Nida Butt is undoubtedly one of the most notable names of Pakistani theatre. After staging immensely successful musicals such as Chicago and Mamma Mia to Pakistan under Made for Stage productions, Butt recently finished the second run of her production of Grease. She has enough to say about the decision behind restaging Grease with a new cast and why the management of Karachi Arts Council needs to step up its game in order to be at par with changing trends.
Despite the fact that Grease had already been performed on stages of three major cities, it still drew a massive crowd, meeting an overwhelming response for as long as it ran. “We were celebrating ten years at Made for Stage productions and what better way to do it than bring one of our favorite productions back. Grease held special significance for us as it was Pakistan’s first internationally licensed production with full staging rights. It was a huge step for our company and the theater-industry as a whole,” explained Butt, adding that the company plans on setting new industry standards in the coming decade. The director further said that it was a great experience amplified by the fact that the Karachi audience poured in each day, thus becoming a massive source of appreciation and encouragement for the cast.
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Although she enjoys putting together performances for different cities equally, Butt stated that the Karachi crowd shows a greater inclination towards art than the rest. “The primary difference lies in the fact that Karachi audiences are more in tune to buy tickets - sales in our experience have always remained higher in Karachi. Lahore audiences on the other hand tend to follow the “trend” rather than the arts.”
Butt has always considered Karachi Arts Council a top venue for staging performances owing to a larger stage compared to other facilities, but she also pointed out certain flaws and negligence on part of the administration.
The director sparked speculations when she posted a status on her Facebook profile which read, “I am going to write a long, long article once Grease is done highlighting the sick system you have to navigate in order to stage a show. Nauseous,” hinting that she was not satisfied with the way things were being run at the Council. “I do have several concerns. The junior staff at Arts Council is not the best to work with, and is highly uncooperative in every respect. The overall condition of the backstage rooms is run down beyond belief. Missing doorknobs, broken old furniture, smelly bathrooms with terrible plumbing - the list goes on. It’s the only semi-decent auditorium we have and even that is turning into a big dump. Management would be well requested to look into these issues,” said Butt, clearly disappointed with her recent experience.
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Moving on, Butt shared that she is working on two more projects which will be unveiled soon. “One is the Phase 3 of Lyari stars - A free multi-disciplinary after-school arts program for children. The second project is a music project which will be released in the fall - comprising of ten songs.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2016.
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