Ra­nia ashur

When ra­nia Ashur moved to DUBAI in 1998, fam­ily theatre WAS vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent. now, 15 YEARS After she founded Art for All, she’s tak­ing it full cir­cle, Bring­ing BACK her first Ever show, ge­orge’s mar­vel­lous medicine…

Good (UAE) - - HOMEGROWN HERO - art­forall.ae

How was the art scene for chil­dren when you cre­ated Art for All?

There were two the­atres back in 2002 – one in Knowl­edge Vil­lage and a tiny theatre in Chil­dren’s City. i did my first show, ge­orge’s Mar­vel­lous medicine, in the Knowl­edge Vil­lage theatre, in­vited some schools along, and dis­cov­ered most of the chil­dren had never been to a theatre be­fore. The cul­ture of go­ing to the­atres was non-ex­is­tent and there were very few drama schools back then too.

Why do you think live theatre is so im­por­tant for chil­dren?

Chil­dren need to be able to sit, fo­cus and ap­pre­ci­ate tra­di­tional sto­ry­telling, and that’s be­com­ing more of a chal­lenge as they rely more on video games and de­vices for en­ter­tain­ment. Art for All is try­ing to ad­dress that, and most of our shows are based on books or well-known plays, help­ing the chil­dren un­der­stand the plots from lit­er­ary clas­sics by Shake­speare or Roald dahl. Chil­dren can also re­mem­ber facts and re­late bet­ter to cer­tain sub­jects be­cause of shows such as Min­istry of sci­ence live or Hor­ri­ble his­to­ries, and en­joy­ing the show en­cour­ages chil­dren to read. in to­day’s crazy and vi­o­lent en­vi­ron­ment, per­form­ing art can in­spire and en­gage chil­dren in such a pos­i­tive man­ner.

How do you go about se­lect­ing your pro­gramme?

i have dealt with the same pro­duc­ers for many years, and i visit lon­don sev­eral times a year to at­tend the lat­est plays. A big part of our work in­volves check­ing with schools to find out what books are on the cur­ricu­lum that year. if we can co­or­di­nate a great show with one of those books, it’s a win­ning formula. We are lim­ited by the size and tech­ni­cal spec of the the­atres we use, though some­times we chal­lenge our­selves with larger shows to push the bound­aries.

Tell us about the work­shop pro­grammes for chil­dren

We like to of­fer lit­er­a­ture and drama work­shops for smaller groups of chil­dren, to al­low them the op­por­tu­nity to talk to the ac­tors and pro­duc­ers of the play they have seen, which is aca­dem­i­cally very help­ful. for ex­am­ple, we work closely with globe ed­u­ca­tion, which is part of Shake­speare’s globe in lon­don and, for younger chil­dren, we run globe in­ter­ac­tive Sto­ry­telling ses­sions, which are won­der­fully en­ter­tain­ing. it’s truly in­spir­ing to see a five-yearold get to grips with a clas­sic Shake­speare tale be­cause they’ve at­tended a globe work­shop. it re­mains in their mem­o­ries and helps them un­der­stand Shake­speare far bet­ter at high school.

What are the key ben­e­fits of ex­pos­ing chil­dren to art?

Art en­cap­su­lates so many amaz­ing things, from phi­los­o­phy and mu­sic to com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ex­pres­sion. Art is cul­tur­ally di­verse, but also in­clu­sive. Chil­dren who are ex­posed to the arts from a young age have stronger imag­i­na­tions and are able to de­velop their cre­ative tal­ents far more eas­ily than those who spend their free time play­ing video games. Theatre par­tic­u­larly can be in­ter­ac­tive, ed­u­ca­tional and in­spir­ing.

What shows are you most ex­cited about bring­ing to the UAE in the up­com­ing pro­gramme?

i am look­ing for­ward to bring­ing the Birm­ing­ham Stage Com­pany’s pro­duc­tion of david Wal­liams’ gangsta-granny to the UAE in 2018, as he is one of the most pop­u­lar chil­dren’s au­thors right now.

Is there a show you’d love to bring to the city and haven’t man­aged to yet?

There are many shows i would love to bring to the UAE, but i am lim­ited by bud­get, stage spec­i­fi­ca­tions and the size of the sets. Art for All is not sub­sidised and we rely 100 per cent on ticket sales – if our pro­duc­tions are too ex­pen­sive to ex­port here, prices go up and fam­i­lies can’t af­ford to see the shows. We want as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble to ex­pe­ri­ence our live per­for­mances, so we try our best to keep it af­ford­able. Hav­ing said that, i’m an op­ti­mist and i al­ways like to think big, no mat­ter the con­straints. So, who knows what could be in the pipe­line? You’ll just have to watch this space.

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