Yakout served as the festival’s president in its 28th edition, which spanned over five days in December 2021. He was joined by two artistic directors, Mohamed Abdel-Rahman El-Shafei and Saeed Kabeel.
The 28th edition was the first to take place after the strong restrictions that were imposed during the pandemic, which also affected the 27th edition in 2020. This is when local performances were staged in theatres while international troupes submitted their plays for online viewing.
In 2021, when Yakout stepped in, he decided to implement a few changes to the CIFET.
The last edition of the festival was held at an unusual time of the year — as it normally takes place over the first 10 days of September — but the new dates were selected to accommodate the post-pandemic international theatre calendar and, in the context of Yakout’s attempt to create a dynamic regional network, to avoid conflict with the Carthage Theatre Days in Tunis.
Yakout also restructured the awards system, with prizes now going to specific components rather than being bundled into the usual categories (Best Play, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Scenography).
In an interview published in July 2021, Yakout commented: “During the festival, we might be surprised by amazing theatrical solutions that deserve an award but do not fall under the traditional award protocols. I’d rather set up a number of awards to be given depending on what we see.”
The festival allocated EGP 500,000 as well as five awards amounting EGP 100,000 each to be distributed to chosen segments.
Yakout also launched the Experimental Theatre Club, a new initiative that included Egyptian performances produced by troupes in numerous governorates. A special competition showcased the performances, and the prizes were distributed to the winners.
Yakout holds a PhD in directing and production and he teaches at the Faculty of Arts of Alexandria University, the Higher Institute of Child Arts (part of the Academy of Arts), and other institutions across the country.
He also leads workshops for adults and children in the fields of acting, directing, playwriting, storytelling, and theatrical production all over the Arab world.
Yakout’s acting career kicked off in early 1980, but he soon shifted to directing, helming over 70 plays, many of which received awards at various events.
He also founded his own theatre troupe, Creation Group, and in 2008, he founded Alexandria’s Theatre Without Fund Festival — an event that he presided over until 2021. His studies, which include musical theatre in the UK and the Avignon Theatre Festival in France, are topped with his accumulated experience in working with independent troupes.
Launched in 1988 by former minister of culture Farouk Hosny with the aim of placing Egypt on the international theatre map, since its second edition, the CIFET was presided over by the late scholar-writer Fawzy Fahmy, the former president of the Academy of Arts, who retained this post until 2010.
The festival was interrupted for five years after the January Revolution in 2011, coming back in 2016 with Sameh Mahran as president. In that edition, it was renamed the Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre (CIFCET) and, limiting its programme, dropped its competitive character.
The name was changed back to CIFET in 2020, when Alaa Abdel-Aziz took over and the competition was reinstated, however, due to COVID-19, the international shows took place online.
While closing the 28th edition of the festival in 2021, Yakout announced that the 29th round would be held in its original time slot this year — between 1 and 10 September.