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Theatrical!

The Global Community marked the World Theatre Day on March 27, as the international observance was initiated by the International Theatre Institute in 1961. Every year, noted theatre personalities share their thoughts about plays and other dramatic performances with others on this day. This year, award-winning Pakistani journalist, playwright, screenwriter, theatre and television director, and Human Rights activist Shahid Mahmood Nadeem was chosen as the narrator of World Theatre Day.

Nadeem, born in 1947 at Sopore in the Baramulla District of India-administered Kashmir, had arrived in the Pakistani city of Lahore as a migrant at the age of one! While studying in the University, he started writing plays. During his stay in London in 1984, he co-founded Ajoka Theatre, a Pakistani not-for-profit arts organisation based in Lahore, with a special focus on producing and performing social theatrical stage productions, with Madeeha Gauhar (September 21, 1956 – April 25, 2018). Gauhar was a Pakistani television and stage actress, playwright and director of social theatre, and Women’s Rights activist. Later, Nadeem tied the nuptial knot with Gauhar. He has not only written various plays in Urdu and Punjabi languages, but has also translated more than 50 plays of German theatre practitioner, playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht.

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In 2019, former Director General of UNESCO Irina Georgieva Bokova had said: “Theatre is much more than a form of entertainment. By its immediacy, by the comic or tragic relation that it alone builds between the stage and the public, theatre is a unique lever of expression, reflection and sharing.” She also said: “As a living art par excellence, the theatre depicts the truths, dramas and universal questions that structure human societies and allow them to represent themselves, even at decisive moments. In post-conflict situations in particular, culture and theatre help communities to resume dialogue, accelerate reconciliation.

Interestingly, French poet, playwright, novelist, designer, filmmaker, visual artist and critic Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau was the narrator when the World Theatre Day was marked for the first time in 1961. Thereafter, the messages of Arthur Miller, Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook, Girish Karnad, Dario Fo and many other theatre personalities enriched the Global Community on this particular day.

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In his message (in 2014), Brett Bailey had stressed: “We gather to weep and to remember; to laugh and to contemplate; to learn and to affirm and to imagine.” The South African director of plays claimed that theatre had the strength to provide the aged people with a better life! He was right… the aged people are lonely and helpless in different parts of the globe. And, the theatre artists can make their lives easier by getting them involved in their form of art.

So far, Germany has made an attempt to follow Bailey’s advice, as theatre is a very popular medium of entertainment in this western European country. There are various theatre organisations for people of different ages, including the senior citizens, in Germany. After retirement, many join these organisations in order to enjoy their lives. The world should follow Germany, as the number of senior citizens – who have rightly been suffering from relative insecurity, and thus are depressed and frustrated – is continuously growing in other countries!

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