world theatre day
One of the core components of what makes us human is the desire to express our culture, emotions, and beliefs. This is where performing arts and the role of theatre play a huge role in today’s society. Acting for the stage is an all-encompassing process that involves a great deal of collaboration from many different people. The art, process and effects of live performance are incredibly important in the current world of social media, digital technology and screens.
“Theatre is the mother of all art forms. It is far more significant than we generally believe. Theatre allows us to see beyond our eyes and mind. It helps us understand human emotions, perspectives and behaviour patterns. It acts as a mirror and allows us to reflect, to introspect. It is a powerful medium to put across a message,” says Junaid Zuberi, CEO National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA), who has been part of theatre for the last two decades. He has been engaged with different forums promoting and cultivating an appreciation for performing arts.
“The genre of theatre is viewed as the mirror of society and to this end, all forms of theatre are the best means to reach out to people. Be it a social or a family drama, the idea of a strategy or information can be best communicated through the genre of theatre. The changes in the society, the upheavals and the dynamics can be best depicted through plays,” elucidates Sheema Kermani, a renowned classical dancer, theatre artist and feminist. “Through performances I have advocated for gender and class equity, women’s rights and those of the marginalised. Through performances, I explore and interrogate the constructions of identity, class, religious affiliation and try to provoke the audience to think beyond stereo-typical representations of gender experiences. I believe that the purpose of theatre is not merely entertainment - unless we integrate it into our lives, we cannot move forward as a society,” adds Sheema, who has been using art to raise her voice on social issues.
Theatre as an effective medium
“In Pakistan we have not been able to develop theatre as an effective medium. In fact it has only been used as a form of entertainment,” shares Junaid. On the same tangent, Sheema agrees, “In Pakistan theatre does not get any recognition. There are barely any auditoriums where young artists can perform. Karachi is a city with an estimated population of more than 15 million has only handful of auditoriums. Theatre needs promotion at many levels.”
When it comes to renowned theatre artists of Pakistan, only a few names come to mind and one of them being the great Zia Mohyeddin, whose passing was a loss that cannot be replaced. “When NAPA was established, Zia Mohyeddin, who was an internationally acclaimed thespian, worked hard with his team to foster a culture of theatre in Pakistan. Since inception, NAPA presented Urdu adaptations and translations of world classics besides original work. The name of NAPA became synonymous with quality theatre and in fact NAPA became a yardstick for all others. The contribution of Zia Mohyeddin towards popularising theatre and producing the best available theatrical talent can never be forgotten,” reminisces Junaid.
Needless to say, that reviving theatre and keeping it alive is of utmost importance, especially in Pakistan, as losing this form of art would mean taking away the raw experience of different perspectives that we may not be aware of or contemplated. “I believe that no society can move forward without artists, poets, musicians and performers. For me theatre or performance is the most important aspect. It helps me to keep my sanity in a society that is torn and riddled with conflict and violence, especially violence against women and the marginalised communities. It gives me strength and power along with hope. I believe that there is no art without politics and no politics without art,” asserts Sheema.
Theatre, dance and other performing arts can teach people how to express themselves effectively. Above all else, the performing arts are about being creative. Without a creative voice, a society may become all but dead inside. The importance of having people in society who can express themselves creatively is without doubt. What is imperative is that performing arts continue to be nurtured and encouraged. “To create more opportunities, it is vital to produce and present plays on different venues across the country. Access to funding through grants and sponsorships will make it possible. Focus on training of new writers, holding festivals in different cities with the support of local arts councils, corporate sector and local government would foster a culture of theatre thereby presenting more opportunities,” suggests Junaid.
Theatre is one of those aspects of life that stays with you forever. Theatre is powerful. It has the power to comfort, to heal and even to save. “Theatre is not only still relevant today, I think theatre will always remain relevant,” concludes Sheema.