“The theatre is certainly a place for learning about the brevity of human glory” – Iris Murdoch
This quotation beautifully illustrates the ethos of one of Kuwait’s newest theatrical production spaces – TAQA. A space that once started out as a production company retelling classical fables that had been adapted into Arabic prose by Kuwaiti writer and theater enthusiast, Hooda Shawa.
Hooda’s journey with TAQA began with a whirlwind of writing and producing original productions, as well as entering her work into international film festivals and finding the best of the best to make her pieces come to life. Her resume is impressive, with works such as Akhnaton, performed at Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah in 2012 with music performed by an 18 piece orchestra composed by Dr Sami Ibrahim of Cairo Opera House, My Pink Room – an original short film for the 2013 Jasmin Call concert, written by Hooda and directed by Vachan Sharma, and of course, Freya: Letters from Kuwait directed by Abdulaziz al Haddad – a play that made the audience see Kuwaiti/British history in a whole new light. “I had also collaborated with LOYAC and other organizations and companies, including UK production company One World Actors Centre, [owned by Alison Shan Price] to present these plays in fairs and events, but we knew after our last production that we needed a space of our own.” Hooda jovially chuckles, pointing out how she just sited Virgina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. This reference alone shows her love of literature and translating it to a visually pleasing artistic medium.
And so, with Hooda’s passion, her penchant for production, and a talent for turning her written work into performance, a room of her own she gained and the space was built. In the heart of Mirqab, on a pocket street which contains Al Shahid Tower, the building where TAQA is housed. Once you walk in, you’re greeted with an impressively graffiti’d wall done by the likes of local artist, Aziz Al Enezi. The space is small, yet manages to be vast at once, with a dedicated area for cast and crew to prepare themselves and a classic black-box-style theater. With Hooda Shawa acting as founder and managing director, joining forces with creative director Alison Shan Price, the space is set to promise great things for Kuwait’s theater community.
“We’re interested in telling stories that people might not come across.” Hooda explains. “The current production we’re working on tells the story of Kuwait’s history in the Hellenistic era.” Any guesses to where this would be set? Titled IKARA, this play written by Hooda, makes the Hellenistic artifacts and ruins of Failaka Island come alive. “IKARA comes from the word Icarus, which tells the story of the man who flew too close to the sun. It is said that Failaka Island was once named Ikaros, and there was even a stone with Greek inscriptions made to prove this theory. This archaeological piece is housed in the Kuwait National Musem.”
TAQA is an acronym for Towards Achieving Quality in Art, but also comes from the Arabic word taqa, which means energy and creativity. This double entendre is appropriate for the troupe and the space, as it embodies the very concept that TAQA reaps towards audiences and performers alike. “When naming TAQA, the Arabic came first” Hooda points out, which is not unlike the performances the company holds.
TAQA primarily produces Arabic productions, but isn’t exclusive to them. Though Alison Shan Price insists that the majority of performances being in Arabic will not keep an expat audience away from attending. “Hooda’s stories are made in a way where anyone would understand, regardless of language barrier. There’s a new slant with movement and expression that gives value to more than just language, and international audiences are appreciative of that. We’re giving the audience a new delicacy, and bringing people together in the form of theater.”
Though TAQA studios is currently devoting all of its time and their master classes (held by professional choreographers and directors) to the cast and crew of IKARA, the space, owned by TAQA productions, has workshops held by international experts scheduled for 2017. The space is also open for the creative community to use. The accommodating TAQA theater space can be rented for external performances and rehearsals, and they had even recently hosted a rehearsal space for the Arabs Got Talent dancers. This is a space for the community to express artistic creativity, and as TAQA is a supporting member of the community, they are more than happy to reach out and offer a helping hand.
TAQA Studios launched in September with emninent artists in the audience, including Emmy Award winning choreographer Adam Darius, and international award winning choreographer Kazimir Kolesnik, both of whom flew into Kuwait specifically to help create the opening performance of the space. Based on the audience’s reception of the launch, the extreme appreciation shown gives the team great reason to believe this addition to the community will benefit Kuwait. “We are aware that we aren’t the only Arabic theater representatives in Kuwait – the country is rich with Arabic expression, but we think of TAQA as an addition.” And what a great addition it will be!