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François Abu Salem, founder of the Palestinian National Theatre, dies at 60


October 4, 2011 — Palestinian theater has lost one of its heroes. François Abu Salem, founder of the influential Palestinian National Theatre, was found dead on Sunday near his home in al-Tira, a suburb of Ramallah. The cause of death is still uncertain, though suicide is a likely possibility. Abu Salem was born in 1951 to a French mother and a Palestinian father. He grew up in an artistic home in East Jerusalem; his father was a poet and his mother a sculptor...


[82012]



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François Abu Salem, founder of the Palestinian National Theatre, dies at 60

By Michele Monni

October 4, 2011


RAMALLAH — Palestinian theater has lost one of its heroes. François Abu Salem, founder of the influential Palestinian National Theatre, was found dead on Sunday near his home in al-Tira, a suburb of Ramallah.

The cause of death is still uncertain, though suicide is a likely possibility.

Abu Salem was born in 1951 to a French mother and a Palestinian father. He grew up in an artistic home in East Jerusalem; his father was a poet and his mother a sculptor.

Abu Salem attended a Jesuit college in Beirut where he remained until 1968. In 1970, after a brief stint at the Theatre du Soleil in Paris, he began travelling through Europe, working for different acting companies until the mid-seventies when he moved to Jerusalem and began to stage his own, original works.

In 1975, with his then-wife and collaborator Jackie Lubeck, he founded al-Kawati Theater, from whose ashes Abu Salem created what today is popularly considered the most important theatre in Palestine, the Palestinian National Theatre.

For his work, Abu Salem received the Palestine Prize for theater from Yasser Arafat in 1998.

With his company al-Hakawati, Francois Abu-Salem performed almost everywhere. They toured the Gazan refugee camps as well as theaters of Paris and New York. A mixture of Western contemporary theater and Palestinian folk tradition is what made his productions famous worldwide.

Some critics have compared Abu Salem’s work to Marquez’s magical realism, Berthold Brecht’s expressionism and the Italian Commedia dell’Arte. Other critics, however, saw Abu Salem’s work as a dilution of the Palestinian theatrical tradition. He was often criticized for being overly influenced by Western theater.

"I [was] married for 15 years to François," Jackie Lubeck, his ex-wife and current director of Theatre Day Productions says. "Together we wrote and produced seven plays and we were able to stage operas hitherto unknown to the Palestinian public, [such as] Mistero Buffo by Dario For and Brecht’s The Exception and The Rule."

During his career Francois surrounded himself with a group of young and passionate collaborators, Lubeck said.

"The death of Francois Abu Salem is a great tragedy and a tremendous loss for Palestinian theatre," Jonatan Stanczk, acting director of Jenin’s Freedom Theatre told The Palestine Monitor. "The Freedom Theatre had the privilege to host Francois Abu Salem and to enjoy his support and encouragement. We will miss him both as a human being and as an extraordinary artist."

"It was not easy to work with him," admits Kamel el-Basha, the current director of the Palestinian National Theatre. "He was a perfectionist with sudden flashes of brilliance. I was aware of his existential problems, he attempted suicide several times over the past twenty years.

"Unfortunately with his last attempt he has deprived us of one of the most important representatives of Palestinian theater."

Yesterday, ceremonies were held at al-Kasaba Theatre in Ramallah, the Freedom Theatre in Jenin and the Ashtar Theatre and Palestinian National Theater in Jerusalem. A vigil in memory of the Franch-Palestinian playwright was also organized at the Arab Music Centre in East Jerusalem.

Watch François Abu Salem perform Mahmoud Darwish’s "A Memory of Forgetfulness," here (in Arabic and French).

Source


:: Article nr. 82012 sent on 04-oct-2011 22:16 ECT

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