My presence in the project has been significantly varied, from being regular to being absent with spells of numbness and unacceptance. There have been moments during this spell when I had been wanting to find a Common Ground between me and the rest of the world; for the unaccepted blow I witnessed mid-August last year, I long to succeed to live a life which is not an understudy to breathe. Rereading the definition of a mere “understudy” – an actor who learns the parts of other actors in a play, so that he or she can replace them if necessary – make me relate very closely to this role which I play on life’s stage August onward.
Being part of yet another foreign funded project has been a fulfilling ride of fun, learning, serving and exploring. Interacting with representatives belonging to that side of the globe, and exploring stories to educate the Americas about us is always contenting, satisfactory, and even surprising.
Having been attached with Theatre Wallay (TW) since its inception, in fact even before, and witnessing its growth step by step in all these years, I know what it means to TW to be able to make its way to the US twice, and then to perform also at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This probably, should be incomparable to any other group of the sort, if any, in the “organized green city, Islamabad”.
With the little acting experience I have, never have I had an opportunity to be an understudy in any production ever; I take pride in being able to experience this side of theatre life too. Had it not been for the more talented and committed team we have, the director would have obviously put me on stage as a primary actor. The artistic director did tell me that I just couldn’t be selected this time, because of the attitude I had during the start of the project, which was probably around August. But this particular ride has been interesting all the way, especially since I didn’t know exactly whom to understudy, specifically; I somewhat had a vague idea, but it kept changing.
“Who will you be tonight?”
“Well, who do you want me to become?”
Along with understudying any single character, I also had to bridge the gap of missing cast members with the rest of the team during rehearsals, who happened to not be there, often due to domestic reasons. Such moments gave me opportunities to even play feminine roles, which I, probably, wouldn’t have gotten to explore properly otherwise. This of course gave me the privilege of keeping the script with me all the time on stage, but took away my homework which I somewhat did for the role I was playing at the previous rehearsal.
David, Kathleen and Linda have been incredible teachers for me, from whom I continue to learn about countless things. The voice trainings and warm-up exercises have proven to be utterly helpful, especially in my daily routine and personal grooming. There have been public speaking moments of mine when I had been careful with the operative words, alacrity, the V’s, Z’s and W’s, which haven’t gone unnoticed; on enquiry, I often take no delay in mentioning the coaching of these Fulbright scholars with whom I happen to be connected with for the past two years, and counting. During instances when I had no work during rehearsals – when the cast was complete that is – only merely observing these leads handle the OCG team has been fulfilling. Their ways of maneuvering the team differ from the Pakistani leads, who often loose temper during moments of crisis or deadlock. Insisting on punctuality and on putting things in black and white is most pleasing, sketching an environment truly constructive towards progress. The team responds well also, not taking liberties which we happen to take, especially with the leads belonging from the subcontinent.
Although I am not part of the final production, still having to stay till late regularly at The Farm did cause me issues. Knowing my only single voice wouldn’t make much of a difference, despite it I suggested a few times of starting early and finishing early, but it was overlooked, since the principal cast couldn’t make it during that time. Even driving at high speed in the evening traffic from Banigala always made me reach home post ten o’clock, which is late for my family. However, I took the privilege, realizing it’s temporary, and I’d be there primarily to facilitate the team. My family was also not too worried with my long hours away from home, since they knew I was involved in an American project, and would be educating myself with foreigners on so many relevant things. Regardless of the visit, this has been a stimulating experience so far, and would continue to be so.