Diana Sfeir’s world is magnanimous, where she effectively lives out her passion for igniting her audience’s senses. You might recognize this talent from her captivating performances onstage as part of Kuwait’s vibrant theater scene, but there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to uncovering the various aspects of this creative’s world. Between design, theater and production, we speak to the multifaceted Diana about her journey so far.
My conversation with Diana left me with an instant urge to create. I sensed this from the moment I walked through the unassuming doors to enter her bright and enchanting D-Design Studio space. We began discussing strong female role models, and how this affects her choice of lead roles to perform onstage, suddenly jumped on how to upcycle an outdated cabinet to turn it into an amazing piece of art. Diana is constantly shifting gears, between perfecting her next role for an upcoming production, working alongside her team to achieve her studio’s goals for a given project, and spending Thursdays at her workshop, crafting a new creation for a specific show’s set design, or realizing a passion DIY project that she dreamt up while sipping on her choice drink of Diet Coke.
“I could stay up all night thinking of the perfect execution for a design that I have in mind. But once the idea is formulated in my mind, there’s no stopping me.” Diana began by pointing to a simple door at the studio, and with an excited glance, she said, “I now know what I’m going to do with it.” I looked around me and agreed, that it was quite simplistic, when I compare it with the various handcrafted elements artfully laid out across the space. Retro-inspired handmade curtains, upcycled tables, and bold colors surrounded me, and Diana cleverly explained the concept behind her studio, a division of her father’s civil, construction, and design company M.S.G, “We create, together. This is what D-Design Studio is all about. We help realize creative ideas, as well as helping others to be more creative.” Whether it be through projects, workshops with students, client work, visual merchandising work, D-Design Studio functions as Diana’s home away from home. That’s, at least, when she’s not at her other home: the stage.
“I have to live the job that I am doing, whatever it is. From my work at D-Design Studio, to working the set production at a given show, to my own acting career.” Diana smiles when she talks about theater, as well as her work. What’s astonishing is that it’s the exact same smile, and that’s a mark of true passion, if you ask us.
Having grown up in her home country of Lebanon before relocating to Kuwait as a teenager, Diana had already been obsessed with the theater and the world of performance arts. She lied to her mom about continuing piano classes as a mere eleven-year-old, and opted for drama classes instead. She memorized classic Levantine shows and plays by heart, and could recite any given line from these productions without agency. With the support of her artistic family, she then moved to France for almost ten years, completing a bachelor’s in photography, media and multimedia arts, two post graduate degrees at ESAV (Ecole Superieur d’Audiovisuel) in Toulouse in animation and special effects, and in audiovisual communications and engineering, eventually taking up a pHD in the same field.
In doing so, Diana lived, breathed and experienced the stage life, and everything related to it. She said, “I like to do everything, I can’t be put in a box, because I will follow my love for anything related to image, sounds, visuals, essentially anything that would make you use your five senses.” From stage design, to theater classes, and even working the famous Short Film Corner at the renowned Cannes Film Festival (Diana even showcased her own short animation during one of her years at Cannes), this true artist considered her time at Cannes as an eye opener. She knew it then, she wanted a career that celebrated her talents, as well as her passions.
Upon returning to Kuwait and spending two years building up D-Design Studio, Diana was itching to get back to the stage. Her work in design and production was rewarding, teaching workshops to university students, but she missed the space where she felt right at home. She said, “I breathe drama, it’s the place where I live. I’m more comfortable onstage, than I am off stage.” It was when she came by drama classes at Bayt Lothan, in association with One World Actors Centre, that Diana found an outlet for her talents.
That was also when Diana met the center’s director Alison Shan Price, and a conversation that was at first casual, led to many collaborations such as Arabizing the classic production of Antigone. “With time, my involvement with One World, and the local theater community grew. I couldn’t help but be a part of this thriving scene.” Choosing to invest her efforts and time in collaborating with One World Actors Center, Diana fou volunteered to help out with the set design for the very first production of Antigone. Diana saw the potential for the production and in turn, Alison took note of her brilliance. From taking on leading female role of Antigone in Antigone: An Arabian Tragedy to the alluring revolutionary role of Nawras for Hooda Al- Shawa’s Ikara production, to set production and design, amongst many other shows, Diana’s star rose. In doing so, she became an integral part of a theater community that is now gaining way with the emergence of new cultural spaces in Kuwait, such as the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Center.
Performing in her native Arabic tongue also proved as another turning point for this aspiring actress, especially when Antigone: An Arabian Tragedy was performed in front of an international audience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Diana’s performance was especially highlighted in an amazingly positive review of The Scotsman. She took note of how performing in Arabic changed her when the play was first performed at the Al Amricani Cultural Center, she added, “I noticed it once I was actually as stage, interacting with King Creon’s voice.” During the performance in Scotland, Diana “promised [herself] not to translate, but to act out the role in parallel to the English script.” Both Antigone and Ikara proved to be remarkable successes for Diana, furthering her desire to perform roles in Arabic. She explained that a “strong Arabic female role, represents me and Arab women in the arts as well as the Arab women of our time.” As for her love for the Arabic language, Diana also wanted to perform more roles in classical Arabic-Language roles, “I started acting in other languages, but with Arabic, it felt right. Arabic is a reflection of our culture, and the way it sounds is beautiful, as the words are extremely expressive. It’s fascinating, even visually and historically. This language and civilization once created other worlds, as opposed to how the modern world views the language and culture nowadays, associating it with negative stigmas.”
But, could Diana ever choose between D-Design Studio and the stage? “I can’t!” She vehemently replied and gleefully added that, “there is no way. They complement one another.”
Up close and personal questionnaire:
What do you most value in your friends?
The fact that the we are still friends after 30 years.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
That first sip of Diet Coke, cold, and without any slice of lemon!
What is your greatest fear?
Losing my closest ones. It’s more than a fear.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Not so many [laughs], but maybe overly stressing about my projects, because I ALWAYS need my work to be perfect!
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
The zero effort syndrome, I call it. In any task, relation, mission, you have to do some if not a lot of effort! It’s people who expect things to happen from one side – I just can’t take it!
Which living person do you most admire?
I might sound like a little girl, but my mama for how clever she always was and still is and my papa for being the Santa Claus he always was, with the biggest heart!
What is your greatest extravagance?
SHOES (limited edition releases of casual shoes), and bags – also very funky and limited. I’m attracted to what’s different most of the time!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“It’s horrible”, “Really??”, and “Seriously?”. Those are phrases I use most in English.
What is it that you most dislike?
Noises – mainly mouth noises like chewing etc. drive me mad!
Which talent would you most like to have?
I have all what I would want to have.
If you could have any job, what would it be?
Nothing but all what I am doing. Oh no, right! My other dream was to be in the military as part of an archiving team so that I could still practice my passion for photography and videography. I guess I can’t be outside the world of arts.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is to be able to do what I love, and following my dreams and passions. Not having to choose or stop any one of them is an achievement, even if it exhausting.
What is your most treasured possession?
My dreams! You don’t how much of a treasure they are…I am a big dreamer.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m considered to be a bit blunt. I’m more of a get-straight-to-the-point type of person.
Where would you most like to live?
Wherever my heart is beating. It beats to my passions and it beats to the people I love the most.
What are your favorite words to live by?
Passion, passion, passions and dreams… they truly make me breathe!