x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai art school's show to feature home-grown crop of Arab comedians

'Instead of flying in Arab-American comedians, why can't we fly out our own Arab comedians to America?'

DUBAI // It took a while, but Mina Liccione eventually worked out how to coax a chuckle from audiences in the UAE. "When I first got here I realised people didn't laugh enough," said Ms Liccione, a professional comedienne and tap dancer from New York, who performed on Broadway in the percussion dance show Stomp. "I had to tweak my physical show of improvisation to find out what worked for people here and once I figured it out, I couldn't leave."

Three years ago she started and then almost immediately merged her comedy school Laugh Out Loud with the entertainment firm Viva Dubai, which was run by her now-business partner and fellow professional comedian Ali al Sayed. The performing arts school Dubomedy Arts will hold its first festival of live dance, drama, music and improvisation on November 10 and 11 at Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac). Two more days are to be added at additional venues.

The festival marks the culmination of a new nine-week term of courses launching Saturday. They will include a weekly comedy class, three levels of tap dance, body beats, improvisation and training for those who want to learn how to write for a performance. Mr al Sayed, who grew up in Dubai, said his dream was for the festival to become a regular fixture and to eventually attract international attention. "As long as I remember we have been importing entertainment to Dubai," he said. "My vision is to start exporting it. Instead of flying in Arab-American comedians, why can't we fly out our own Arab comedians to America?"

The four-day festival will also give most of the students their first exposure to an audience. "The whole thing is about giving more performance opportunities for local artists," Ms Liccione said. "There are few outlets in the city for that." Although Ms Liccione had a completely different background from Mr al Sayed, they both had an appreciation of the universally bonding nature of comedy, she said.

She said: "Dubai is a transient city, people come and go but we all know about the drama of driving on these roads, the heat, the mall culture. This is what we have in common and this is where comedy is. The first thing I teach in my class is that comedy is truth. "You don't have to lie or fantasise, you just have to observe and realise the more details you add the funnier it is." Ms Liccione will be joined by guest teachers including Jamil Abu Warda, producer of the comedy show Axis of Evil, Nick Karavatos, a professor of English and writing at the American University of Sharjah and Sol Abiad, the director of a physical theatre group called Star Too.

The prices of the nine-week courses, which take place at Ductac in the Mall of Emirates, range from Dh850 to Dh1,500, and the training will all be geared towards the final performance in November. For more information, email LOL@vivadubai.com. @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae