Is this the perfect way to engage with theatre?

A unique theatre festival is back with a slew of local and foreign talent.

It’s tempting to think that Short + Sweet – the multi-form theatre festival of ten-minute plays – was intended to cater to people’s shrinking attention span.

The truth is, though, that the event is more about helping novice dramatists get their feet wet.

Founded in Sydney, Australia in 2002, the community festival has gained a global following thanks to its unique concept of showcasing a series of plays that are a maximum of ten minutes.

Currently, the festival features instalments in 28 cities in nine countries including Singapore, Philippines, India and New Zealand.

After making its official UAE debut in 2013 in Dubai, the concept quickly spread to Abu Dhabi in 2016. Now, Short + Sweet is back on 25th and 26th January to give local performers and playwrights a chance to shine.

Setting the stage

Each Short + Sweet festival has three aims,” begins Zakaia Cvitanovich, festival director
for the Abu Dhabi edition. “To develop the artistry and craft of acting, directing, writing and other forms of theatre making; to present short performances and create a stage for telling stories; and to stimulate and entertain
the audience.”

The Abu Dhabi festival will feature 12 similar plays for both nights with genres ranging from comedy and black comedy to drama.

The cast size for each play varies, with some featuring only two actors while others might have at least six performers giving life to the story.

To kick off the process, the organisers reached out to directors, writers and actors last year seeking material, talent and hosting auditions.

“At this stage, some directors are still looking for plays, while others have written or started writing their own plays,” Zakaia explains. “Therefore, the plays are essentially chosen, and sometimes written, by the directors themselves. If a director contacts me about wanting a play, I’ll send through a sample from the script bank.

“This year, we have a play written and performed in Australia in our festival. The only rule is that a play can’t be repeatedly staged in the same festival. All plays are appropriate to the local culture and Islam.”

Since its Abu Dhabi debut in 2016, the majority of the artists and personnel participating have been UAE based but from various backgrounds and nationalities. There’s a noticeable difference this year, however, as more Emiratis are getting involved either to work behind the scenes or take on acting duties.

“This year I’m thrilled to have a play written, directed and acted by an Emirati theatre practitioner, whom I have worked with previously in Beyond the Veil, the Abu Dhabi-based theatre company focusing on Arabic plays,” beams Zakaia.

“Personally, I feel that this edition is our best yet. The top 12 encompass many genres so it’ll be a great night with lots of variety for the audience.

This encouraging development only means that the local theatre scene, as young as it may be, is growing as individuals find more platforms to participate in.

Short + Sweet’s concept perfectly suits this purpose as it provides the right environment to hone and encourage talents without overwhelming them, while at the same time giving them a taste of public performance.

“Because the plays are only ten minutes in length, they seem a bit less intimidating than a full-length play,” Zakaia mentions. “It’s a great place for a budding director, writer or actor to gain some experience. And even if you’re an experienced performer, this event offers another avenue to express your artistry and meet fellow talents in the community.”

Need to know 

What: Short + Sweet Abu Dhabi
When: 25th and 26th January, 7.30pm
Where: The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island
Tickets: AED 100 from nyuad-artscenter.org
Visit: shortandsweet.org

WORDS Ferdinand Godinez

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