Published in Dawn.com
Faisal Malik, Thespianz Theatre founder
After graduating from the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa), Faisal Malik set up his theatre company, not only for implementing what he had learnt, but also to introduce innovative and unique performing arts in Pakistan. “I grew up with a dream to promote a soft image of our country through cultural activities,” says Malik.
Nouman Mehmood joined him as associate director and during their seven-year association, they’ve worked well together churning out numerous plays under the umbrella of Thespianz Theatre. So far their company has produced over a hundred plays, more than 75 string puppetry plays and 110 theatre and motivational workshops, both in Pakistan and abroad.
Images on Sunday recently caught up with Faisal Malik to talk to him about the challenges of creating theatre for children, the paucity of entertainment for children and what plays draw in the crowds.
Q. Is there a demand for children’s theatre?
A. Yes, people are so demanding these days; parents want ground-breaking entertainment for their children. We generally follow the unique demands for children’s entertainment: we recently made Ali Baba Chalees Chor in string puppetry at the request of a private school. After making this play we have been asked by tens of schools and festivals to stage this unique string puppetry play for them. We have done approximately 40 performances of this play in various schools all over Pakistan.
Q. Do you feel entertainment catered for children (TV, theatre, and movies) are in decline quality-wise?
A. I personally feel that there is no quality entertainment for children in Pakistan. That’s the reason we introduced string puppetry in 2010 in a modern manner. We’re aiming to teach children about Pakistani art and culture plus folklores through this form of theatre.
People are so demanding these days; parents want ground-breaking entertainment for their children. We generally follow the unique demands for children’s entertainment.
Q. What kind of work is currently being produced in children’s theatre?
A. In Pakistan, only one or two organisations are working for children’s entertainment and Thespianz Theater is … one of them.
We initially used English children stories for theatre plays. After that we adapted a well-known motivational play, Who Moved My Cheese? written by a famous writer from America, Spencer Johnson. In the adaptation Pappu Ka Paneer, we taught children about motivation and struggle through a most entertaining mouse character and a hen character with two dwarves. We staged this play several times. We have completed 15 performances of it in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
We designed a cartoon play Chulbuk Chori in collaboration with the Oxford University Press which was made to raise anti-book piracy awareness. Chulbuk Chori completed eight performances in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar and played in front of an audience of around 7,600 children from government and private schools.
We also introduced a very unique theatre play Uth Oye that has 12 cat characters … and teaches children about the harm of cigarette, drugs, alcohol, etc.
Q. Most producers, actors and directors tend to stay away from children’s theatre. Why do you think this is so? And what can be done to attract better talent to the field?
A. Most producers, actors and directors prefer to work with adults but they forget that all adults were once children. What led me to work with children is that they are our future. If we can teach them in their childhood, they will implement what is taught in the future.
Q. How do you go about choosing content for children?
A. We are usually careful about choosing content … mainly we build our plays by working with local Pakistani writers and our own writers, Muttahir Ahmed Khan and Nouman Mehmood. We also choose content on demand from well-known Pakistani children’s stories and turn that content into an ethical and moral lesson for children.
Q. What can be done to make children’s theatre more thought-provoking and intelligent?
A. As I said earlier, children are growing up rapidly these days, they don’t really believe in miracles now. They want the logic behind everything and they love to ask questions.
Children love innovation … and we are busy introducing innovative and quality entertainment to appeal to children e.g. when we were creating Ali Baba Chalees Chor we were facing a little difficulty in creating Ali Baba’s cave which could be automatically opened by saying “Khul Ja Sim Sim”, my team researched on the mechanism and we made … an automatically opening cave.