Georges Khabbaz: «The theater awakens collective consciousness»
Actor, screenwriter, producer, and professor of theater, Georges Khabbaz continues to amaze us by making accessible to the public works that address major issues. In 2018, he presented at the Baalbeck International Festival the musical «Illa Iza», featuring 70 actors, dancers, and musicians, a grand production with a troupe of traditional dance. We wanted to know more about his theatrical activity. Interview.
1- Is your play «Illa Iza … tghayar chi», at the theater currently, in continuity with the previous one about the Lebanese Babel tower? Yes, this is the second part that continues the first one. The first play ended on the DNA examination of each of the inhabitants of the building. This analysis revealed that by going back to their origin, each one discovered that he or she belonged to a religion different from his own. In this play we watch them trying to adapt to their new religion, to adopt their new confession, in reference to the Lebanese who change their orientations very quickly. There are also other very different dimensions approached with boldness, such as the political dimension, where capitalism and socialism clash. Returning from America, the son of the deceased neighbor, buys the whole building. He represents capitalism. Facing him is the journalist Jahida Ghandour who is socialist.
2- Often in your plays, one of the actors dies and returns on stage dressed all in white. Can we say that the subject of death, of metaphysics interests you? We are all concerned about death and the issues around this idea. But in my works, we see the resurrection of the mind, of ideas. Ideas should not die with those who created or conveyed them; on the contrary, they should survive. If in the play, the ideas of the secular neighbor are forgotten, fanaticism will replace the secular spirit and it’s a shame.
3- What will be the subject of your next play? My next play will revolve around the theater itself, which plays an important role in societies. It is the mirror that reflects the cultural level and the civilization of a society. Through the theater, it is possible to awaken the collective mind, by treating various topics in a simple language. Dramatic art has long been considered a catharsis, a way to let go, and free ourselves from our passions.
4- In your opinion, which political system is the best to regulate the life of the different communities in Lebanon? We need to educate our children on a secular basis. Teaching children that they are part of a whole, just like the cells in the body. They have the duty of opening themselves to others, of going to the bottom of their hearts. Educate our children to love and social justice, on a certain number of values. By doing this, we will reach a state of agreeable coexistence between communities.
5-What are your future projects for cinema or television? I am working on a film scenario, which will be shot at the end of the summer «The jackal». It is about the influence exerted by the environment on the individual. If a person who hurts or kills, had been raised in a good environment or encountered other circumstances, that same person could have been an artist or a pianist.
6-What are the basic criteria that determine your choice of subjects for the theater? Questions, obsessions that torment me personally, or that I share with the common people. Why? How? I try to find the best approach to deal with specific or timeless topics. Interview conducted by Rita Saadé.