If you take a superficial look at Cairo’s perfoming arts scene, either by catching a play starring Dolly Shaheen or by watching the latest curvaceous non-singer pout and wiggle her way through a music video, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Cairo lacks promising talent.
Cynics will undoubtedly be converted after attending Project Yourself, a monthly gathering where young and local amateurs perform stand-up, spoken word, puppet plays, songs, dance, meditation, caricaturing, and pretty much anything they want to in a warm, casual and supportive environment. Take a look around you; you’ll see Egyptians and foreigners of all age groups, from the school students to the corporate professionals; what they all share in common is a desire to entertain and to be entertained.
The brainchild of 23-year-old designer Mariam El Quessny, Project Yourself first launched in December 2009, where around forty people performed at the Cellar Door Bistro in Maadi.
El Quessny used word of mouth and Facebook to attract attendees and participants. Her formula was simple: if you want to perform, send in a short description of what you plan to show and on the day of the show, your name will be called in the order determined by El Quessny. You have seven minutes to perform; what you do with those minutes is completely up to you.
The first show was so successful, that the following shows attracted a crowd of more than 200 people, which forced El Quessny to relocate to the much more spacious Makan in Downtown Cairo.
‘Makan is warm and just has great energy,’ says El Quessny, ‘It's not big, but I don’t think we want this to get too big; intimate, friendly and warm is the atmosphere we're aiming for.’
Following a brief move to Darb1718 for its fifth show, Project Yourself will be back at Makan this Thursday with a slightly different formula. This time, it’s on a first-come-first-serve basis for performers, which is sure to add a sense of unpredictability to the night’s roundup.
Even if you’re scared of performing, it’s hard to have stage fright in the cosy and amiable atmosphere at Project Yourself. Even if you’re really terrible at telling jokes or you sing off-key, the audience welcomes each and every performer with applause and words of encouragement.
‘What's...amazing about this group is that it's very [...] accepting,’ says El Quessny, ‘So it's easy to let go, be and say whatever you want.’
So if you’ve always dreamt of the limelight and have a budding artist inside of you, head down to Makan this Thursday, and bring your friends for moral support. They’re bound to enjoy it as much as you. For more information check out our event schedule or the Project Yourself Facebook group. Admission is 30LE at the door, though if you book ahead; you’ll pay only 20LE. The money goes towards supporting the show and Makan.