Sunday, 26 February 2017

Children Examine their Rights through performance

by Suzzanne Pautler

The culmination of the Cycle #1 Young Actors’ Workshop was dramatic and engaging as the thespians dominated the stage of the Courtyard Playhouse in Al Quoz.  They were in costumes and stage make-up, ready to engage the audience.  The lights went down, followed by an hour of monologues and short plays staged for the audience’s enjoyment.  In fact, the members of the audience were overwhelmed by the actors’ emotions, ranging from a humorous skit from Once Upon a Mattress to a tearjerking monologue from a teenage girl’s point of view.  

The Cycle #2 Workshops began shortly thereafter.  The young actors meet twice a week in two different locations:  Al Barsha and the Green Community.  The group in Al Barsha is learning techniques for on screen production work, while the group in the Green Community is focusing on production work for the stage.  Both groups are exploring the theme of the UN’s Rights of the Child.

The on screen class works with a green screen, spotlights and a camera.  The work is directed, filmed, acted, researched, and scripted by the students. The students are creating advertisements and public service announcements. The group creating an ad for UNICEF shared facts and statistics, such as 50 million children around the world are at risk from conflict/crisis. They were reminded that they couldn’t just listen and remain frozen; they had to react to the facts.  The students had to come across as believable and authentic in their reactions, otherwise it would appear as if they didn’t really care about the global issue.  Using the stages of tension, students developed their responses through their verbal language and body language.
Another group is developing a public service announcement for the NGO Village Heart, focusing on its efforts to bring safe drinking water to the children of Tanzania. How does one best share information about this topic to an audience who has access to an abundance of safe drinking water?  How can one grab the audience’s attention on such a topic?  The group debated about the best approach.  They chose to focus more on facts and statistics, not on images of poor children from a developing nation.  The thespians felt this would keep the message positive and effective, rather than an often duplicated approach of appealing to the audience’s emotions through visual imagery.

In addition, our students also spend hours hour learning how to apply makeup for screen vs. stage performance.

Meanwhile the second community of thespians is trying various techniques for how they will spread the message of the Right of the Child through live performance.  They practiced body percussion techniques while interjecting lines from a poem about this theme.  Then they created a silent performance where they acted to the beat of a drum. The group acted as villagers suffering and falling ill due to the lack of clean drinking water and medication. An aide worker joined the scene to teach the villagers how to build a well.  This piece turned into a written script of the same story.  Another technique was using one’s body for dance and rhythm, stopping every few minutes for a short monologue featuring one of the Rights. The creativity and authenticity of this group’s work is inspiring.  

The culmination of the Cycle #2 Young Actor’s Workshop is sure to be equally dramatic and engaging.  Their work through the 12 week cycle will certainly expand their knowledge of the Rights of the Child as well as their overall development in theatrics.

Necessary Love and Happiness

By Suzzanne Pautler

Fiona Barron, dedicated to the ideals of optimism, positivity, and happiness, brought the Happiness Festival to Dubai this past weekend. She strives to create global change through happiness. The Happiness Festival highlights workshops in: yoga, calisthenics, expressive drawing, constructive communication, mindfulness and meditation, nutrition, calming strategies, growth mindset, positive parenting, work life balance, family bonding, and play therapy. We appreciate these topics and see their validity in transforming one's life towards authentic happiness. Necessary Arts (NA), who "seeks to stimulate minds through artistic expression," also supports the mission of the Happiness Festival


The NA team, along with one dozen students, arrived at the Polo and Equestrian Club bright and early on Friday, 17th  February.  NA flags designed by Melinda Eversteyn were assembled and hung, a tent was pitched over the electronics, NA t-shirts were worn, and water bottles and snacks were on hand.  We were ready to teach our dance routine of Black Eyed Peas original version of "Where is the Love?" to the patrons of the festival.

Unbeknownst to the other festival goers, towards the end of the festival, the NA participants were planning to perform a flash mob in the center of the practice field.  We were enjoying the green grass and the cool temperatures of a beautiful morning in Dubai, when rain sprinkles started to fall. It wasn't the end of the world. In fact it was quite refreshing. Then the dust kicked up. A sandstorm was beginning. Suddenly the sky was gray and the wind rushed across the field.  Trash cans went flying. Sand started to blur our vision. Not one student complained! They found their happiness and kept on singing, dancing, laughing and enjoying themselves.  The wind was so strong that the laptop used for playing the music was blown off the table. The camping chairs never stood on their legs longer than five seconds before they were blown over. Sand was in our hair, eyes, ears, and mouths. Yet we kept smiling.

At noon, we asked the students to vote if we should cancel or carry on.  The vote was set and we all agreed to stay until midday. It wasn't good for our bodies to be in such a harsh environment.  We decided to distribute NA flyers to the festival goers to share information about NA, and then perform the dance routine one last time. At the same time, Fiona announced that the festival would be rescheduled.  It made sense.  The NA dancers happily engaged a couple of young ones in the routine, celebrated our success, brought down our flags and headed out!

We look forward to continuing our “happiness” and coming back to the festival on March 10th!