Egypt's contemporary art scene has been booming over the last four or so years, with more and more venues and initiatives putting the focus on local, and even alternative, arts. Music has probably benefitted most win this pseudo-renaissance, while at the other end of the spectrum, keeping up with what's happening within the theatre scene remains challenging.
But between the older and newer theatres across Cairo, there's no shortage of action; here are ten venues that theatre fans need to stay up-to-date with.
The Artistic Creativity Center
Managed by theatre directort, Khaled Galal – who produced the renowned play, Ahwa Sada (Plain Coffee) – the Artistic Creativity Center is considered an important theatre in acting circles and has a developed a reputation for being a breeding ground of new acting talent by Egyptian producers and directors. Located inside Cairo Opera House grounds, the centre's theatre has proved to be the first 'big step' for many a young thespian. Stay up-to-date with events through the Cairo Opera House Facebook page.
El Gomhouria Theatre
Located in the Abdeen area of Downtown Cairo – and operating under the management of Cairo Opera House – El Gomhouria Theatre has played host to public performances as well as several independent plays and local theatre festivals. In the first of its kind, El Gomhouria hosted a major contemporary dance production adapted from the novel 'Al Fil Al Azrak' (The Blue Elephant), written by Ahmed Morad during April and was performed by the Egyptian Modern Dance Theatre. Visit El Gomhouria theatre's page to stay posted with their upcoming performances.
Located along the Giza Corniche, El Ghad is run under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture's Theatre Art House (Al Bayt Al Fany lel Masrah). While the plays are generally produced with limited budgets, something that can sometimes be apparent, some of El Ghad's productions exhibit good efforts in terms of acting, scenery and production. El Ghad recently held 'Sayed Al Wakt' (Master of Time); a Sufi play Sufi philosopher, Suhrawardī, who was executed for heresy in the 12th Century. Visit El Ghad's Facebook page for more information.
El Hanager Arts Center
Another principal venue at Cairo Opera House holding public and independent performances at its premises, El Hanager Arts Center has a small theatre showcasing public and independent performances by Egyptian as well as international artists. El Hanager has hosted productions as part of several national and regional festivals, including Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children (AFCA) – an international festival for children featuring acts including theatre, puppetry, and artistic workshops. For more on El Hanager's performances, visit its Facebook page.
El Sawy Culturewheel
For over a decade, 'El Sakia' has been, and still remains, home for many Egyptian artists and one of the leading artistic and cultural hubs in Cairo, hosting hundreds of activities including theatre productions, talent shows, cultural events, music concerts, open days, workshops and many others.. Perhaps the only concern with some of El Sawy's productions is that the venue can be overcrowded due to overselling tickets beyond the space's full capacity; that and the poor quality of the sound equipment. To stay posted with El Sawy Culturewheel's events, check out their Facebook page.
Teatro Masr at Grand Nile Towers Stage
The brainchild of Egyptian actor, Ashraf Abdel Baky, Teatro Masr is a theatre project bringing a new play every week with young Egyptian talents every Thursday night, with some of said actors going on to find careers in television and film. Though not a theatre, per se, Teatro Masr performances are held at the Grand Nile Towers Hotel stage, and will do so for a long time to come. Check out the upcoming productions here.
Malak Gabr Arts Theatre & Gerhart Theatre (AUC New Cairo)
A twofer; run by the theatre department at the American University in Cairo, the Malak Gabr and Gerhart theatres are, without a doubt, two of the most impressive theatres when it comes to major productions. AUC's theatre department also produces seasonal grand plays – all performed by students – in addition to musicals, opera performances, concerts and music recitals. The department held productions of Little Shop of Horrors Ashman and Pierre de Marivaux's A Game of Love and Chance.
For more on the events and performances held at Malak Gabr and Gerhart theatres, visit this page.
For decades, Falaki Theatre has been a theatre buzzing with quality performances. In 2012, after AUC left its downtown campuses, Orient Productions and Studio Emad Eddin foundation reopened Falaki Theatre, making it one of the key platforms within the independent art scene – something that has made it a central venue for the annual Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF). For more, visit the the Falaki Theatre Facebook page.
In 2006, a group of independent Egyptian artists sought to address the lack of performance platforms/rehearsal spaces in Cairo, revamped an old abandoned warehouse and established Rawabet Townhouse. Rawabet is now one of the main alternative performance platforms in Cairo, hosting theatrical performances as well as film screenings, music concerts, workshops, dance performances and art festivals. For more on what's coming up in Rawabet, visit their website.
Photo: Rawabet Townhouse Facebook Page