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Articles, Essays, Volume 6

In Memoriam: Nehad Selaiha

In Memoriam: Nehad Selaiha
By Karen Malpede
Arab Stages, Volume 6, Nehad Selaiha Memorial Issue (Spring, 2017) 
©2017 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publication

Nehad Selaiha was the sort of theatre writer artists crave and need if we are to remain at the top of our game. She was immensely knowledgeable, enormously passionate; she loved theatre that was daring, immediate, beautiful and layered. She encouraged this sort of work in generations of Egyptian and Middle Eastern theatre artists who work, often, in difficult situations—as theatre artists do world-wide—bucking censorship, economic hardship and narrow-mindedness—as we do world-wide. For whatever nation theatre artists inhabit our job is to go up against it—the prejudices of our cultures and its fears. Nehad believed the theatre could make a difference in the life of a nation and that its artists, therefore, were to be cherished, encouraged, held to high standards, scolded, goaded and, also, taught. She did all this in her writing and in person. She brought people together and she expected great things from them.

I did not know her well, and she never had the opportunity to write about my work—how I wish she had—but we felt an immediate connection that persisted over several decades, during which we seldom met. When we did meet, most recently at the revived Cairo International Experimental and Contemporary Theatre Festival, this past September, just months before her untimely death, it felt as if we had never been apart, so warmly did we embrace and so quickly enter into meaningful talk. It seemed as though we knew one another well, although we did not. Simply, we felt each other deeply. Nehad got me, and I got her.

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