Ottawa Chapter: Mounir Abou Debs onTheater in Lebanon
A fortuitous encounter on the steps of the Temple of Jupiter during a
Fairouz performance in 1960 led to the creation of the first school of
theater in Lebanon. Thus reminisced Mounir Abou Debs, founder of the school
and artistic director of the Baalbek Festival for ten years, before a
gathering of Ottawa chapter alumni and friends on January 19. What
would it take to keep you in Lebanon asked Salwa Es-Said to the
young Parisian on sabbatical in his native land. A school
of theater was the answer. The school in Manara was conceived within
24 hours of that conversation and thrived with the help of many supporters,
actors, translators, and writers.
The school staged its first play at West Hall and was to become the engine
for an important theatrical movement in the culturally active period of
the 1960s and early 1970s in Beirut. Its goals were to train actors, to
create a theatrical group, and to inform the public. People, to Abou Debs
astonishment, were receptive to important textsboth classical and
modern. In the summer months they would go by the hundreds to theaters
constructed in the archaeological settings of Sidon, Tripoli, Jbeil, and
Deir El-Qamar; in the winter, they traveled to West Hall to see his plays.
The civil war forced the closure of the school but did not silence its
performers, some of whom joined international groups. Back in France,
Abou Debs formed a theater group at La Rochelle, conducted research and
workshops, and produced a few plays. Abou Debs resumed his activities
in Lebanon in 1996 and since then has made presentations in Beit Eddine,
Tyr, and Baalbek. He also launched a yearly summer festival in his hometown
of Freikeh. Times, however, changed as entertainment replaced
serious theater. To establish a link with the creativity of the diaspora,
Abou Debs suggested that the audience think about the worlds opposing
cultures and of how to tie them to Lebanon and the region. To attract
interest in the theater, Abou Debs conducts workshops that invite young
people to discover this world on their own.
Rite of Spring: Ottawa Chapters Annual Sugarbush Pancake Breakfast
As the heavy winter begins to lift in Canada, the majestic maples start
to stir. Although the night-time temperatures drop below zero, the days
become steadily warmer and the maple trees begin to pump the sap that
will feed the thawing buds. People long ago discovered that they could
harvest the sap by diverting it into tubes and catching it in buckets.
They would then concentrate it and end up with delicious brown maple syrup.
(At one time, this would be done by dumping hot rocks in a dug-out trunk
of a tree made into a trough!) It takes 50 liters of the colorless faintly
sweet sap to produce just one liter of the real thing.
Many sugarbush farms, as they are known, use collection tubes, vacuum
pumps, and other modern harvesting techniques to produce the syrup as
well as other maple products these days. A spring ritual at these latitudes
is to go to one of these enterprising farms for a hearty pancake breakfastto
throw off the effects of winter with a slight overdose of the delicious
liquid. So, this is what we did. The Ottawa chapter made reservations
for April 3 at Papineauville, the heart of Québecstan
an hours drive from Ottawa. Unfortunately, Mapquests precise
directions did not correspond very well with the road signs in rural Québec,
and as a result two out of the three cars in our convoy got slightly lost.
They eventually found their way to the farm, however, and were well rewarded.
As if the breakfast itself was not enough, the ticket entitled us to a
departing treat. We all filed into another farm building to find a U-shaped
trough filled with clean snow that was being drowned in syrup. Sixty seconds
later, the syrup solidified enough to be rolled up with a popsicle stick.
We headed out the door with maple taffy in hand, feeling ten years old
Southern California Chapter
On January 15, the Southern California chapter hosted a reception for
Steve Jeffrey, AUB Vice President for Development and External Relations.
Jeffrey briefed alumni about recent developments at the University, the
progress of the $140-million fundraising campaign, and the establishment
of the new AUB Alumni Association.
On a more casual note, the alumni of the Southern California chapter beat
the winter blues with a get together last February at a bowling alley.
On Sunday, March 26, more than 80 AUB alumni and their families gathered
for an early spring brunch at Tuckers Marketplace, a family-friendly
restaurant centrally located north of downtown Toronto. Turnout was larger
than expected and the place was buzzing with energy and good cheerwhat
you would expect when a group of AUBites gets together! There were no
empty tables in the private room that had been booked for the function.
AUB calendars, mugs, and sweaters were on displayavailable to alumni
for a small donation. All alumni received AUB pins from AANAs New
This is the second event for the relatively new Executive Committee in
Toronto. Other events are planned, including a meeting with AANA Board
Member Hikmat Nasr. As a member of the AUBAA Implementation Task Force,
Nasr is visiting the three Canadian chapters to solicit feedback from
alumni and update them on the progress that the ITF has made to date.
The Executive Committee in Toronto is also contemplating a picnic or a
cruise in Lake Ontario this summer. For more information on the chapter,
contact chapter secretary Lina Badih at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NY EVENT: AUB Hosts Fairouz Film Screening Benefit
On February 7, 185 alumni and friends attended a sold-out, standing room
only screening of the film We Loved Each Other So Much, by
director Jack Janssen. The AUB New York Office and ArteEast co-sponsored
the event to raise money for financial aid and scholarships through the
Annual Fund. Janssen, who received special recognition from AUB, remarked,
The reactions of the audience were very rewarding
I felt really
touched by the honor AUB gave me. The film documents Beirutis
love for Lebanese singer Fairouz. Through her music, they reveal their
life stories and narrate the dramatic history of Lebanons Civil
War. The film prompted a wide range of reactions that were nostalgic,
moving, and personal:
Lara Rabih Harik (00):The movie is a true homage to
A reminder of the horrible civil war days, and a wake-up
call for all of us to prevent it from happening again. The movie also
captures small details of our everyday lives and for someone who lives
abroad, it makes you very nostalgic.
AUB friend Todd Dorman, a descendant of AUB founder Daniel Bliss,
was the first to purchase tickets. There is an emotional realm beyond
tragedy and joy where all the deepest matters of the heart seem to meld;
this place looks very much like Beirut and sounds very much like Fairouz.
The film is a beautiful and riveting portrait of the Lebanese spirit,
and to see it in Manhattan with a crowd of AUB alums and supporters was
kind of miraculous. It was like visiting Beirut again. I was thrilled
to tell the rest of our stateside descendants of Daniel Bliss about the
AUB friend Randa Aboul-Hosn (81): I had just moved
to NY and was nostalgic for Beirut. The gathering after the movie was
a testimony to what the movie stressed about Fairouzs songsnamely
that they bring us together wherever we may be in the world.
Parviz Afnan (68) I very much enjoyed the film and
reception. I met people that graduated from AUB the same year that I graduated.
That was fun.
Anny Bakalian (73) I met people at the screening who
told me that the Fairouz film was the first time they had come to an AUB
alumni function. Most of the people were new to me. I have been going
to AUB events for a long time and have been organizing Middle Eastern
events for five years as part of my job.
MainGate recently caught up with Roula Fakhoury-Harb of
the AUBAlumni Chapter in Oman
When and why was the Oman Alumni Chapter started?
It was started as a response to the collapse of College Hall in 1991.
Fifteen years ago a group of people from AUB came to visit Youssef Zarrour,
a friend of ours who lived in Oman at the time. Youssef is a devoted alumnus,
and he came up with the idea of forming an alumni chapter in Oman to raise
funds for rebuilding College Hall. It was very impromptu: we brewed our
ideas for our first fundraising event over a good cup of hot coffee. Since
that time our commitment has never wavered. It goes without saying that
we could never have been as successful as we have been without the strong
support of our friends and fellow alumni in Oman.
What kind of fundraising events does the chapter organize?
Every year we host a very large gala dinner for around 300 guests, and
we raise substantial funds from that event. Its very formal, but
fun-classy with good entertainment. We believed from the beginning in
keeping the standards high. We attract many people from our expatriate
community, but there are locals as well, because frankly were the
hottest ticket in town! Considering the small group of alumni here in
Muscat, we manage to attract a wide variety of people, and were
very pleased about that.
Whats the secret of your success?
The chapter is a small and dedicated group of around eight members. People
come and go, but the size of the group is pretty stable. What never changes
at all is that we support each other in a truly friendly and supportive
atmosphere. We all work well together and we get inspiration from one
another. My husband Kamil Harb has been the coordinator of the Oman chapter
for the past ten years. Along with our other committee members, his commitment
is very strong. So, I guess Id have to say that our secret is good
vibes and great vitality!
What is your role?
I coordinate the logistics and the creative ideas for the event: the theme
of the party for that year, the program design and content, decorations,
entertainment, food, sponsorships, etc. Of course, none of this would
happen without the help of my fellow committee members. I think its
amazing that were able to do some pretty heavy lifting in such a
We are planning a big celebration in April 2007 to mark the 140th Anniversary
of AUB. We are excited to honor the long history of our great University.
The Oman Chapter is lucky to have such a dynamic husband-wife team.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
I graduated from AUB in 1980 with a BA in political studies and public
administration. My husband, who is an engineer, graduated in 1978. We
moved to Oman in 1980. Weve been married for 25 years, and we have
two sons; Anees who is 20 and is studying economics in Chicago at Northwestern
University, and Zeid who is 17 and will join his brother at the same university
in September to study industrial engineering. We have raised our family
in Oman, and we all love it here and consider it home.
Any closing thoughts?
When our friend Youssef Zarrour, the founder of the Oman Chapter, moved
to Dubai in 1995, he asked my husband to take over the leadership of the
chapter. Since that date, weve been doing our best to fulfill our
promise to Youssef to support our beloved alma mater.
We are very proud of the fact that the Oman chapter has brought awareness
about AUB to the community, as well as provided strong support to prospective
students. Weve had a good time and we hope to keep it up for many
years to come!