It’s official; the performing arts scene is flourishing in our k-town. You may have just started to notice it, or you’ve observed its growth all along, we’re seeing theatres pop up in more venues all over town. Every now and then, however, you get the opportunity to witness the ultimate theatre devotee. He admires, acknowledges, and more importantly, contributes to this community with an unconditional passion. I first encountered Hassan Rawas during a standup comedy night, where he bravely took to the stage performing stand up for the first time in his role as the MC of the evening show. For someone who’s been involved with the theatre since his early years, he wrote his first play in the 5th grade and went on to perform it alongside his classmates, so boldly taking to the stage and committing to a stand up act comes as no surprise.
His university experience in the US exposed his passion to unprecedented opportunities, as Rawas performed in a touring production of a children’s play based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”, worked at several regional theatres in Chicago and LA, varying his performances in different genres that took him from musicals, classical, and his favorite genre, improv and sketch comedy. He adds, “A bunch of us started an improv group on campus called Don’t Tell Anna, and we would perform frequently for our fellow students. I then auditioned and got into The Second City Conservatory in Chicago, at which many famous comedians like Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Bill Murray have studied. While studying and performing at The Second City, I co-wrote and co-starred in a sketch comedy show with a friend called The Arab-Israeli Comedy Hour which got picked up by the iO (improvOlympic) Theatre, also in Chicago. The show was a big hit in Chicago and got transferred to Los Angeles, and we even did a small college tour.”
Since returning to Kuwait a few years ago, Rawas wanted to bring improv comedy to Kuwaiti audiences. “Arab audiences seemed to have quite an awakening to stand-up comedy, but improv was still a bit foreign to them.” Even though he initially held auditions for an improve group a few years ago, the turn out was quite small. Luckily in the spring of 2012, he met Brad Manker while doing a musical at the Kuwait Little Theatre. Rawas continues, “Brad was from Chicago and had experience at ComedySportz, which is another popular improv comedy theatre chain across the US. One thing led to another, the stars aligned and we were able to hold auditions and form a group in the fall of 2012. Sometimes, all it takes is the right time for things to take shape, and I’m so happy with the variety of people and talent we have in the group.”
A local actor, writer and director, Rawas manages a balancing act between a job in the corporate world and his passion for theatre and the Improvengers, the Improv comedy troupe he recently started. Working with many theatre companies in Kuwait, he takes part in numerous productions throughout the year, and also takes the time to teach acting classes.
Now more than ever, we see a performing arts scene that is thriving, and Rawas is confident about the future, “New production companies and training centers are popping up and producing really stellar work with very minimal resources. Companies like SIK Productions, One World, BAIA, LAPA, Ahmadi Music Group, the KLT, Dar Al Athar are putting on top-notch productions catering to all tastes. You have full-fledged musicals, comedies, dramas, dance recitals and concerts being staged, mostly by local talent. Art is never easy; it’s definitely a labor of love and we don’t have the luxury of large budgets or technically advanced performance spaces. Often, we spend our own money and resources to create live performance for audiences in Kuwait. Nonetheless, theatre practitioners are so happy and fulfilled to do this. We are definitely a community and we like to see each other succeed, and we are always open to have new people join us in any capacity. I also encourage people to attend live theatre whenever possible and support the arts because we really can’t do it without our audiences.”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness starts with identifying what you are passionate about in life, and then doing or actively pursuing that true calling.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear would have to be hissing cockroaches. They can scale smooth glass.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I can be somewhat apathetic at times.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Ignorance and criticism.
Which living person do you most admire?
I’m in love with Jessica Lange.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I love going to the theatre. I have to visit New York City at least once a year and I never skimp on theatre seats.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Absolutely”, “Gorgeous”, “I need to shidoobie”
When were you happiest?
Grad school at Northwestern University’s School of Theatre in Chicago was a really happy time in my life.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Dancers on shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” blow me away, and I wish I could experience that same sense of abandon. I’d also like more upper body strength.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
I am very proud of the work that is being done in the performing arts scene in Kuwait. I am very grateful that I get to be a part of a vibrant, evolving and growing arts community.
Where would you most like to live?
Brussels. Hands down, it’s my favorite city in the world.
Follow Hassan Rawas on Twitter @haswanee.