Working on “On Common Ground” with a team that is as close as family is a fortunate experience – one that I have been blessed with for a second time. I had the pleasure to work with David, Kathleen and Linda in 2015 when they collaborated with Theatre Wallay to bring together a project close to all of our hearts, Voices of Partition.
Voices of Partition was a labour of love that brought about the play “This Stained Dawn”, which we performed first in Pakistan for a local audience and then in Boston, Ithaca and DC in the fall of 2015. Based on the stories of Partition survivors and their journeys during the time that the Subcontinent split to lay the foundations of Pakistan and India as separate nations, it was a privilege to share the heart wrenching stories, especially with a foreign audience. Regardless of the fact that the stories we told were specific to a time and an event, audiences everywhere related to them just the same. Stories of sacrifice, sorrow and separation resonated with everyone and most could empathize based on the accounts of refugees flooding into Europe and Canada in those days from Syria. My own maternal grandparents were partition survivors and one of the most special moments for me was being able to tell my grandmother’s story through a monologue I penned and performed.
Personally for me the project was also an incomparable learning experience, to be mentored by David, Kathleen and Linda, theatre practitioners with a deep insight and years of experience, was truly a privilege. Everyone we met during the project left more than words of wisdom for us to dwell in – they gave us renewed confidence and rigor to continue our efforts to tell stories that matter.
I am at best a theatre enthusiast, having learned by trial and error. I was never able to pursue a degree in theatre; there weren’t any avenues for that in Islamabad where I grew up. Theatre Wallay helped nurture my passion all these years and each theatrical experiment was our acting lesson. I have been associated with the group since 2005.
‘On Common Ground’ is a special project. Not only as a team being able to work again but it’s a chance for us to share stories from Pakistan, illustrate our life, our dreams and our values as ordinary people. Theatre projects like these are more relevant today than they will ever be – with the animosity on media and the hate that is being spewed, it is now ever so important for people to see other cultures and relate to them through the commonalities of the family structure and day to day struggles. Moreover as a theatre enthusiast, I have heard so much about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and this will be an amazing opportunity to witness it as a participant. Theatre has the unique ability to bring people closer and create a common ground.