Launched in 1988, the festival was named “Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre” by Mr. Farouq Hosni, former Minister of Culture. The goal in founding the festival was to expand the presence of Egypt and Arab theater on the international arena. At its initial stages, the festival drew the attention of some of the world's most influential theater artists and critics. It has since welcomed to Cairo a long-list of theater dignitaries from around the globe as honorees, participants in the formal competition, jurors and guests
Since its inception, and while accepting that experimentation will always be a feature of theater in particular, and of art in general, the founding members of the festival have ruled out narrow definitions of the concept of “experimentation” in order to open up the scope for continuous expansions and transformations. The festival thus continues to uphold the spirit of experimentation along Richard Schechner words at the opening ceremony of the 21st edition in 2009, that,
“Experimental art proceeds on the basis of embodying, metaphorizing, and playing with the whole range of human imagination. To what purpose? To push the boundaries further, to expand the horizon, to challenge accepted orthodoxies, to create temporary but strong communities of artists and audiences, to show how people can cross over from the imagined to the actual and back again into the imaginary and then to the actual and so on in an ongoing process. It is by living this process of crossings, of going outside the boundaries and returning, and then going about again, and again, that experimental artists contribute to the well-being of humanity.”
After it concluded its twenty-second edition in 2010, the festival dimmed its light for five years. It was revived in 2015 at the hands of its new president, Prof. Sameh Mahran and has since returned to play its vital role, regionally and globally. The festival returned with a new term added to its title: “Contemporary”. The new name (CIFCET) represents the determination of festival’s new leadership to open up the scope for a wider range of participation and varied production-styles for a broader audience. Moreover, the festival returns without one of its former guidelines: competition and awards; rather, it returns as a theatrical panorama aiming to encompass contemporary and unique international experiments. It returns with the understanding that it is collaboration, exchange, conversations—not awards—that should be the aim of all major international festivals and assemblies.
Today the festival stands to exhibit Egypt’s and the Arab world’s creative facets, and to deflect the notions of rigidity attributed to the Arabo-Islamic region. It continues to transcend political and religious differences and conflicts. CIFCET is a celebration of the power of theater as a reconciliatory catalyst against dogma and discord. It thus proceeds to be a reciprocal opportunity for Egyptian, Arab and global theatre practitioners to engage in various creative and cultural conversations, as well as to expose playwrights, actors and directors to new vistas and possibilities within the performing arts.
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre, we invite you to be part of that important theatrical and cultural event. The plenary session will be an opportunity for the festival’s returning guests to contribute researches and/or testimonies responding to the question of the impact of CIFCET in the following topics:
1 - Experimentation and modernity, and the widening of the theatrical scope/s.
2- Promoting theatrical trends and innovations in Egypt and the Arab world.
3- Opening up to internationalization
4 - Translations and publications