As the curtain parts, even the most seasoned thespians experience a sudden burst of adrenaline, heart flutters and trembling hands. But for Muhammad Abrar, who performed at his school’s drama festival on Thursday, this happened after the spotlight stopped bathing him.
For half an hour, the 10th-grader gasped, wheezed and writhed in agony as he played the role of an injured murderer recounting his miserable childhood to a bunch of youngsters who had discovered him hiding in a barn. The audience couldn’t get enough – they responded not only with cheers but a few tears as well.
“Look at my hands. I’m shaking!” said the overwhelmed teenager backstage. “The audience’s response has made me so happy.” The 30-minute play, ‘Crossing the Line’, was only one of five performed at Bahria Auditorium by over 60 O’ Level students of the Beaconhouse School System. The students belonged to five campuses – Jubilee, Gulshan, North Nazimabad, Defence and PECHS.
For Abrar, who had skipped some classes to get into the character’s skin, the audience’s response wasn’t the only payoff. The judges, director Nida Butt and actor Naila Jaffery, deemed him the best performer and his play the finest of the night. The play, written by Pete Benson, revolves around a murder, Victor Marriot, who is found injured by some children. After telling them about his journey from an abused child to a hardened criminal, he asks Susan, one of the children, to pull the trigger and put him out of his misery. “All you have to do is cross the line,” Victor said as the curtains drew.
“It was worth it. The whole experience of getting into a character was simply great,” said Qanita Shams, who played Susan.
The Gulshan campus’ senior headmistress and the event organiser, Aasma Azmat, believes that such extracurricular activities provide meat to college applications and make students stand out in the eyes of admission committees. “Foreign universities appreciate students who are involved in arts and theatres and we believe in promoting it.”
The collaboration between students and teachers was evident in one of plays in the line-up: an original comedy titled ‘The Conspiracy’. It had been penned by a student and a teacher. It starts off with a man appearing for job interview and quickly descends into complete pandemonium with a mysterious letter bearing the letters TNT, a gangster called Bozo and a handsome ‘Thames Bond’ who struts onto the stage as the Mission Impossible theme blares from the speakers. It ends with an anti-climax the audience couldn’t have possibly predicted.
Though there were glitches in the sound system, the students were unfazed and the show – as they say – went on as it must. At the end, their proud teacher Maria Asim was all smiles. “For practice, students have been going to their teachers’ houses and we tried to conduct extra classes for them. What they have done is tremendous.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2013.