Renee Deek: Beirut Through The Looking Glass
Published Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Renee Deek’s life mirrors the tale of the city that was the stage for her theatrical career. It is a story of a rising star who faded from fame.
The veteran actress lived through the golden age of Beirut’s modernity, when the city became a cultural and artistic laboratory in the sixties. Theatre glittered next to poetry, journalism, publishing and music.
Deek was not one of the leading stars of that period, but she was a true part of the scene that died with the outbreak of the civil war. Lebanon’s political regime simply ignored culture in all its elements.
The fertile grounds of the city had allowed an actress to perform in the theatre and even be a nude model for students at the fine arts college.
Renee worked with her contemporaries before the war, but she went back to work with a new generation of directors during a theater revival at the beginning of the nineties.
The most memorable for the audience is perhaps her remarkable role in The Two Maids (1996) as the mistress, alongside Randa al-Asmar and Julia Kassar, directed by Jawad al-Assadi from a script by Jean Genet.
Her name became associated with the Iraqi director and the play almost became symbolic of Renee’s career. No other role she played ever equaled it.
Deek acted in many plays and films. She was a self-made woman, whose sweeping passion led her to accept small roles and cameos, while her performance in The Two Maids remained her star role.
Her name came to the forefront again when al-Assadi directed a second version of the play for the festival “Jean Genet Through Arab Eyes” (2009).
The director actually cut the part of the mistress, but still honored the woman who owned the role at the festival’s opening.
It must be said that the main reason Renee Deek remains in our memory is her work with al-Assadi, who always befriended his actors.
In 2006, al-Assadi gave a workshop at the American University of Beirut (AUB) called Renee Deek’s Cats in her honor. He will be honoring her again in the second round of the festival, “Women In Threatened Societies.”
The designation “threatened” is also befitting for Lebanese theatre, which seems incapable of reviving its role or vitality. That is if it is not already incapacitated, with theaters in their final throes, closing down one after the other.
In honor of Renee Deek, a film of the play The Two Maids will be shown on May 17-19 at 8.30 pm at the Babel Theater in Hamra, followed by a Q & A session with Deek.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.