a reading committee, which is responsible for reading different plays and selecting the one to be performed by ACT, and a workshop committee, which provides training for schools and individuals. Luke Lehner ’05, head of the workshop committee who conducted several theatre sessions in the United States, said that, initially, the group plans on approaching schools to give students theatre and improvisation workshops. “We want to reach out to the community, slowly at the beginning, then having bigger and more solidified work later on,” said Lehner, adding that one of the most joyous things about ACT is being with AUC graduates. “Working with such a like-minded group who share the same ambitions and outlook on life is really a great opportunity.”

    His brother, Ramsi Lehner ’05, an actor, director, writer, composer and drama instructor, also likes the idea of having a professional relationship with AUC graduates and professors. “As students, we had rapport with our professors who performed with us at times, but still, there was this feeling that this is my professor,” he explained. “With ACT, we’re all here to create theatre without the pressure of an academic environment.”

    Working with ACT does not come with a paycheck, but it does give its members an avenue through which they can keep the spirit of theatre alive. As Bassma Matta ’08, the group’s assistant stage manager, put it, “I love theatre. I know it can’t be my money-making job, but I can’t live without it.”

To become a member of ACT, contact Yasmine Riad ’07 at yas.riad@gmail.com.

Luke Lehner ’05, Amina Khalil ’09, Reem Kadry ’08, Hani Eskander ’03 and Tamer Guirgis ’10 (standing); Photo by Amira Gabr