Rabih Mroué

13.09.2006 |



Dear Emil,

I hope you are fine.

I meant to send you a letter, apologizing about being unable to participate in Maska number 200, and telling you the reasons preventing me from presenting a proposal for a project that I might want to achieve in 2023.

I meant to send you a letter explaining my incapacity to plan and think ahead. I am uncertain as to what my plans are for 2007, let alone for 2023. It is certain that I have no clue what I would be then. The reasons for this incapacity might be related to where I reside. You know that I live in a region that is still witnessing wars, conflicts, and turmoil of a geopolitical and sociopolitical nature. Struggles, battles, explosions, and continuous dramatic transformations do not allow us to think or plan for the future, particularly a distant future.

I meant to write to you about theatre, and to confess to you what I sense to be a consistently diminishing desire towards it. How my passion for acting has been extinguished, how my passion to direct actors has died, and how even my passion for theatre and the encounter with an audience has been snuffed out.

In truth, your invitation made me fear a future that appears to me devoid of plans and projects, ambitions and dreams.

I meant to write all this and more, and to tell you how much your invitation excited me and seduced me into foreseeing what an art work would be in a not near future; to tell you how much your invitation moved me to admiration and envy towards artists who are in control to the point of making plans for the future, and who succeed.

I meant to write all this to you, and develop it, had I not fallen on this photograph which disrupted my original intention. (You see how my plans don’t work?) As a result I came up with a new plan, for the year 2023.

This is a photo of me in my first acting role ever. It was taken in 1988, when I was still studying theatre at the Lebanese University. I was 20 years old, and was playing the role of a fifty-five-year-old man, while Beirut was still going through its civil war. When I looked at this photograph, I could not recognize myself, and was in disbelief. I asked myself: Is this what I will look like at fifty-five?

Through a simple arithmetical equation, I found out that I will be fifty-five in 2023. This is when the idea hit me and I decided that it could be a possible proposal in response to your invitation. If I am to live till 2023, I will be glad to implement this proposal.

The project is very simple. In 2023, I would reenact the first role I ever played, only this time I would not need makeup, nor impose on my body the appropriate behavior. I would play this role without the need to age myself, or make myself appear younger. The role will coincide with my actual age, which I had attempted to act out when I was but 20 years old. I will compare the young actor who played the part of the fifty-five-year-old, to the older one who no longer wishes to act, but does it in spite of himself. A comparison between two different persons who hold the same identity card, neither of whom accepts to recognize the other.

I will attempt to imitate myself, by playing the role of a 20-year-old man playing the part of a fifty-five-year-old man. There is no mirror here, but an encounter between two different times. As I am nearing forty, I look upon this impossible meeting with keen anticipation. A future meeting where Rabih at twenty does not know Rabih at fifty-five, and vice versa. Each will think “he is dreaming the other”. And each will present proof and evidence that he is the real Rabih. And neither will know that “each is a caricature of the other”.

Today I stand with my two eyes, an eye looking back to the first role I ever played, and another eye on the future, looking towards the last role I might ever play. It’s as if when we begin acting we pretend to be old, and when we become old, we act out youth. Or it’s as if when we begin, we approach death, and close to the end, we flee from it.

In any case, let us wait until 2023, and see what happens.

Yours truly,






 Rabih Mroué, 20 years old, in his first acting role, playing the part of a fifty five year old man.





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