Thursday, August 12, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Originally printed in THE NEWS on 3rd December, 2010.
The single overarching aim is to develop the intellectual and practical artistry, craft and attitude of highly trained professional actors and directors. The course will provide a safe environment in which experimentation, innovation and creativity are a highly valued part of the learning process. The aims of the degree are designed to provide an integrated academic and professional training environment conceived and structured in such a way as to enable students to gain the knowledge, understanding and skills to pursue and sustain worthwhile careers in the performance industries.
The 4-year degree programme is comprised of two semesters per year, each of 18 weeks duration.
Level 1 (Year 1)
The first level equips students with foundational practical skills and theoretical knowledge upon which students can develop their own methodologies, and is comprised of core modules in acting and theory, theatre history, dramatic texts, music and voice, dance and movement, production analysis, scenography and a production studio. The first level provides a broad overview of Pakistani theatre, within historical and contemporary perspectives, and inducts skills pertaining to classical and modern theatrical approaches: song, dance and acting and the synthesis between them.
Strong emphasis will be placed on training the physical body, voice, presence and energy of the performer. Training draws upon regional theatre practice, contemporary theory, together with philosophies of theatre from world practice to create a holistic approach to the acting medium.
Islamic Studies and Pakistani Studies are modules shared with the other departments, facilitating interaction between other students and faculty. Further, components of the foundation Visual Theory may be incorporated into the History/ Dramaturgy strand, as appropriate.
Students can expect to perform in at least 2 directed studio productions over the year which will bring together all of the skills and ideas developed.
Level 2 (Year 2)
The second level challenges the processes students have acquired at level 1, and encourages them to discover their own creative processes.
This year continues with core modules at a more advanced level in music and voice, dance and movement, acting and direction theories and practice, dramatic texts and a production studio. Dramaturgy modules replace the History modules at this stage of the programme to strengthen theoretical perspectives and explicitly forge a nexus between theory and practice, aimed at transference of taught theory and concepts through a practical workshop orientation.
The production studio enables students to participate in ensemble creation, direct elements of their own training, and consciously choose techniques to develop a contemplative approach to the creative processes of theatre-making.
Level 3 (Year 3)
Students have the opportunity to choose minor electives, informed by their own career pathways.
At this level, the focus of the course aims at inculcating a professional work ethic in the students, and they have the opportunity of working each semester on a large-scale production with professional theatre directors, undertaking an internship in a professional environment and finally producing a self-directed large-scale performance.
By Jonaid Iqbal
This aspect of the new study was also explored in the second of four lecurers and performance workshops organized by the department.
The sond lecture in this series was on the first Urdu play Indar Sabha, written in 1855 by Agha Hasan Amanat Ali. This was followed by a performance of the same musical drama.
These two presentations served as an apt hark-back to our past literary and musical traditions as the nation prepares to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the historic Pakistan Resolution four days hence.
As the opera was being performed on a make believe stage of the National Art Gallery lecture room, Mehwish Bandaley sang from Amir Khusrau to the accompaniment of dances by Farosk Hashmi, Noor Cheema, Amna Mawaz, and Ayesha Iqbal. Mahnoor Khushnood recited lilting poetry.
To revert to Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, he was an accomplished poet, writer and artist of great repute in performing the Moghul kathak dance. In the words of Russian Oriental scholar Anna Suvorova, who in her lecture informed the audience that Urdu theatre was born at Lucknow. She said the splendour of this city (Lucknow) vied with the most magnificent courts of the world, including the Moghul Court, of which Oudh was a vassal but later came under the suzerainty of the colonial empire founded by the East India Company.
National Language Authority Chairman Iftikhar Arif who chaired the lecture programme referred to Anna Suvorova as an orientalist of international standing, international stature as well as specialist in Islam in the South Asian Subcontinent and also acknowledged as reputed scholar of South Asian literature in Russia.
In regard to the popularity of the Urdu drama Indar Sabha, 70 editioons of this play are preserved in tIndia Office Library at London, in addition to several editions of the play in the India and Pakistan subcontinent.
The book Early Urdu Theatre written by author Anna Suvorova was also launched on the occasion. The 204-page book added to eight pages of indice, as well as appendix containing summary of selected Urdu plays staged by Parsi Theatre.
Claire Pamment is doing a fine job of work in developing theatre at the centre of renaissance of arts and literary revival in the federal capital, Iftikhar Arif told Dawn on the sideline of the performance.
Indu Mitha also paid compliments to Sarmad Sehbai as a problem solver and said, " When something went wrong she found Sarmad at her side to clear the confusion."
Sunday, August 8, 2010
The NCA is the only institution in the country which offers an undergraduate degree in theatre.
The degree program is aimed to develop the intellectual and practical artistry, craft and attitude of professional actors and directors who have a comprehensive foundation of all areas of theatrical practice.
The program is led by faculty comprising eminent academics and practitioners from within the country and abroad.It is anticipated that the students after graduation will bring further activity to the city by joining the college’s theatre as repertory artists.
Originally published in DAWN on Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Quite aptly called ‘Open Act’ the fifteen piece group and solo encounter was the work of a voluntary team of theatre enthusiasts, Insolent Night, that Claire Pamment, head of the Department of Theatre at the National College of Arts, Rawalpindi Campus, is currently working with to ultimately evolve a faculty and induct a trainee group of its own. From the first performance that was presented by this collaboration on Friday night, the idea of giving expression space to new performers and create a contemporary theatre of our own — away from the current sterile, prescriptive formula output of our stage, cinema and television — looks promising. If pursued with seriousness it has seeds of growing into a creative parallel even to the protest theatre which, with all its relevant trappings, is kind of stultifying. Then for a few years past Islamabad has seen the staging of fully borrowed plays, like the Phantom of the Opera that Shah Sharabeel, an enterprising young man who is into many things than just theatre, skillfully produced and which initially provided an opening to young people here to perform on stage besides generating interest in live performances, being all in English and lavish cost wise, which have had a limited reach to the upper class only. The NCA approach, though still loaded with much English content, is not stuck with any elitist notion as to language or class. English, Urdu or Punjabi, it is the unabashed iconoclastic nature of the material, this initial work presented, is what gives hope it is creative independence that they are trying to nurture. The roaring applause from the audience was not for the language proficiency so much as for the freshness of themes and their socio-political relevance.
Among the sharp and cutting satirical pieces were Satan’s Trade by Wijdan Khaliq that skillfully tossed the metaphor of toilet paper by dilating on the crap world politics has become engulfing all from the Potomac to Euphrates to our own sweet smelling Leh. Survival 101 by Tulin Khalid Azeem and Wijdan preparing toddlers for the war on terror, What’s Genocide by Palvashay based on Carlos Andres Gomez’s poem, Peace be upon Him by Faheem Azam — a dialogue between the 15th century and our present day Islam, Exorcism of the politically rebellious by Osman Khalid, with Ahmad and Salman; Sarmad Sehbai’s From the dark room, by Faisal Kamal Pasha who also read a poem by Sahir Ludhianvi, Optophobia by Natasha Ejaz who joined in a number of other acts with Papaninjinho who composes instant interactive verses, raps and rolls on the ground and looks like someone out of MTV. Natasha and Usman also performed Sale, Sale, Sale by Atif Siddiqui.
There were flashes of brilliance in other acts too; the variety itself allowed no dull moment, one sat on the edge all through the show as the audience roared in applause refreshed by each sparkling event. The murky puppet theatre hall of the Liaquat Auditorium was packed with a fairly mixed gathering of boys and girls at ease with their physical being and comfortable with inter gender proximity that we, of the old lot, have no experience of, since our joints have long been stiff with a prudish rheumatism that has not allowed our limbs to open up and taste the ecstasy of free movement. The generational contrast was astonishing, yet despite the fact they could still be dismissed as a lot deep fried in American margarine, albino souls struggling to emerge in Anglo-Saxon plumage, migratory birds mostly of the ‘70s and ‘80s motley flock, without cultural roots or national awareness, they could not be ignored. It was time we took stock of ourselves and saw the world from their angle also, from their direct knowledge of it through tools that we find difficult to handle, that they use habitually now. They may not be a rebellious horde ready to soldier a revolution of our liking but they seem to possess the kernel for change from the martial syndrome to a more livable social order with space for evolving a society based on values different from ours that may come about in spite of us.
Open Act is going to be a regular feature of the NCA programme and aims at providing a platform for new talent and experimental performance. The department of theatre is also conducting discussion forums with performing arts exponents.
The festival features two events, ‘The Challenge’ that was held on Thursday night. It was a competition between selected theatre troupes from Rawalpindi and Islamabad who created short unscripted extemporaneous scenes out of a few hints and guesses. These groups included ‘Party Quirks,’ ‘Vaylae Mushtandae,’ ‘The ‘Unknowns’ and ‘Dimagh ki Lassi’. For many of these performers, their exposure to improvised theatre was new.
The competition was set in a modest stage design by Fatima Hussain, who has created an intimate studio space in the Liaquat Hall. The groups were given different situations on which the characters competed with each other, performing with the props, creating spontaneous humour and depicting the pictures and generating instant dialogues on given situations.
Department of Theatre Head Associate Professor Claire Pamment introduced the judges to the audience. Judges of the competition included renowned puppeteer Farooq Qaiser, poet, playwright and director Sarmad Sehbai and one of the leading stars of the popular stage Babu Baral, who is known for his brilliant improvisations.
‘Damagh ki Lassi’, which were the winners of the competition, would spend the weekend working with Babu Baral and NCA faculty in creating short pieces for performance. These short performances will be showcased in a programme titled ‘Kuch Kaho’ to a public audience on Monday, October 19, at 7 p.m. It will be followed by a public discussion on the art of improvisation through the life and work of Babu Baral, chaired by Sarmad Sehbai.
‘Aamad’ is one of many outreach activities the Department of Theatre has been conducting over last two years at the NCA based in Rawalpindi at the Liaquat Hall Complex.
These activities have invited theatre practitioners, groups and young aspiring performers to participate in performances, discussion program, workshops and conferences, generating public theatre awareness. In January 2010 NCA will begin its regular BA Theatre Degree programme, for which admissions will be open in the next month.
Giving the background of the improvisation, Associate Professor Head Department of Theatre Claire Pamment said that in the 1960s and 70s improvisation began to enter the Pakistan Arts Council through performers from the dwindling folk theatres and local city circuits.
These improvisations began to re-interpret the European style drawing room comedies in form and content, and gained popularity. In the 1980s the popular improvised comedy on the urban stage began to flourish in the Arts Councils — a return of the primary sources of inspiration in theatre arts.
By Schezee Zaidi
Supported by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA), the events, to be held daily from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., would include lectures, performances, excerpts and discussions on ‘Early Urdu Theatre: Traditions & Transformations’.
Starting from the first play of Urdu theatre ‘Indar Sabha’ and a lecture on ‘Bhands’ along with their performances, the event would also draw attention towards the Shakespearean influence on Urdu drama and theatre and Agha Hashr Kashmiri’s dramas.
Eminent writers and scholars, including Dr. Anna Suvorova, Zia Mohyuddin, Aslam Azhar, Iftikhar Arif and Claire Pamment would deliver lectures and chair the discussion forums.
Participating scholar Dr. Anna Suvorova is head of Asian Literature Department at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. She is a widely published scholar in the Indo-Islamic Culture, Sufism, Comparative Literature, South Asian Theatre and Contemporary Fine Arts. The NCA Department of Theatre is hosting Dr. Suvorova for an HEC-funded residency and launch of her new book, ‘Early Urdu Drama on Stage: From Beginning to Agha Hashr Kashmiri’, by the Research & Publication Centre, NCA.
Zia Mohyuddin is chairman of the National Academy of Performing Arts and a highly acclaimed actor and theatre director.
Aslam Azhar is the founder of Pakistan Television (PTV). He is an acclaimed theatre actor, who initiated the Karachi-based theatre group ‘Dastak’ in 1983.
Iftikhar Arif is an eminent Urdu poet and chairman of the National Language Authority (NLA). Claire Pamment is head of the Department of Theatre at NCA, Rawalpindi Campus, and is currently pursuing her PhD research on ‘Bhands as a Trickster Mode in Pakistani Theatre’.
On the opening day today (Wednesday), a lecture would be presented by Dr. Anna Suvorova on the ‘Origins of the Urdu Theatre and Drama’ followed by another lecture by Claire Pamment on ‘Bhands’ accompanied by a performance by ‘bhands’ Munir Hussain and Zulfikar. The discussion would be chaired by Aslam Azhar.
On the second day, a lecture by Dr. Anna Suvorova on ‘Indar Sabha: First Play of Urdu Theatre’ would be followed by performance excerpts of Amanat’s ‘Indar Sabha’. The discussion session of the day would be chaired by Iftikhar Arif.
The third day would include another lecture by Dr. Anna Suvorova on the ‘Shakespearean Influence on Urdu Drama & Theatre’. It would be followed by a presentation by Zia Mohyuddin on ‘Staging Safaid Khoon’ and performance excerpts of Agha Hashr Kashmiri’s ‘Safaid Khoon’. The discussion forum of the day would be chaired jointly by Zia Mohyuddin and Dr. Anna Suvorova.
The concluding day’s events on March 21 would include lectures by Zia Mohyuddin and Dr. Anna Suvorova on ‘Agha Hashr Kashmiri’s Dramas (1879-1935)’ followed by performance excerpts of Agha Hashr Kashmiri’s ‘Khubsurat Bala’. The concluding discussion forum would be chaired by Dr. Anna Suvorova and Zia Mohyuddin.
The performances are directed by the NCA theatre faculty with theatre direction by Sarmad Sehbai, choreography by Indu Mitha and music direction by Arif Jaffri.
Claire Pamment though British, is no relative of the elder Kipling, who, as first principal in 1875 of the newly founded Mayo School of Industrial Art, now the National College of Arts, not only played a formative role in building and expanding the institution but also saving local arts and crafts from dying as a result of the glut of machine-made goods from England. Pamment has also been doing the same thing since taking over charge of the newly launched theatre department of NCA, which she is trying to build as the country’s first recognised academic discipline in performing arts while trying to save traditional entertainers like bhands, doms, behroopias, natak and nautanki from the onslaught of modern mechanised mass amusements.
Despite covert disdain of the high brow cultural officialdom towards this latter business and their oversensitivity to the menacing snarls of the growing lobby of philistines that shows in institutional skittishness and tightening of the grip on fund availability, Pamment has managed to push through her ambitious programmes and NCA would be opening its four-year degree course this summer with faculty comprising eminent academics and practitioners from Pakistan and abroad. The theatre department indeed is a bold and important step for NCA and a leap forward for the Mayo School of yore.
The theatre department started with Desi Natak, an international conference and performance forum, which brought families from folk theatre and international academics together for dialogue that set important precedents for the theatre curriculum, exploring linkages with world theatre trends through indigenous performance and opening up fresh avenues for stagecraft. Inputs from scholars like the Bangladeshi academic Jamil Ahmed on South Asian performance and Islam, on Asian puppetry from the American Kathy Foley, on reinterpretation of Natyashastra dramaturgies from UK Tara Theatre’s Jatinder Verma, on early Urdu stage from Russia’s Anna Suvorova and local practitioners from all over the country. The NCA’s playwriting diploma that resulted in graduates pursuing internships in Germany was in collaboration with the International Theatre Institute. Eminent dramatists including Girish Kanard, Kamal Ahmad Rizvi, Enver Sajjad and Mahesh Elkunchwar among others mentored the students.
Initiatives like ‘Open Act’ and ‘Spotlight’ made the young Rawalpindi campus of NCA a vibrant meeting point of theatre enthusiasts featuring amateur performances and dialogue with eminent local artistes. Unfortunately, these evening events, short courses, workshops were curtailed and had ultimately to be stopped for fear of arousing hostility of the bigots and creating risky situations. The theatre department has since been struggling to create some functional space for itself in the confines of prevailing limitations.
There is a way there for grit and tenacity. Claire Pamment is spending long sultry hours rehearsing her department’s inaugural production of Italian dramatist Dario Fo’s Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay –a riotous farce, featuring working class women who stage a hilarious bluff to ward off domestic drudgery and the price hike, duping their blundering men folk and police in their tracks. Adapted to contemporary Pakistan by Sarmad Sehbai’s deft imaginative pen, the play unfolds the drama of a society in conflict with itself.
Nobel laureate Dario Fo’s drama sparkles with the incisive social criticism that is also typical of our own legendary jesters Nasruddin, Mulla Dopiaza and Birbal. Pamment thinks Fo is the world’s most performed living playwright, not just because of his themes but his modes of performance, which celebrate comic defiance of oppression through the liberating power of laughter.
Thanks to the support of Italian embassy in Islamabad, Dario Fo’s protégé, the actor Mario Pirovano, who has worked with the master since 1983 and earned his admiration as a great story teller, will be in Pakistan holding workshops, performing dramatic readings from Fo’s work and engaging in dialogue with local actors as part of the theatre event that is scheduled to be staged at PNCA from July 29. NCA will be staging a curtain raiser for Can’t Pay Won’t Pay on July 3.
Ms Pamment said the conference would be attended by renowned academics including Dr Kathy Foley (US), Brahma Prakash (Taiwan), Syed Jamil Ahmed (Bangladesh) and Ahmed Saleem. The participants would explore theatre practice in Pakistan.
She said the production design and decor of the event had been conceptualised by leading sculptor, painter and actor Jamal Shah while popular folk singers Babar and Javed Niazi were organizers of the programme. Renowned plauwright, poet and director Sarmad Sehbai is the artistic director for the programme.