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Following the success of APEAL’s two community outreach projects, the Ras Masqa Artists in Residence (RMAR) and Works on Paper, Studiocur/art invited APEAL to lead a community outreach program in parallel with their exhibition, The Silent Echo, which explored the notions of history and archaeology and was organized at Baalbek’s temple complex and archeological museum between September 17th and October 17th, 2016.

The Silent Echo was curated by Karina El Helou and featured works by Ziad Antar, Danica Dakic, Laurent Grasso, Susan Hiller, Theo Mercier, Marwan Rechmaoui, Ai Wei Wei, Paola Yaoub and Cynthia Zaven.
As an active partner in the exhibition, APEAL spearheaded a program tailored to engage with the local community in Baalbeck and commissioned Zoukak, a Lebanese theatre company and cultural organization, to run a participatory theatre workshop centered on the issues of heritage, history and identity.
Conceived specifically to engage with Baalbek’s older residents, the program aimed to raise awareness of the cultural importance and rich heritage of this historical region and the interactive narrative project was designed to create a cross-generational dialogue within the local community, to permit the older generation to share their understanding and insight.
The collaboration falls in line with APEAL / BeMA’s mission to make contemporary art accessible to diverse communities across the country and to support local nonprofit art organizations.

BeMA, APEAL and Zoukak are committed to the principle that contemporary art, including theater, is an important avenue for reshaping the relationship between local communities and public cultural spaces.
Trainers and participants explored the artistic and cultural heritage of the City of the Sun in relation to its contemporary social and cultural realities, from Antiquity to the modern day that included the region’s local dance and poetry traditions, as well as the famous Baalbek International Festival.
Focusing on acting and improvisation, the workshop encouraged participants to refine and hone their story-building and storytelling techniques, as well as other skills required for a theatre performance.
The workshops were led by Hashem Adnan and Christelle Khodr of Zoukak, and consisted of 7 working sessions of 6 hours at the city’s Palmyra Hotel between the 6th and the 15th of October. The program ended with a public theatre performance on the 15th of October at the Temple of Bacchus.

Following a successful collaboration during the summer of 2016 in the Ras Masqa Artists in Residence program organized by APEAL/BeMa, APEAL chose the award-winning Lebanese filmmaker Roy Dib (Teddy Award 2014) to document its community outreach program in Baalbek, through the filming of workshops and final performance.

In Plain Secret, Dib follows the participants in the workshops in their daily lives and into the city of Baalbek, itself. It targets an age group often neglected by community arts outreach programs and gives the residents of Baalbek a real voice and a cultural claim to their city and memory.

“This experience goes beyond the documentation and archiving of an artistic project because it gives local communities and the wider public the opportunity to relate to art by creating their own performances and through appearing in parallel in a documentary, that will showcase their work to a wider audience,” Dib says.
Amongst other benefits, the documentary is a permanent record of otherwise ephemeral workshops and of a performance that so far, has not been repeated. Additionally, it constitutes an important source of documentation for APEAL and all the participants in the projects.

Plain Secret was sponsored by the Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon and the Robert A. Matta Arts and Culture Association.