x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Playwrights given chance to see their name in lights

Budding writers across the country are being encouraged to put pen to paper as the second annual playwriting competition from the Dubai Drama Group launches this week.

Rodger Talty, left, the chairman of the Dubai Drama Group, plays a cynical reporter in The Fine Art of Journalism.
Rodger Talty, left, the chairman of the Dubai Drama Group, plays a cynical reporter in The Fine Art of Journalism.

DUBAI // Budding writers across the country are being encouraged to put pen to paper as the second annual playwriting competition from the Dubai Drama Group launches this week. The competition, called Write Now!, is asking for 10-minute submissions with no more than four characters, which reflect life in the UAE. Rodger Talty, the chairman of the drama group, said it was an opportunity for amateur writers to show off their creative skills.

"Many people say they have always wanted to write drama but had no idea how to get it on stage. With this competition we take care of everything from casting, wardrobe, set design to production. All we are looking for is scripts. Most people living in Dubai have stories to tell; we want to tell them." Hajer Abdulsalam, a Palestinian writer who grew up in Saudi Arabia, entered a script last year and was also cast in one of the plays.

"I joined the Dubai Drama Group last year as a writer but they were looking for someone to play the part of an Emirati so I thought 'why not?' It gave me confidence." Her performance as Noura in Another Day, Another Dirham, was so well received Ms Abdulsalam, 43, had the courage to begin auditions, and was cast in a film being shot by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission. Hussain Hadi, 31, a committee member from the drama group, said taking part in the competition enhanced his public speaking skills. As a writer and an actor it was also more fulfilling to work with stories he could relate to.

"It is so satisfying to put on a play when you see a link to your life." The competition was launched last year with the initial aim of finding one play for the drama group to stage. However the calibre of submissions was so high that they ended up showing eight short plays over three nights. The winning entry, The Fine Art of Journalism, by Sam Potter, a British journalist, is about an encounter at the airport between a cynical reporter who has seen nothing of Dubai but has resigned himself to writing a negative piece, and a young Emirati who overhears his telephone conversation.

Another Day, Another Dirham, a comedy co-written by Francesca McGeary, from Scotland and Alison Schofield, a Canadian, featured four women chatting in the break room of a local bank. Mr Talty, 38, from Ireland, said the drama group had grown extensively in the past two years. There are now 65 active members and Mr Talty plans to double productions to four annual plays as well as hosting monthly play readings and workshops.

Submissions for the competition are open until August 31. The winner will receive honorary membership of the group and a plaque. Also this week, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage announced the publication of two new playwrights through the publishing arm Qalam, which promotes Emirati authors. Beautiful, a compilation of five plays by Jamal Matar, addresses women's problems and Evening Talks, by Saleh Karama al Ameri, talks about the alienation young people face when moving from the city to the village.

@Email:aseaman@thenational.ae