by Rabia Pasha
I suppose it’s difficult to say that I joined Theatre Wallay (TW), because back in 2005 we didn’t have a name. We called ourselves amateur theater enthusiasts, and sat around a table as part of a creative writing workshop. The group had a unique affinity, a common bug to refrain from the mundane and a tad bit of a rebellious spark to do things differently. No matter where we congregated, that became a safe place. A place where you belonged. That’s how TW evolved, I would say.
When I took to the stage in front of a city-wide audience for the first time, I didn’t realize I would be addicted to it for the rest of my life. I was always interested in drama, and would never miss a chance to take part in school plays. But it wasn’t until 7th grade when Fizza became our English Literature teacher, that I was truly smitten by the magic that is theater. Whether it was reading Treasure Island or Merchant of Venice, the classroom fizzled out of focus, and we all found ourselves living the story as the characters ourselves. From those days to present time, Fizza has been my mentor and partner in all things dramatic.
I never went to acting school as much as I wanted to. Practicality, as a resident in Islamabad, dictates that you ought to study a subject that can earn you a dime or two. Surviving as a theater actor in the city is a struggle, especially since the market is more established in Lahore and Karachi. The fact that I chose Law could seem ironic if it weren’t for that fact that I never pursued litigation. So, no courtroom drama as a reprieve.
In all these years, hence, TW has been my academy, and my theater family. It has given me the opportunity to learn, understand and explore the dynamic art of storytelling. Every character I played intuitively helped me understand myself. It opened my mind in ways that conventional life lessons would not. It is because of theater that I have learned to be empathetic; I have learnt that every person has a story that is worth appreciating. Only with a wider perspective, we truly visualize the bigger picture. As a person, I always struggled to be expressive and show vulnerability, but in character, I feel liberated.
Through TW, I got the opportunity to meet some amazing people and learn from theater professionals I would have never been able to meet otherwise. As a company, we have traveled to Lahore,Karachi, Boston, Ithaca, Washington DC, Portland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Sharing stories about and from Pakistan with a foreign audience has been a truly touching experience. My most memorable moment was enacting my own maternal grandmother’s story of her journey during the Partition of India in 1947.
I am excited to have seen TW grow into the community it has become today. The Farm (where TW family meets, lives, laughs, and works) is an incredible avenue,creative space and refuge. For everyone who feels like they don’t quite fit anywhere else, and are struggling to find ways to express themselves, The Farm will always be open to them, and everyone else to walk in and stay. As a platform, I hope it transcends our lifetime and remains defiant of all the attempts to silence art, music and drama.
Rabia Pasha is one of the oldest (of course not age-wise) member of Theatre Wallay. She has contributed immensely to the growth of Theatre Wallay as a theater group.