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July 2 2022 2:53 AM ˚
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‘Zaal & Khadra’ share their journeys to success

Rania Ismail (left) and Hasan Sabaileh (right) at a UNRWA event in this undated photo.
Rania Ismail (left) and Hasan Sabaileh (right) at a UNRWA event in this undated photo. The two recenlty spoke to Jordan News about their acting careers and the hit series ‘Zaal & Khadra.’ (.Photo: Handout for UNRWA)
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AMMAN — Hasan Sabaileh and Rania Ismail, the actors behind the popular series ‘Zaal & Khadra,’ took similar paths to their roles, both defying their parents’ expectations to pursue acting they told Jordan News.اضافة اعلان

Hasan Sabaileh, who plays Zaal, first discovered his talent when he was in school.

His parents opposed his intent to study fine arts at Yarmouk University because he also received a scholarship to study civil engineering in Russia. However, he refused their wishes and pursued a degree in fine arts at Yarmouk University.

After graduating, Sabaileh joined the army where he taught young people and wrote plays simultaneously. He then began acting professionally, mostly on Syrian-Jordanian television series produced in Jordan. He mastered the Syrian dialect used in these series so well many thought he was a Syrian actor, he told Jordan News in an interview. He played a character named Assaf in a Jordanian work titled “The Good Roots” and then Salman in the “Wadi Al-Ghajar” series.

“After that, I first worked in the comedy theater with Mahmoud Saimeh and Nabil Al-Mashini and other comedy stars in Jordan,” the performer said. “I caught the audience’s attention with my roles. I then moved into the political theater with Nabil Sawalha.”

The actor said his talent really shined when he began performing in “Zaal & Khadra.” The series, which lasted for thirteen years, explored a wide variety of topics relevant to Jordanian society.

His co-star in the series, Rania Ismail started acting at a similar age. “I participated in school theater when I was a kid, and I felt that I had the talent, but no one guided me,” said Ismail, who plays Khadra. “Not like the school system today where there is a specialized team to help the students in their career choice. When I was at UNRWA schools, we had a school theater, and our teaching was strong, but there was no guidance.”

Ismail went on to study law, but after winning a couple of awards for her acting, she explained that Iraqi director Auni Karumi saw her perform and suggested she take an acting test, less she was lost to “the artistic community”. She went on to pass an acting exam with flying colors and switched studies.

“I worked in the experimental theater, then I entered the comedy theater with Hasan and Mahmoud Saimeh,” said Ismail. “We worked on Zaal & Khadra, (and then) on awareness-raising and interactive comedy after that.”

Sabaileh said that the two faced challenges of their own when they first started. “When we initially started with the political comedy theater, we faced challenges from our fellow actors because they thought that we presented a useless commercial theater. But the audience stood by us, and the theater halls were always filled with people from all over the Kingdom.”

The actor added that he faced criticism for using accessible language to communicate intellectual messages during his performances, rather than using classical Arabic, “where neither the audience nor even the one presenting these plays understands what they are saying.”

Now, Ismail and Sabaileh hope to leverage their talents to help others. They currently operate a non-profit company named Zaal & Khadra for Creative Arts and the Zaal & Khadra Association for Community Arts.

“Through the company and the association, we have training workshops, and we train students on emotional intelligence skills and leadership skills through performing arts,” Ismail said. “Then they take a certificate approved by our company.” 

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