Outings in Ramadan usually revolve around going to a nice restaurant or popular lounge where you can have Iftar or Sohour or just hanging out in a coffee shop in between the two meals. But though Ramadan is a high season for restaurants, it is not such a good time of the year for cinemas and theatres.
The AUC Alumni Community Theatre has defied this rule by presenting an English children’s play every year during Ramadan. This year, the ACT is presenting its first Arabic play Yawmeyat Aragoz , El-Aragoz’s Diaries, written by Nermine Said, who is pursuing a Master’s degree about El-Aragoz.
El-Aragoz is a traditional puppet in Egyptian culture. He is usually small with red clothes and a pointy hat, and has entertained both children and adults for almost a century. El-Aragoz traditionally appears from behind a curtain with another character, usually a wife or a friend, to create dialogue.
“I have always wanted to do something about El-Aragoz,” explained Said. “I love him and I love the characters that usually support him. I chose this subject for my master’s degree because in the Institute of Popular Arts there was not even one thesis about El-Aragoz, a short article maybe, but nothing more.”
She added that she has been friends with the director Alaa Shalaby for a long time, and together Said and Shalaby decided to create a play to bring the El-Aragoz character back to life. The result is a one-act play that lasts for half an hour and aims to attract families and children.
“The play shows the audience El-Aragoz’s daily encounters with his wife, his friend and his porter” Said said, describing El-Aragoz as funny, smart, patient and with a high level of social intelligence.
She created the character of the friend to provide a substitute for the person who traditionally stood in front of the curtain and interacted with El-Aragoz to establish a link between him and the audience.
Aya Hassan, a young actress who plays El-Aragoz’s wife describes her as a really fun character: hyperactive, strict and sometimes gentle, and always able to get El-Aragoz to do what she wants.
Hassan welcomed the chance to participate in reviving El-Aragoz. “It is a very important part of our culture that kids nowadays have no idea about,” she said.
The El-Aragoz’s Diaries will have its premiere on 2 August and will be touring in several places around greater Cairo after Iftar until 13 August.