Thespianz Foundation eyes US donors to promote performing arts in Pakistan

Sameer Sheikh News & Media December 19, 2019

Published in Pakistan-Asia News

KARACHI — The Thespianz Foundation, a Pakistan-based non-profit also registered in the United States, is seeking to promote the performing arts, which it uses to raise awareness of social issues and improve the lives of Pakistanis.

The foundation plans to raise funds from the United States to further its mission, Faisal Malik, founder-director of the Karachi-based organisation, told Pakistan Forward.

That mission includes performances throughout Pakistan.

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A puppet show organised by the Thespianz Foundation on April 23 in Karachi was aimed at teaching children religious tolerance. [Javed Mahmood]

Malik, who graduated in 2008 from the National Academy of Performing Arts in Karachi and worked in the United States, launched the Thespianz Theatre in Karachi in 2005 on a trial basis.

He registered his non-profit as the Thespianz Foundation in 2010 and as a trust in the state of Illinois in 2014.

“Beginning in September, we will hold fundraising dinners and other events in different cities of the United States to generate money to promote our mission,” he said.

“We have received funding from the United States and Germany in the past, but it was not sufficient to widen the scope of the performing arts in Pakistan,” Malik added.

Malik’s goal is to raise at least $100,000 (Rs. 11 million) in funding in the United States in 2018, including from Pakistani philanthropists based there. He added that the foundation will hold fundraising dinners and activities and will organise live performances once it meets fundraising targets. The American people and charities are strong supporters of the performing arts, he said.

“We are organising performances in four languages — English, Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi — in Pakistan, especially in Karachi,” Noman Mahmood, the foundation’s associate director, told Pakistan Forward.

The foundation will prepare a joint team of Pakistani and American youngsters to organise a series of performances in the United States to promote the performing arts, said Mahmood.

The foundation is well known in Pakistan for promoting the performing arts and has trained more than 6,000 youngsters in Pakistan since 2005 in those arts, added Mahmood, saying that the foundation will create a name for itself in the United States through its activities.

Raising social awareness

In the past, the foundation has highlighted social issues through art, raising awareness of corruption, water scarcity, poverty, illiteracy, inequality, bad governance and the violation of women’s and transgender rights.

In one example, according to Malik, the foundation performed a drama in 2009, highlighting future water shortage issues in Pakistan. With support from the US Consulate in Karachi, the State Department’s cultural envoy to Karachi, Dr. Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren, traveled to the city in 2009 and jointly directed the drama with the foundation, said Malik.

In 2016, its theatre in Karachi held hundreds of puppet-show performances throughout the city to steer audiences away from extremism.

The foundation has performed several dramas and puppet shows and other events in remote areas of Sindh Province such as Kandhkot and Jan Mohmmad Jamali Goth, said Malik.

“The performing arts are a very powerful medium in raising social awareness and influencing minds,” Azra Mansoor, a senior TV and film artist based in Lahore, told Pakistan Forward.

Viewers of dramas and puppet shows do not forget their messages for a long time, she said.

The Thespianz Foundation is doing excellent work in promoting the performing arts in Pakistan, said Mansoor, who has more than 50 years’ experience in show business.

New talent should enter the performing arts in abundance and the profession should not be used for purely commercial ends, she added.

A key purpose of the performing arts should be the betterment of society and the illumination of critical issues like rape, child abuse and persecution and injustice towards women, she said. She cited other concerns like domestic politics in general and the need to combat exploitation, neglect and inequality in the development of social sectors like education and health.

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