By Falah Gulzar
American University of Sharjah held its first ever theatre festival January 31–February 5, 2017, presenting attendees with both entertaining and insightful activities.
Organized by the Performing Arts Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, the initiative was part of the university’s objective to encourage both academic and artistic events. Most seminars and shows lined up for the five-day event had full attendance.
Sign-up sheets filled up quickly for the workshops offered by both local and international artists. Attendees learned contemporary warm-up techniques and acting guidance.
AUS student Hashim Noor described the workshop presented by Carlos Uriona from Double-Edge Theatre Company as “unusual and engaging.” The session, attended by about 20 people, involved no talking. Uriona, an Argentinian actor, played music and improvised “dance moves” and exercises that were a form of meditation. Uriona said that he uses such techniques to warm up before his shows.
The speakers for the festival’s lectures offered tips for young actors, sharing experiences from their careers and discussing different theatrical art forms.
While addressing a full house, Jordanian performer and director Bashar Atiyat defined attributes of a professional actor and discussed the importance of being an “all rounder” in the field.
Art is like an “impulse and urge,” said Don Butler from Palm Beach Atlantic University at his lecture. He also said although it is often associated with the rich, it is something everyone can relate to.
Sherri Engle from Borough of Manhattan Community College discussed inequality, female dramatists and their struggles getting published as playwrights.
“One of the things that struck me was that when she quoted female writers, all their quotes had the issue of gender stereotyping in common,” said student Rizana Mariyam.
The theatre festival included shows both local and international organizations, with themes that both provoked and entertained audiences.
Be. Longing presented by Michigan State University to a full house of 100 people, underlined a topic relevant to the audience of the UAE, said attendee Hashim Noor.
Highlighting cultural appropriation, integration and similarities, the show had performers interact with the audience as well. The crowd were assigned nametags upon entrance and were asked to write, “their place in society,” said student Farah Abdo.
The show successfully conveyed “a very serious message in a subtle, humorous manner,” said Noor.
The AUS production Hiraeth: Theatrical Journeys highlighted similar issues about identity and culture.
“I like how the show illustrated that not every place you were born in is considered home,” said student Shreya Bhatia.
Following the theater festival, the university’s Performing Arts Program is set to present various other exciting performances and plays throughout the semester.
Falah Gulzar is a student at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah