UAE: A battle with breast cancer led this Lebanese expat to 'direct' people's lives into healing

Through her unique ‘Life Director’ method, theatre director, author and life coach Nadine Chammas teaches people how to craft a script, be a professional actor and direct their own lives


Somya Mehta

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Published: Thu 28 Mar 2024, 7:05 PM

Last updated: Sat 30 Mar 2024, 1:31 PM

In 2014, Nadine Chammas faced a pivotal moment in her life when she discovered she had breast cancer. This diagnosis forced her to pause her life and redirect her focus towards her health. Amidst this challenging time, she found solace and empowerment in her studies of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), hypnotherapy and drama. Determined to leverage these tools for her healing journey, she embarked on a transformative path that not only impacted her physically but also emotionally and mentally.

As she navigated her recovery, the remarkable results she experienced prompted inquiries from others curious about her approach. Encouraged by this interest, Nadine, who’s been based in Dubai for the last 24 years, decided to share her journey through the programme she had crafted. “Faced with the question of whether I was an artist or a therapist, I found it frustrating. Why couldn't I be both?” says the Lebanese expat with a background in teaching acting and conducting drama therapy for kids.

“So, ‘Life Director’ became a unique title representing my multifaceted approach, encapsulating the synergy between my backgrounds in theatre directing and life coaching. Over time, this concept evolved into a method,” says Nadine, who recently returned to Dubai from presenting the Life Director Coaching method at The Education 2.0 conference in Las Vegas, where she received the award for Outstanding Visionary of 2024. In a conversation with Khaleej Times, the Dubai-based public speaker, theatre director, and author of The Stage Is Yours, talks about how we can reclaim our 'main character energy’ and make our life the greatest show on Earth.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

Tell us about your formative years. What shaped your early interests in theatre and acting?

I grew up in Lebanon and since childhood, I envisioned myself on stage. I sang incessantly, inspired by my late mother's beautiful voice. She frequently hosted parties at our house for friends and family, often accompanied by her band, where she would sing. As a child, my greatest dream was to take her microphone and sing.

Initially, I hadn't planned to pursue acting. It was by coincidence that I found myself in my older sister's acting class. When the teacher asked if I could take a role because they needed someone, I agreed. Being on stage and performing felt natural to me, leading me to enrol for the following year. Consequently, I abandoned my architecture studies and completed a four-year programme in acting and theatre directing by 2000, when I moved to Dubai.

When did you first venture into the world of performing arts, and what inspired you to pursue this path?

Upon relocating to Dubai, I found myself immersed in the festival scene, which ignited a newfound passion and creativity within me. I thoroughly enjoyed writing scripts, producing shows, and collaborating with others. The work was not only financially rewarding but also brought recognition and appreciation. Opportunities to contribute to large-scale festivals and produce significant shows continued to grow until the onset of the recession in 2008. Despite the challenges, including my sisters' return to Lebanon and my own responsibilities as a wife and mother of two, I remained in Dubai. It was during this period that I made the decision to establish an edutainment centre called Super Doper, focusing on creating a play area for children.

Can you define ‘The Life Director’ method? What does being the 'director' of your life entail?

The Life Director method took more than eight years to develop and was inspired by my personal journey. One pivotal moment occurred when I sat in my chair and asked myself: “If I'm sitting in my directing chair right now, how would I view my own story? What messages lie behind these situations, and why did they happen to me?” This introspection led me to recognise the importance of gaining a director's perspective on my life, seeing what may not be apparent while we’re acting on the stage of life.

I began observing my life and others, crafting exercises and games inspired by acting and life coaching. These exercises were then tested during sessions with clients, yielding fantastic results. Encouraged by the feedback and success stories, I delved deeper into the scientific aspects of the exercises and session conduct, resulting in the creation of The Life Director method. It can be a fulfilling journey, as individuals discover their inherent power, take control of their stories, and align their actions with their ultimate life purpose. Through this alignment, change and transformation occur naturally, empowering individuals to achieve their goals.

What are some ways in which we can apply this approach in our everyday lives?

The concept is simple: imagine yourself seated in the director's chair, observing your life as if it were a theatre play. Assign titles to each situation, identify the roles you and others are playing, and ask yourself if you would choose to play those roles if you were the director of your own life. Consider whether these roles align with the character you aspire to be and if you are the author of your own story or if it has been written by someone else.

You'll come to realise that many times, we've been handed scripts and directions that don't resonate with who we truly are, merely filling roles in someone else's story. Recognising this, you may feel compelled to rewrite your script and take on the role of director in your own life. This is where I teach individuals how to craft a professional script, act as a professional actor, and direct their own lives, bringing their story from page to stage.

Performing arts, such as theatre acting, can also serve as a therapeutic outlet for one's emotions…

The theatre world can be healing. I conduct drama therapy sessions where we utilise acting to release suppressed emotions, resolve conflicts, understand arguments and miscommunications, and acquire stage skills. We also teach techniques such as breathing and visualisations to enhance relaxation, creativity, productivity, and overall wellbeing.

The tagline of your book is: Make your life the greatest show on Earth. However, life doesn’t always feel great, sometimes, far from it. So, how can we make our life the greatest show on Earth?

By revealing who you are. As I emphasise in my method, it's not merely a journey of change or transformation; it's a journey of revelation. When you take charge as the director of your life, you’ll transform your life into the greatest show on earth! When you take life as a play, you will automatically want to give your best shot. In my book I define PLAY as:

P Present

L Love

A Authenticity

Y Youthfulness

So, be present in the moment, live from your heart, love who you are, reveal your authentic self, and maintain the curiosity of a child to discover, learn, and embrace life.

Why do you start each book chapter like a theatre script with acts and scenes?

I want to show the reader how we write a theatre play and this is the technique that they will use to write their own script.

In the book, you mention the concept of playing many roles and living multiple lives within one lifetime. Could you elaborate on this?

Life is a series of stories, much like a theatre play. Each story in our lives features its own set of actors and circumstances, and we find ourselves assuming different roles with each new narrative. Viewing our lives through this lens allows us to transition to the next chapter without becoming emotionally attached to the previous one. As everything - including ourselves and our circumstances - changes, the past story becomes merely a memory that we can revisit from time to time. This perspective enables us to embrace the present moment fully and to be conscious of our existence.

‘Main Character Energy’ is a slang term widely used on social media. How can we harness this energy in our lives?

By connecting with our inner selves and comprehending our core identity and the contributions we offer to the world. What latent talents do we possess that remain unexplored and untapped? And does our current life path align with our authentic selves? The main character represents our genuine essence, which remains unchanged across all the roles we undertake in life.

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