The stars of Lyari shine on

Updated Aug 27, 2015 11:50am
The full houseband and actors pose for a picture with the instructors and program directors. – Photo by author
The full houseband and actors pose for a picture with the instructors and program directors. – Photo by author

A mini musical titled ‘A Bunch of Clowns’ was held at the Music Art Dance (MAD) school on Sunday afternoon, to showcase the remarkable talent of young students based in Lyari. Parents and excited family members made their way to MAD school from Lyari to watch their children perform for the first time in front of an audience.

‘A Bunch of Clowns’ is a play from a Sandra Fenichel Asher book titled ‘The Bully Plays’. The book consists of a series of 10 to 15 minute plays which deal with issues regarding bullying in school and how it affects children. Hamza Jafri and Nida Butt, who are the program managers of this project as well as the founders of the school, chose this particular play to help the students become more aware of the impact of bullying on children. Through this play, the students were able to learn about how bullying affects a child’s development and self esteem.

The play was translated into Urdu by acting instructor Sunil Shankar, an acting enthusiast who graduated from the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) and directed a number of plays for Napa in the past.

The music score of the play was composed by students from the guitar and percussions/drum classes, whereas the lyrics were written by students from the singing classes, all with the help of their respective instructors.

The house band percussionists rehearse with the instructor before the performance. – Photo by author
The house band percussionists rehearse with the instructor before the performance. – Photo by author

“Sit in the correct posture, and no waving at family members. You can do that after the performance," instructed Shankar during one last pep talk before the performance. "And remember, we are here today to have fun!”

As soon as the make-up was done, and the house band consisting of vocalists, percussionists and guitarists finished their one last rehearsal, the actors filed in the performance area and musicians took their positions.

The acting cast wait in anticipation in the make up room. – Photo by author
The acting cast wait in anticipation in the make up room. – Photo by author

The play commenced as students playing the role of clowns, ran around the room and said hello to the audience in a fun and quirky manner, making the play interactive and adding an element of comedy. Soon after this uplifting introduction, a bully (who was also a clown) banged his baton on the ground to stop them.

The miscreant clowns take orders from the bully leader clown. – Photo by author
The miscreant clowns take orders from the bully leader clown. – Photo by author

What continued was a series of conversations between the group of clowns and the power of bully-behaviour which was successfully shown through the young actor’s impressive talent.

During each act, the house band provided live background music for the scenes through their low hums. At the end of each act, the musicians sang a chorus with impactful lyrics about compassion and not resorting to raising your hand on others.

Is bullying helping us grow as individuals? The actor ponders. – Photo by author
Is bullying helping us grow as individuals? The actor ponders. – Photo by author

The skit ended with an energetic dance routine by the dance students, which the audience found highly entertaining and cheered. The 15-minute play left the audience with the message of how your individual identity is significant and spreading compassion and love is better than violence.

The skit ended with a final dance performance. – Photo by author
The skit ended with a final dance performance. – Photo by author

After the play, Nida Butt spoke to the parents and asked for their thoughts and feedback after watching their children perform for an audience for the first time.

“The people of Lyari are always known for terrorism, but this school has provided a different platform for our children. This shows that they can take part in other activities as well, and excel in them,” said Sadia Tareen, the proud mother of 12-year-old performer Mishal.

“The main thing these children have realised through this project is that there is more to life than the sound of gunshots,” she added.

Sanam Saeed, a renowned thespian herself, was also in attendance and shared her thoughts: “I think it’s a great project and we need more of it. It’s so important for our society and kids these days,” she told Dawn.

“I am really glad I got the opportunity to see it and there is so much talent. To see the kids sing and girls play the guitar, to see them sing in harmony when they have never sung before for an audience, how amazing is it that they got this experience?" Sanam added. "The kids danced with expression and really showed how much they love what they have gotten a chance to do.”

The entire cast being applauded after the show. – Photo by author
The entire cast being applauded after the show. – Photo by author

Lyari Stars is the first project by MAD school which focuses on providing performing arts education to students who belong to impoverished communities. Currently 30 boys and 30 girls from Lyari are enrolled in this program and receive acting and music classes three days a week. The MAD school believes that children who are exposed to art and music education in their developing years are proven to become more conscientious and peaceful individuals. Out of 500 applicants, 60 were selected aged between 11 to 19 years.

“I always wanted to go to Lyari and perform there. We went there and saw the talent of the students and auditioned them,” said acting instructor Shankar. “We went through an entire standard process during the first three months of the project to help the young musicians learn the instruments, and help the actors overcome their hesitations.

"Eventually, we (the instructors) were able to tell the students the kind of sound and compositions we want from them and they helped in writing the lyrics and compose the songs,” he added.

However, this six-month program will end in December and the school has been raising money to extend the program through MAD Jams – a live, impromptu performance for Karachi’s music enthusiasts by some of the city’s most renowned musicians.

Both Nida and Hamza believe that six months of art and music education is not enough, and in order to maintain the students’ interests and sustain their learning, 18 to 24 months of classes is sufficient time. Both are currently working on getting more donations and funding in order to continue this project and help the kids of Lyari become the stars they aim to become.

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