WKND Entertainment: Dubai's very own drama marathon
17 plays, 200 players, and countless real-life stories
What happens when you put a bunch of children and young adults in a room (with masks on!) and empower them to be unafraid to imagine, question and create. They end up writing stories that are honest and bold; and further, are fearless to share them with one and all. An upcoming week-long theatre festival, The Hive Drama Fest 2021, is a result of a couple of months of intense ideating, conceptualising, and rehearsing by 200 young enthusiasts, who love theatre. The team worked on ground and online to create 17 plays a mix of comedies and thought-provoking plays. For the latter, the young actors brainstormed about issues they’ve experienced and wanted to talk about, followed by sessions of story building, improvisation, and most importantly bringing in their own stories, so they can be devised into scripts to be performed.
So, how does one put together a theatrical festival during a pandemic and why is it important to host one? “The one lesson I learnt as a drama educator in this pandemic is that we need human connections, that whilst technology has enabled so much to happen — nothing compares to exchanging real physical energy with your student or co-actor. Nothing can replace the magic of eye contact and physical touch. People need people,” says Malavika Varadan, managing director, The Hive, a performing arts school in the city. The plays will explore themes like what does it mean to live away from the ones we love, how society often forces us to live within boxes of identity, gender and class, and how difficult it is to be a teen in a social-media-obsessed world. Also, as part of the festival, there will be a screening of a short film, Hello Hello, starring 18 people of determination, from six different nationalities, living in two countries, UAE and India. This would be Determined and Dramatic’s second project. “The fact that we were able to work virtually and then put the end product together was made possible because of the new avenues that we as people of the arts were forced to use. Also, people of determination might find it difficult to participate in a full-length performance, so virtual meets physical avenue makes it possible for many from the community to experience performing arts as actors,” shares Alba Rose, Drama Catalyst, The Hive. Also, scheduled for the last day of the festival is the performance of an Indian English full-length play Final Solution by Mahesh Dattani.
Well, the bunch is in love with theatre as a form of expression. Says Mishita Khiara, “Theatre is a great way to express oneself in words and actions. These art forms are such a beautiful life skill to master communications in the real world as well.” The 17-year-old believes that theatre keeps imagination alive, “A team of talented thespians putting up a live play for a live audience is just a whole different kind of enthusiasm you can only feel when you’re in the space, away from the comfort of your homes stepping into a whole different created imagination.” And can one compare it to other forms of entertainment? Swarit Maheshwar, another participating student, opines that theatre is a better option than YouTube or Netflix because it gives a sense of real life, “You can look into the eyes of the actors whereas in movies, you cannot make eye contact! During a play, you feel like you are a part of it, and it is real, whereas in movies, you are constantly aware that you are watching a screen and it isn’t happening in real life.” Also, in theatre, there are no retakes — like in movies — the actors have to get the show done in one go and this makes theatre more fascinating. “Theatre is also better because you can interact with actors more than you can in movies. This is why theatre is a better option to watch, sure there might be few disadvantages, but nothing is better than the feeling of being included on a long, real, sensational journey,” adds Maheshwar.
So, what according to these little stars is the reason that their counterparts should learn how to perform an art form? Says 15-year-old Nandini Bhattacharya, “To be on stage is liberating. You can do anything you want, and have the satisfaction of knowing that someone out there might like it, someone out there might laugh at it, might cry about it, will think about it and will relate to it. It’s so liberating to knowing you have the power to influence someone. What you decide to showcase on stage will stay with people.” She feels that it is an opportunity to create a memory, an experience, “And to have that connection with a stranger, to feel unlimited while also affecting someone, is one of the greatest gifts ever.”