“A World I Loved: The Story of an Arab Woman” is a captivating “recital text” based on the memoir of Wadad Makdisi Cortas, the mother of Maryam Said.
The play was a dramatized reading of the memoir, written periodically from 1957 until Cortas’ death. It was initially published as a book in 2009, and sent to Vanessa Redgrave, the renowned English actress and political activist, who both starred in the play and contributed to its creation.
The theatrical performance was part of a fundraising event, and all proceeds went to Al Ahliah School in honor of its centennial.
In what could be considered an unusual format for a play, “A World I Loved: The Story of an Arab Woman” proceeded as such: the three main actors sat at the front of the stage on three chairs while Redgrave narrated and Nadim Sawalha, along with Najla Said, voiced various characters who had minor roles in the book.
Atypically, some students were invited to the play’s dress rehearsal on Thursday, September 29.
Mariam Said, Cortas’ daughter, introduced the three actors, the story of her mother, and the random uncovery of the book after all copies had been lost. After that, Redgrave dived directly into the reading of a text that detailed the life of an extraordinary woman whose experiences took place during some of the most tumultuous years in Lebanese history.
It was, by no means, a play for everyone.
The historical facts mentioned in the play were not new to the Lebanese audience, but every detail was presented through a different, very subjective, and very emotional lens.
The performance greatly appealed to the emotions of the audience through absolutely enchanting musical performances. This was reinforced by the more emotional parts of the text itself, accompanied by relevant photos and maps.
At other points, however, the extremely well-developed plot discovered the slightest details, many of which were not relevant at all and made it sound more like a history lesson than a play. Those uninterested in hearing about Lebanese history might have found it tedious; testament to that was the constant ringing of their phones throughout the play.
The play featured musical performances by violinist Nabih Bulos, cellist Sary Khalife, pianist Karim Said, and a choir formed by students from the Ahliah School and the Lebanese American University.
Najla Said, who happens to be author Wadad Makdisi Cortas’ granddaughter, ended the play on an emotional note. She briefly described her own experiences in Lebanon; those that partook from the end of the Civil War, her time abroad, her return, and reattachment to the country, until the survival of the war of July 2006.
During her speech, she sometimes glanced at the text between her hands. However, her performance was raw, so beautifully and authentically delivered that it was almost impossible to tell that she was acting.
The audience could clearly hear the sincerity in her voice and see the teary glint in her eyes. It was the perfect note for “A World I Loved: The Story of an Arab Woman” to end on.