Marwa Khalil and Sandra Khawam

Prestige issue 263, June 2015

On the way to paradise, between fiction and reality

Marwa and her friend

1- Marwa Khalil, producer, screenwriter and actress of the play «3a tari2 el Janneh».

2- Sandra Khawam, psychologist and writer of the play «3a tari2 el Janneh»

© Georges Rabbath © Archives Sandra Khawam

A bit of humor, a touch of melancholy … A lot of anguish and kindness, a lot of depth and problematic … In her new play «3a tari2 el Janneh», co-written with psychologist Sandra Khawam, Marwa Khalil, producer, screenwriter and actress, searches the depths of the human soul through the three protagonists Christina, Myriam and Maya. Following a car accident, the latters find themselves thrown at the gates of eternity. Who are they? What do they negotiate? What do they do? So many questions that do not leave indifferent the spectator of this play which performances take place from May 28thuntil June 17th at the Monnot Theater. Marwa and Sandra confide their thoughts to Prestige. In their own way, simple, sincere and spontaneous. If last year the «Znoud el Sett» of Marwa Khalil has delighted the public, this year «3a tari2 el Janneh» will make it laugh and think of an existential theme that concerns us all.

Who is Marwa Khalil? I am actress since the age of 18. I gradually began to realize my own projects in which i invested myself in the writing and production. I put on many hats in the theater as in the cinema, I am interested in everything that is connected to fiction. Here you can create the life you want, reality being sometimes heavy and repetitive.

Who is Sandra Khawam? I have a background of psychologist and a passion for my specialty over 10 years. Over time, my profession has come largely to define my personality. I think that all is said…

Is this your first collaboration together? Marwa: Yes, the eyes of a psychologist add a lot of substance to writing. It started with an idea I had in mind and I have shared with Sandra. We developed the treatment and writing together, the writing work took four months, which is quite fast. The play is directed by Chadi Zein and played by Lara Rain, Tania Assi and me. Sandra: Yes, a long thought out project…

Can you give us an overview of the play? Sandra: Following a car accident, three young women are brutally thrown at the gates of eternity. They must defend their existence before the Council of Elders that will decide of their entry into Paradise or rejection to hell. I will not deliver you the secret of the sentences, which is one of the surprises of the play. Marwa: This is the story of three women from different faiths who find themselves at the door of Paradise and negotiating their entry. Will they succeed in entering despite their sins?

Where did you draw your inspiration? Marwa: I come from a very religious family. Since my childhood, they tell us about hell and paradise, punishments and privileges received after death. These anxieties have apparently remained and I hope to free myself after this play. Sandra: My activity of psychologist often involves understanding people, for whom the anguish of death and judgment they carry on their lives and their actions, constitute the core of existential anguish. The human being is to himself the most severe judge. Everything starts from there. The play is a form of wild self-psychoanalysis of the three young women.

What led you to choose this theme specifically? Marwa: This is a subject that is connected to our everyday life. Our country is based on different religious confessions, we do not exist in Lebanon without belonging to a religion. I wanted to question all these religions with much derision and make religious belongings in Lebanon that paralyze us in our daily lives less dramatic. Sandra: This topic is taboo. Yet all gravitates around it. I thought it would be interesting to deal with it in a simple yet humorous way.

Sandra, you are a trained psychologist. What prompted you to write for the theater? For once it is I who am on the couch! (Laughs)…

«Myriam, Christina and Maya represent the different facets of Lebanese women and, beyond, of the plurality of a difficult population to unite … or to join.»

To which public do you turn? Sandra: The play addresses issues about which everyone can feel involved, regardless of age. Marwa: For all ages. The play has a very playful side but also a social and political dimension. It can be read on several levels, that’s what makes its charm.

What is your reading of the play? Under what angle do you put it? Marwa: This is a call to secularism and patriotism certainly, but not only … There is also a comeback to the sources and a questioning in relation to the woman. These three women eventually become «Eve», torn between safety and sin. They are profoundly human and difficult to tame. Sandra: It is a vision that is both melancholic and funny, but always benevolent, of life and death. If the living miss the dead, the latter can miss them all so much. And if mourning was also on the side of the dead themselves?

You are three women on stage. Christina is Christian. Myriam and Maya, who do they represent? Marwa: They represent the Lebanese equation, this delicate balance upon which our Nation stands. Sandra: Myriam is Muslim and Maya is Druze. Each one of them raises a singular problem and a way to be induced by her religious beliefs. They represent the different facets of Lebanese women and, beyond, of the plurality of a difficult population to unite … or assemble.

Marwa, did you always create your own plays? I create my plays since six years. There is an entrepreneurial side that I like a lot. When you play one is dependent on the script, the taste of the director and the proposed role. While in our own projects, you create the world you want, you are more independent.

Aren’t adaptations easier and stronger? Sandra: Not necessarily! Each artistic project has its rules and its difficulties. Marwa: Adaptation may be easier, but writing a text, it comes from the guts.

What message do you want to convey through the play? Sandra: As we will never know anything, smile at what we live here and now! Marwa: The play contains several messages, but I will say that in addressing the topic of death we rather praise of life … not death.

When will be your next collaboration? Sandra: Inshallah … we will meet soon in the same columns … Marwa:  To be continued …