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An Enemy of the People, a play by the celebrated 19th-century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, was presented as an immersive promenade theatrical experience on the American University of Beirut (AUB) campus, from November 10 till November 26.
The play was directed by the acclaimed Lebanese film and theater director Lucien Bourjeily, who teaches theater at AUB, and conceived and produced by Alwaleed Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) director and playwright Robert Myers. The production, which is performed from a Lebanese Arabic text translated by Nada Saab, was developed with almost two dozen students from various disciplines at AUB in Theater 259, a theater production course, working side by side with some of the most accomplished theater artists in Lebanon.
The production was played to sold-out audiences and received glowing reviews like the one in al Sharq al Awsat, which describes it as “dazzling in form and theme." It dramatizes the clash between science and business and the struggle over what constitutes truth in the form of a vicious dispute between two brothers in a small town. Peter, played by Abdelrahim al Awji, is the mayor of the town and director of its principal business, a spa fed by a local spring, and Thomas, played by Ziad Najjar, is a doctor who discovers that the town's water is contaminated and plans to publish his findings in the local newspaper. Peter cunningly undermines Thomas's findings and turns the people of the town, who are played by AUB students, against him.
Performed behind the Lee Observatory, in a converted basement of Jessup Hall, and a vacant dean's residence beside the stairs to lower campus, the play immerses the audience in this epic struggle in a 1920s Lebanese town, where the issues of corruption, pollution, a free and fair press, and the terrible cost of speaking an unwelcome truth eerily echo contemporary issues in Lebanon and the region.