John Buck from the UK runs a communications technology business in the UAE. This year he made a new year resolution to get out of his comfort zone and do something new and different.
Arzoo Malhotra is an environmental researcher and a stand-up comedian, who is taking her show, Unladylike to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. The young Indian American was keen to be more involved in Dubai’s rapidly developing cultural scene. Indian entrepreneur Pranav Nasta wanted to add a new dimension to his personality.
All three chose to enrol in a theatre workshop called Stepping Stones conducted by Dubai based writer, director and actor Sabiha Majgaonkar. As part of the workshop they are now preparing to make their stage debut alongside seasoned actors in a production titled, By Cerise to be presented at The Junction on July 19.
The show directed by Majgaonkar includes two 40-minute plays by Australian playwright Cerise de Gelder that are being performed outside Australia for the first time.
The first play, titled Unforgettable features five separate stories set in different eras and places ranging from 16th century Europe and Australia in the twentieth century to the present.
The stories and characters in each skit are different, but they are all linked by the fact that they revolve around a famous work of art as it journeys through the centuries carrying with it the memories of those who created it, owned it, coveted it, were inspired by it or criticised it.
The script cleverly blends fact with fiction and historical characters with imaginary ones to keep the audience engrossed.
Most theatre workshops teach students the basics and then leave them to find their own way. I wanted to create a workshop that not only teaches them techniques but also gives them an opportunity to put these into practice in a professional ticketed production in front of an audience.
The second play, Snap is a dark comedy based in current day Australia.
It features a group of friends on a trip to a promontory trying to deal with the death of a person who had affected each of them in different ways.
As they try to figure out how to handle the dead body, skeletons come tumbling out of their closets and everyone has dark secrets to reveal. The interesting relationships and undercurrents between the characters lead to unexpected twists in the tale.
Majgaonkar has been involved with the local theatre scene for over two decades. As the founder and artistic head of Orb Theatricals, she has staged many award-winning plays in Dubai. In her role as the director of the Short+Sweet Dubai Theatre Festival at The Junction, she encourages local talent to get involved by writing, directing, or acting in ten-minute plays. Her theatre workshop, Stepping Stones is a new initiative to nurture home-grown talent.
“Most theatre workshops teach students the basics and then leave them to find their own way. I wanted to create a workshop that not only teaches them techniques but also gives them an opportunity to put these into practice in a professional ticketed production in front of an audience.
"After learning the basics about stage techniques in the first month, my students are now learning through rehearsals. They are getting practical training in understanding their characters, working on dialogue delivery, body language, voice projection and movement on stage, working with props, lights and sound, as well as different aspects of production and direction.
"I want to give them a platform to shine on stage, get the confidence to go for auditions and hopefully be spotted and cast by other directors,” Majgaonkar says.
What the participants say:
John Buck: “My resolution to step out of my comfort zone led me to write, direct and act in a ten-minute play at the Short+Sweet Dubai Theatre Festival, but I realised how much there is to learn only after joining this workshop. I now look at theatre productions in a different way and have so much respect for professional actors. I am glad I decided to do this because the theatre community here is very supportive and inclusive, and I have made many new friends of various nationalities and ages.”
Arzoo Malhotra: “I have written and directed ten-minute acts and done over 100 stand-up shows in the UAE and abroad, but I did not have the confidence to be an actor and portray another character. I was keen to learn about all aspects of theatre from a seasoned professional and this workshop will help me to get involved more deeply in the rapidly developing cultural scene here.”
Pranav Nasta: “I have performed in a ten-minute play before, but it is much more challenging and enjoyable to understand and portray the many layers and nuances of my character in a bigger show. I am also the production manager for this show, and it was great to learn about all the behind the scenes details that go into making a production.”
Event: By Cerise featuring two 40-minute plays — Unforgettable and Snap written by Cerise de Gelder.
Venue: The Junction, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz