Stage set for International Theatre Festival at NAPA

Drama troupes from India, Sri Lanka, Germany, USA, UK to arrive in Karachi for 13-day event

Our Correspondent February 05, 2016
The duration of the festival has been cut short this time around. PHOTO: FILE


For the past few years, one event that has remained a permanent fixture on Karachi’s calendar of cultural activities is the National Academy of Performing Arts’ (Napa) International Theatre Festival. While preparations for the fifth edition of the academy’s marquee event are already under way, Napa recently announced that it will take place from March 22 to April 3.

Unlike previous editions of the event which spanned three weeks, the latest instalment is expected to run for 13 days only. While there was no particular reason behind decreasing the duration of the festival, Napa Repertory Theatre (NRT) Artistic Director Zain Ahmed said that this time around, most of the plays are only going to have one show each.

“This year we have kept the gap between plays very short as we’ve allotted only one day to a majority of the performances … earlier it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage such a lengthy event,” stated Ahmed.

Having just finalised the list of plays that will run at the festival, Ahmed revealed while most of the submissions had come in from Germany, India, America and England, Sri Lankan and Nepalese productions will also be part of the event.

While the previous edition of the event was a celebration of 10 years of Napa, Ahmed said that there was no particular theme to the festival this year; instead they had specifically chosen plays that were different from the performances that audiences are accustomed to seeing at the academy.

“There is going to be more musical theatre this year. While there are going to be the usual farce plays, we have also experimented a little with our selection,” he revealed.

One of the standout plays, according to Ahmed, is an Indian production titled, Main Hoon Yousuf Aur Yeh Hai Mera Bhai. The Palestinian play will be performed by Pune-based troupe Aasakta group. The other two troupes to visit from India are Ilhaam Collective and Ujjagar Dramatic Association with their plays V2 and Mukaam Dehru Jilaa Nagaur.

On the other hand, the Sri Lankan play will be in Tamil. However, Zain maintained understanding the play won’t be a problem for the audiences. “I saw the play in India with subtitles in the background and it was comprehensible. We are trying to do a similar thing here as well … I don’t think the audience would have a problem grasping it.”

Envisaged as an event where Napa students and alumni rub shoulders with elites from the world of performing arts, the latest instalment will not see many collaborative ventures taking place. One of the highlights of last year’s event was the dance play, Among Fog, which was a collaborative effort of Napa students and German director Brigel Gjoka.

Although the plan is yet to be finalised, this year’s festival might see Napa students work with an American troupe on a musical. “We are working towards it and will hopefully finalise it in the next few days. The musical will see an American director and choreographer work alongside a Pakistani director and choreographer,” said Ahmed.

A hallmark feature of the annual event has been the appearance of renowned celebrities, usually from across the border. Last year the filmmaker father-daughter duo of Mahesh and Pooja Bhatt graced the event for a stage adaptation of their feature film – Daddy. However, Ahmed revealed no foreign celebrity is expected to arrive, thus far.

Last year’s festival was also compounded by logistical problems after the Indian artists faced visa issues, ultimately forcing the organisers to extend the festival. Having learnt from its mistakes from last year, the organising team is already working on visa application processes for the visiting artists.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2016.

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