Theatre Wallay is my third child, seven years younger than my son, and just six months younger than my daughter who is about to turn thirteen.
All three have grown up together; they have grown in size, in strength, in maturity, in vision and in experience. Into them I have poured time, energy, thought, love, physical effort, sweat and tears. And into Theatre Wallay in particular, passion. Above all else, a single-minded obsessive passion. Over the years, my son and daughter have had a love-hate relationship with Theatre Wallay, often accusing me of neglecting them for my work with the group. However, of late they have come to accept its importance in not just my life, but in theirs too.
In a country that has absolutely no theatre tradition, my dream has become a reality. From a small group of a few people wanting to entertain themselves by writing and performing plays, we have become an international theatre company.
There is no concept of making a living from theatre in Pakistan. A crude form of popular commercial theatre exists, with stock characters and improvised dialogue, and one theatre training academy is struggling to survive in Karachi, but other than that, whatever little theatre happens is dependent on grants that normally fund social awareness projects. Theatre as an art form is almost unknown.
Therefore, those who are involved with theatre as an art form, work at it in their leisure time with no hope of a financial return of any kind. So it has always been with Theatre Wallay. All of us work at different jobs in the daytime – some are teachers, some work in the corporate sector or for NGOs, others are students at university or school – and then we gather in the evenings for our theatre work. This work is also often funded from our own pockets as no sponsor is interested in our work (unless we agree to work their product into the script!) and no government funding exists.
The result is a group of people that the world considers mad. Who would want to spend their leisure / family time putting up plays? And lose personal money on it too? Well, Theatre Wallay would. We are very lucky that enough “mad” people exist to have brought this group so far – to the international stage.
It has taken dedication and commitment, hard work, a shared vision, resilience, dogged determination, and above all else, the ability to dream and to stubbornly refuse to give up. We have seen many lows, when circumstances almost drove us to shut up shop, but the members of the group chose to persist and fight to keep their dream alive. The people who make up Theatre Wallay are incredible – brave and strong, intelligent and thoughtful, creative, and yes, a little mad! For without the madness, it wouldn’t be possible…
So as we gear up to perform in Oregon, I can’t help but look back with satisfaction at our journey, and acknowledge that my third child has come of age and done me proud!