National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) turned nine last week, even though their journey seems much longer. After all, it takes more than just infrastructure to provide education in a craft that is still socially unacceptable at large. However, the faculty at Napa hasn’t shied away from this; their upcoming International Theatre Festival seems like the realisation of their dreams, at least in terms of theatre. Zain Ahmed, the Artistic Director of Napa Repertory Theatre (NRT), raises the curtain of the International Theatre Festival and talks about providing a space for cross conversation with Karachi’s fast-growing commercial theatre.
“The festival is becoming quite a large event, I didn’t think that it would but it has. About 12 plays will be performed over a span of 24 days,” says a rather excited Ahmed.
This time around the festival will be welcoming theatre artistes from Nepal, England, Germany and India, apart from the local troupes. On the weekends the festival will also have dramatic reading sessions, a craft pioneered in Pakistan by Zia Mohyeddin, something that has now been taken up by many small groups like Dastaan Goi and Zambeel among others. Much like the last theatre festival, this year again, there will be sessions dedicated to storytelling for children. This will also take place on the weekends, but in the mornings. Where Napa has managed to engage some major international acts, the local theatre troupes performing are the likes of Tehrik-e-Niswan and Ajoka, none of the young theatre artistes from the ‘musical’ frenzy commercial theatre scene have been engaged. Was it a conscious decision to axe the commercial theatre scene?
“Certainly not; to be very frank, the applications were open for six months but none of them responded,” clarifies Ahmed. However, he believes that Napa’s role is not about competition, there simply can’t be any competition with the commercial theatre as they have a lot of money that Napa doesn’t.
“For the commercial theatre in Karachi to survive, it is very important that they don’t run out of ideas and for that to happen there needs to be this cross conversation and that’s where the festival comes in. They need to see some of our work we need to see some of their work, so that theatre stays alive,” he adds.
Ahmed believes that this theatre festival is going to be very significant for all kinds of artistes, enthusiasts and for the health of theatre in general-be it mainstream or parallel.
“All of them must come and see what the Indians, British and Germans are doing. After all, a healthy commercial theatre scene means more job opportunities for our graduates,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed is bent upon making the much celebrated Pawnay Chauda August a part of their festival next year and that’d be Napa’s way of participating in the much needed dialogue between artistes.
“Pawnay Chuada August and Sawa Chauda August were landmark events and we have to own them. They changed everything. This dialogue has to happen, “remarks Ahmed.
The festival will go on from the March 4 to March 27, 2014, and all performances will take place at Napa. Tickets will be available at the venue.
Here is the list of performances
Ismat Apa Ke Naam
Troupe: Motley Theatre
Director: Naseeruddin Shah
Synopsis: A celebration of Ismat Khanum Chughtai (1915-1991)
Troupe: Saltlake Mohnitharan Group Theatre
Director Santanu Bose
Synopsis: The play is about proximity. Three different plays have been cut and put together again. Baaki Ithihas the first play creates the majority of the narrative, while Paglaa Ghoda, the second play, intervenes and re-routes the narrative in unexpected ways. Evam Indrajit, the third play, has been used as a lost narrative in video images.
The Princess of Garden
Troupe: Theatre Village
Director: Bimal Subedi
Synopsis: The Princess of Garden is an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s famous play, Malini. The play talks about the strict monarchist system and the breathing space that can be provided by the philosophy of Buddhism.
Black T-Shirt Collections
Director: Inua Ellams
Synopsis: Black T-Shirt Collection tells the story of two foster brothers building a global t-shirt brand. On their journey from a market in Nigeria to a sweatshop in China, Matthew and Muhammed discover the consequences of success.
Troupe: Concept, Movie and Choreography: Brigel Gjoka
Music: Nicola Guazzaloca
Dancers: Mattia Gandini & Brigel Gjoka
Synopsis: Inspired by the Albanian movie Rrethi-i-Kujteses, that talks about the submission to the regime and the strong impact on society.
Mera Rang De Basanti Chola
Theater troupe: Ajoka
Directed by Madeeha Gohar
Synopsis: This is Ajoka’s tribute to the great son of Punjab. Bhagat Singh’s legacy is one which our people can truly celebrate. The play also seeks to correct many historical inaccuracies. Moreover, it brings to stage the not very widely known facts about the life, ideology and trial of Bhagat Singh.
Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh
Theater Troupe: Ajoka
Directed by Madeeha Gohar
Synopsis: The play focuses on Manto’s life, works and the events after his migration to Pakistan in 1948. Manto migrated because of family pressure (his wife and her relatives had already moved) and his disillusionment towards the Hindu-Muslim tension in Bombay.
Manto Mera Dost
Troupe:Tehrik e Niswan
Directed by Sheema Kirmani
Synopsis: The play is a look into the close friendship of Manto and Ismat Chughtai. The play explores Manto’s life through his own writing and the writings of Ismat Chughtai.
Directed by Zain Ahmed
Synopsis: The graduating class of Napa will be performing the famous Greek play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles in Urdu. The play is set in a contemporary setting without compromising any of its original dramatic content.
Blah and Blah
Directed by Sunil Shankar
Synopsis: Sunil Shankar along with the well-known choreographer Joshinder Chaggar will be presenting a dance drama that explores a series of intimate human emotions about relationships, abandonment and desire. It features text, recitation and dance.
Directed by Meesam Naqvi
Synopsis: A strong political play about a liberating army and its efforts to subjugate the populace it purports to liberate. A starving man and his traumatized wife seek solace from the army, but instead they are fed a diet of promises and slogans.
Directed by Fawad Khan
Synopsis: A stunning adaptation of Ariel Dorfman’s play Death and the Maiden. The play has been adapted by Shoaib Hashmi and is directed by Napa Alumni Fawad Khan. Story is about a woman who comes face to face with the man who tortured her during the previous military dictatorship.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2014.