'Listen to the dreamers, drown out the naysayers'

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Listen to the dreamers, drown out the naysayers

Theatre director and instructor at Paris-Sorbonne University, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre, Sol Abiad on why a "sense of fascination" can make life so much more meaningful

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Published: Fri 21 Jul 2017, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 21 Jul 2017, 2:00 AM

What is your best childhood memory?
Playing in my grandaunt's attic, where an alcove looked a whole lot like a stage, and in which I could position dolls and stuffed animals of disproportionate sizes to create some very mind-bending scenes.

If you could move anywhere in the world, what place would that be?
Between Paris and Dubai, I am incredibly fortunate to already be in places that inspire me, witnessing the historical and the futuristic in any given season... It may be because I have two nationalities that I don't want to be in one place only. Now, if you could make the trips and stays free, that would be the cherry on top.

The biggest learning point in your life.
When I was lucky enough to encounter amazing people with whom to jumpstart the UAE's first experimental theatre project in 2010. With slim resources amidst a world economic crisis, I learned just how nonsensical the word 'impossible' is. Courage and imagination can triumph over 'pre-existing conditions', no matter what. It taught me to listen more closely to dreamers and drown out the sound of naysayers. This also led me to set up the ACT TOO acting classes for adults. Teaching allows me stay connected to people who stretch their imagination, seek to harness their sense of play, and care about art - something that makes us human and makes life worthwhile.

One skill you'd love to learn, and why?
I think it would be carpentry; that way, I could create unique items that would be useful in everyday life as well as possible set-pieces. Although I would also do well to learn how to build a house, first for basic shelter, but also as a place in which to store those oversized chairs, seven-legged slanted tables, and round shelves.

What advice would you give your younger self, if you could?
Never go for cheap or bad shoes, no matter how tempting; your feet and spine are at stake. I had a few structural challenges as a child and was required to wear orthopedic shoes - they were traumatisingly ugly but taught me a lot about the need for true aesthetics, not cosmetics. Shoes should be customised anyway; there's no such thing as "one size fits all" - not for feet, not for minds. But failing that, find the ones that help you go forward, not keep you in place.

If you could witness a major event in history, which one would it be, and why?
December 28,1895, at the Grand Café in Paris: the Lumière brothers held the world's first commercial movie screening. It would've been wild to be in the audience and feel the awe of this new way of seeing things. I think the closest I got to that feeling was a few years ago, when BHV department store near Hotel de Ville in Paris displayed one of the first 3D printers. Crowds, young and old, gathered around the demonstration, fascinated. It's this sense of fascination I cherish so much, a child-like curiosity and amazement that makes life moments meaningful.

Your greatest fear.
To leave Earth without having tried to make living on it better.

If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day, who would it be and why?
Because I believe in the here and now, and have no desire to purloin anyone else's life, I wouldn't usually answer this question. Having said that, I wouldn't say no to being Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969 - to be able to step on the moon; a tremendous trip and a superb view, I hear. Also, it would be nice to be good at math and physics for a day, using his brain.

Favourite theatre character of all time?
Winnie, from Samuel Beckett's play, Happy Days. She manages to live life as best as she knows, even when she is up to her neck in a mound - stuck, yet undefeated and funny.

If you were President of your country, what is the first thing you'd do?
I actually asked my 10-year-old nephew to help me answer that, since children tend to have a fresher take on old ideas - and I think I'll take his advice: to make sure everyone has a home. Once you have a home, you can look for work properly and you can do your art. I'd also make sure I appoint the wisest, most imaginative, and sweetest Cabinet members.
- Staff reporter

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