Shehzad Ghias came down to Germany with his troop to perform, and we caught up with the man behind Cogito Productions and Room for Improv-ment to talk theatre, arts and being a Pakistani artist in Germany.
In case you don’t know, Ghias is a graduate from the LUMS Law School, and along with being an amazing performing artist and stand-up comedian, he’s an ace director and journalistic scholar as well. I hope he can’t cook, for I’d be really cross at life for giving everything to this one particular man!
Shaheen Nouman: How did you arrive in Germany? Please tell us about the exciting (albeit challenging) journey.
Shehzad Ghias: I started coordinating with Kathrin at Kulturkabinett in January. This trip was a long time in the making. In February, we did the play, Peter and the starcatcher, for four days at Lyceum, after which I spoke to the students about the possibility of going to Germany. They seemed excited. Unfortunately, some of the cast members could not make it, so we had to replace them. Rehearsals started again in June and we rehearsed for another month before heading to Germany. We flew to Frankfurt, spent a day there, and then took a train to Stuttgart. Another week of rehearsals followed in Stuttgart.
SN: How was your experience in Germany? How was your act received?
SG: It was a great experience in Germany, Kulturkabinett was an absolute pleasure to work with. We were really well received. It was a cultural exchange, so all the students stayed at the homes of German families, so they really got to experience the real German culture.
The play itself was really well received as well. We had the Pakistani diaspora in Stuttgart show up as well. There was literally a 10-minute applause after the play. I had to ask people to be quiet so I could say a few words at the end.
SN: You have been in the industry for a while now. How do you see it today? And what do you think of future for theatre in Pakistan will be like?
SG: I think the future is bright. There is more interest in theatre now than before. I think schools have started taking more interest, which is great, since theatre can really help with the early development of students and it’s a great alternative to the other things available to our kids these days.
I just think we need more original plays to carve a theatre identity. The lack of originality in most of our productions means we aren’t really progressing as writers and producers. There is no linear growth in the industry; it is simply sporadic spurts but hopefully things will improve with NAPA finding its feet and more playwrights emerging from Pakistan.
SN: What has been the paramount challenge in keeping LyTheatre alive and thriving?
SG: It’s always a challenge working with students whose top priority are grades. I need to balance a professional rehearsal schedule with classes and their studies, making sure their academics don’t suffer. I’ve been lucky to work in a supportive environment with a school that sees value in arts, and parents who want their children to succeed and learn. At the same time, I hope that all parents across the country realise that education is so much more than a list of grades. The things these kids learnt from this exchange will make them better and more well rounded professionals and human beings.
SN: A lot of theatre performers eventually go on to TV, and some never look back. Do you think this is the life cycle or theatre performers have a choice to stay where they are and still grow?
SG: It’s a choice; obviously television is more lucrative but nothing beats the thrill of a live performance.
SN: So, what’s next for LyTheatre?
We’re working on an exchange for our Improv troupe with a theatre school in Boston. Fingers crossed. Also, our next play will be in Karachi, in a few months. Exciting times ahead!
You can find Shehzad on Facebook, and follow him for all the information about his upcoming shows.