Our artists are the real ambassadors of Pakistan, presenting a positive picture of the country while sharing knowledge about its values and riches. One such individual is Faisal Malik, the founder of Thespianz Theatre, who was recently invited to give a lecture on the local theatre scene at the University of Chicago. Faisal Malik shares his experiences and observations in this interview.
Instep: You recently delivered a lecture at the University of Chicago about performing arts and drama in Pakistan. How was your experience?
Malik: It was marvelous. The opportunity to highlight our local performing arts scene in front of foreigners was a matter of pride for me. I spoke to an audience of approximately 200 students, who belonged to different countries and hence had different backgrounds and mindsets. I am glad that I could paint a positive picture of Pakistani theatre and drama at a time when our country’s image is unfortunately tainted with terrorism. The Dean of Chicago University, Mr. John W. Boyer, and students were amazed that Pakistan produces excellent work in the field of art and culture.
Instep: How do you think your session has changed perceptions about Pakistan?
Malik: Like I said, Pakistan is seen as a country where no one cares for works of art. They feel that we can only hold guns, not the pen or paint brush. I’m sure my lecture had a positive impact and will pave the way for a better relationship between both countries.
Instep: How did you come to establish Thespianz Theater?
Instep: I established Thespianz Theater in 2005 with the desire to recreate the cultural vivacity of Pakistan. Although varied in theme, the works shared a vibrant aesthetic, a blending of movement, dance, and music with poetic language, creating visually stunning and visceral theatrical experiences. TT has presented 56 theater and dance performances along with many training sessions just in the previous two years.
Instep: Local theatre sometimes gets flak for vulgarity, but directors justify crass humour in terms of its commercial appeal. What’s your take on the issue?
Malik: Look, vulgarity may reap in profits but it wipes out your honour and positive image. If you regularly put out vulgar content, you are limited to that circuit alone, while real performing arts elevates you. Last month, we put up a widely applauded play I’m Karachi on the issue of IDPs and it was appreciated by foreign missions as well.
Instep: Can you tell us about Thespianz’ Flying Theatre and Classroom?
Malik: The Flying Classroom is a very unique project that we have launched in Pakistan. It is a complete mobile school, run by Thespianz Foundation since October 2011. Our main focus is the slum areas of Karachi. Initially, the Flying Classroom schooled 48 children between the ages of four and eight in the last two academic years.
The Flying Theater is a western term that refers to a complete performance area on a huge truck with all the necessary paraphernalia like curtains, etc. It can travel anywhere in the country. The Flying Theater also screens feature films and short films to promote Pakistan’s TV and film industry.
Instep: What advice would you give to young people interested in pursuing theatre professionally?
Malik: I would like to say that one should be able to pin-point one’s interest before jumping into any field. After that it’s all perspiration. In addition to this, proper education is always a strong asset.
Instep: You have also done theater in other countries. How did you get those opportunities?
Malik: Thespianz has had performed in 18 countries so far, including USA, Germany, Indonesia, Japan and Poland. It’s always a marvelous experience to perform abroad and garner appreciation from foreigners, especially those who have a different picture about Pakistan. I would suggest that we should focus on the Gulf states where our labour community is deprived of recreational activates. We can even encourage patriotism and create awareness about their responsibilities for Pakistan.
Saeed Awan can be contacted at [email protected]