Islamabad: ‘Theatre Wallay’ brings to Islamabad an original theatre piece which explores how we celebrate and reclaim public spaces intended for learning, leisure and worship, which have been targeted by terror in Pakistan. It focuses on how ordinary lives have been altered due to constant fear of terrorist attacks, rapid development and new lifestyles which have changed the people of Pakistan’s relationship with their perceptions of the public places and that people are united in a shared human experience despite differences of religion, ethnicity and language.
The work on ‘Zard Paton Ka Ban’ (from the initial writing to the staging) gave the team a chance to explore the changing relationships with public spaces in Pakistan, to recognise people’s resilience and strength in combating the forces that would shut them down, and to discover that, even across borders, people’s human need for shared space and collective expression tends to be the same. Despite our little differences, we all share an emotional connection with our public spaces and feel the same pain when they are threatened. Our public spaces enrich our lives in the same way and define who we are as a people.
They have been working since September 2016 on the project “On Common Ground”. The project resulted from collaboration between the group, Ithaca College, NY, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Artists’ Repertory Theatre, and was made possible by a grant from the US Embassy in Islamabad. This is the last phase of the project, which the script of “On Common Ground” is translated into Urdu and localised for the audiences of Islamabad.
At a time of heightened political, social and religious sensitivity and growing intolerance to diversity all over the world, ‘Theatre Wallay’, chose the subject of public places, ‘Zard Paton Ka Ban,’ about Islamabad and how the spaces are changing and disappearing due to extremism and it needs to be reclaimed. ‘Zard Paton Ka Ban’ explores the past and present of public places of Islamabad– schools, squares, mosques, parks – spaces which were once intended for learning, leisure and worship and now have become places of terror in Pakistan. It also focuses on the fact that ordinary lives have been affected by the shift in lifestyle, some due to terrorism others due to urbanization without check and balance.
“Economic considerations and shifting priorities are killing off cultural spaces, which are perhaps the best means to combat fear and terror and division, and to build tolerance and bring people together in a climate of mutual respect and understanding through creative and artistic expression,” says Fizza Hasan, artistic director of ‘Theatre Wallay’.
After the play, The Theatre Wallay company members will lead workshops, for college and university student groups teaching them scriptwriting and acting, encouraging them to prepare their own performances. Combining the constructed performances with their educational workshops, the culmination of the project will result in a festival organised by ‘Theatre Wallay’.
‘Theatre Wallay’ will also gear up for the next phase of the project, where they will prepare for performances in Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi.
“The last one year has been one of the unimaginable challenges for our team; a few months ago we lost a cherished member of our team, Raza Hasan, my husband, Zainab and Mustafa’s father, everyone’s friend, and the biggest ever supporter of ‘Theatre Wallay’ – the man who gave the group its name. This performance, which took shape during his last months on earth, is dedicated to him. I am sure he is watching from wherever he is, and smiling his signature smile,” says Fizza Hasan, artistic director of Theatre Wallay.
Cast Members included Ammar Khalid, Fizza Hasan, Zainab Hasan, Rabia Pasha, Imran Iftikhar, Shahzaib Wahlah, Razia Abrar and Umer Khan
Crew Members: Ikran Ullah Khan, Mustafa Hasan, Arsalan Barijo.
Sitar player: Wajih Nizami
Tabla players: Irfan Masih
Stage Manager: Kazim Hussain.
‘Theatre Wallay’ is a non-profit group active in Islamabad since 2005. They were the first Pakistani group to perform at OSF and Artists’ Rep, both institutions that are powered by the values of diversity, inclusion and community. Two performances were held at artists’ Repertory Theatre in Portland, and three at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show in Ashland. A group of fourteen people (twelve performers, a stage manager and a sound designer) went on a two-week tour in Oregon in June/ July 2017 as the culmination of phase one of this project.
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