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Student plays premier at AUS as part of Lockdown Theatre
The COVID-19 pandemic was just one of the topics addressed in five engaging plays written by students of American University of Sharjah (AUS) that premiered recently.
Dubbed “Lockdown Theatre,” the plays were developed in the Fall 2020 playwriting course offered by the AUS Performing Arts Program. The video projects were produced online, with actors in isolation from one another, independently filming and uploading their clips for editing.
“Students were required to write two individual pieces during the course: a 10-minute play and a longer one. This was also a wonderful experiment in developing acting skills via online learning. It was challenging for the students doing the at-home filming, as it required a lot of time to set-up, shoot, and then upload individual clips. It was also time consuming for the editors who had to sort through hundreds of clips, edit them, clean them up, add backgrounds and build the shows. It was quite an exciting project overall,” said Anthony Tassa, Professor in Performing Arts and Coordinator of the Performing Arts Program.
Written by student Maria Abdirahman and directed by Tassa, the play Dullhouse focused on a couple having difficulties at home. Friend in Need, written by student Amirhossein Mirsoleimani and directed by Mike Long touched on a young man’s difficulties dealing with depression. Student Maha Khan wrote Faith, a story of a young girl trying to understand her parents better as the family deals with a sick newborn child. Robins Always Come Home, written by student Konstantina Spyropoulou and directed by Marija Reiff, was about a young woman who tries to break away from her family’s past. The New Normal by student Laila Mostafa featured a father and his family dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
While the cast members met online with their directors about three times a week to rehearse the shows, talk about the characters, relationships, and character goals, filming the shows was a different experience. English major Nasreen Al Shamsi, who has been involved in the Performing Arts Program throughout her four years at AUS, wore different hats in this production. She was an actor in The New Normal and worked on editing the videos and audio with Professor Tassa.
“The Performing Arts Program at AUS provides students with an opportunity to express their creative side. We encourage students to explore their emotions, expand their imagination and develop their own voice. Whether it is different aspects of theatre or music, all these disciplines engage students mentally, physically and emotionally. Performing arts aim to enhance a student’s confidence and find joy in self-expression,” explained Professor Tassa.
As one of the rare programs of its kind available in the region, the Performing Arts Program at AUS offers students—regardless of their major—unique opportunities to study the exciting fields of music and theatre and to showcase their talent by performing in concerts and theatrical productions. Students also gain valuable hands-on experience by participating in the technical and backstage components of music and theatre productions.
The university’s commitment to the arts is borne out by the fact that it twice hosted an international theatre festival which featured theatre groups from universities around the world. It comprised a program of theatrical performances, lectures, open workshops and special playwriting and design sessions, featuring a host of prominent local and international individual and institutional participants.
Musical expression, too, plays an important part in providing a creative avenue and the AUS Choir is testament to that. It has won accolades both locally and internationally for its talent and repertoire and performed at various international venues around the world including the prestigious Carnegie Hall.
For more information on the program, please visit www.aus.edu/cas/performing-arts-program/about.