It’s a tradition as old as time, for men and women to take to the stage.
Theater has been an outlet for many over the course of history, from ancient Greece to the Renaissance, to the Victorian age and postmodernism, it has been proven that acting has been one of the greatest, most cathartic forms of expression that benefits not only the audience, but the performers, directors, and crew as well. For Tim Waddell, this passion has chased him throughout the course of his life.
Tim is truly a remarkable character, with many skills and talents under his belt. Since arriving in Kuwait in 1996 Tim has been a teacher, a web developer, an independent marketer, a magazine editor, and a key player in the growth of one of Kuwait’s largest travel brands across the region. Quite a varied CV.
By his own admission he was “Lucky! One of those annoying kids who never struggled in school. For whom academia was easy. It just didn’t stimulate me in the same way as the Arts. I was always the creative child!”
Tim’s relationship with the theater is a lifelong romance. As a child, he’d frequent the theater with his parents. His breakout role came at the ripe old age of ten, cast as one of the Factory Boys in a production of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield in his hometown, Broadstairs, during the annual Dickens festival. For the already-fascinated young Tim, stepping onto a stage, outside of school, was the moment when the theater “bug” really took hold. From that point forward his downtime as a teen was spent volunteering with local theater companies and performing at children’s parties and hotel cabarets as a magician. Earning his pocket money. Honing his craft.
As he neared the end of his schooling, he was expected to continue his education at university, following the Sciences into genetic engineering, or something similar. But instead, defying, and then compromising with his parents, he settled on a degree in Education with a concentration in Music and Drama.
“I had to agree to the Education degree because it promised a career down the line,” he laughs fondly. “It was quite a fight at the time, but I knew I had to follow my heart if I was going to happy!”
While most would return home from university for the holidays, excited to reconnect with friends, Tim would work long, lonely, summers as a performer on the cross channel boats that ran from Dover to Calais, and spend Christmas vacations performing twice daily with Girling Productions, the local professional theater troupe, in their seasonal pantomimes.
“I was living the dream. I was studying for my degree but performing every opportunity I could. It was a wonderful time in my life. Little did he know then, that he would be soon be bringing that experience to Kuwait, where his passion for performing and pantomime could continue to flourish in the tiny desert nation.
Flash forward a few years, and Tim Waddell arrives to Kuwait to teach at the Kuwait International English School in 1996. Though committed to his work as an educator, his first goal was to find an outlet for his real passion, theater.
“I came across Kuwait Little Theater, which had been going for almost fifty years, but was just getting back on its feet after the invasion.” He auditioned for their upcoming production of the pantomime, Aladdin, and was delighted to land the part of Widow Twankey, the panto Dame.
“I felt about 25 years too young to play it at the time.” Tim admits. “But I was determined to make it my own and draw on the fantastic experience I had grown up with back home.” And so a monumental friendship with Kuwait’s community theater was formed.
For the next fifteen years, Tim directed, produced and performed in countless performances with the KLT, but the time and energy that community theater requires was taking a toll and in 2012 Tim fell out with the theater over what he describes as “over-zealous censorship” and lack of support.
“Art isn’t meant to be safe. Or simply ‘Entertaining’. There’s a line we all have to walk in respect to not offending others’ beliefs, but the committee who ran KLT became so preoccupied with not offending anyone that they began inventing reasons that people ‘might’ be offended. If you sanitize something to the point that NO-ONE can be offended by ANYTHING then you really have nothing left. The process and the product become stale. It was at that point I knew I needed to go off in a different direction.”
Tim pulled the show he had been producing at the time, (the eighth in an annual series of songs-from-the-shows style concerts), from the KLT line-up. He returned his keys to the little theater that had been his second home for fifteen years, and hit his computer. Drawing on other strings from his bow he created a brand identity, a website, and social media accounts, and, overnight, launched Staged in Kuwait; an independent community theatre group under which, he would stage the show that KLT felt was “inappropriate”.
Fast forward five years and, while KLT has closed its doors a-nd folded, SIK has gone from strength to strength, extending to the public a yearly pantomime, a musical, improv comedy nights, and drama classes – all under Tim’s leadership. Staying true to the sentiment of true community ventures , it costs absolutely nothing for members of the public to be involved in SIK activities: just time, dedication, and a positive attitude.
“Community theater is made by, and for, the local community,” Tim says thoughtfully. “People get involved for many reasons. For some it is purely social. For some it is about developing confidence, or learning a craft. But for all, along the way, they create friendships and bonds that are real and rewarding. There is something truly special about community theatre. About doing something for love, not money.”
Indeed, the word “professional” is somewhat of a dirty word in Tim’s vocabulary in the context of community theater. “I hate seeing the word ‘professional’ bandied about as a label of quality. It isn’t. ‘Professional’ should be used to denote that’s how you earn your living. Not how expert you think you are. I am exceptionally proud that all our performers are ‘amateurs’ with professional careers. That they give so much time and energy to our activities for something greater than a paycheck. Community theater is about passion, but more than that it is about teamwork, and sacrifice.”
Beyond being a time-consuming past-time, Tim’s work in Community Theater is evidently a labor of love, and with each season, that love is seen in the brilliant work the SIK community does. From last May’s impressive production of Beauty and the Beast, (a show Tim is extremely proud of, because “I just can’t believe we pulled it off!” he said giddily with a huge grin) to the recent pantomime, Puss in Boots, SIK, with Tim’s direction and dedication, continues to bring magic into our lives.
With barely time to breathe between one show and the next, he is now prepping for the 2018 Spring Musical The Drowsy Chaperone, which will be holding auditions this month. It goes without saying that our humble guest is extremely busy, but very fulfilled.
“There’s a saying I love: ‘Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich, but theater will make you happy.’ Fame is all relative, and I learned in my 40s, that money really doesn’t make me happy. So I’m looking forward to another next decade or two of theatre. It’s the one place I am always happy.” And he certainly looks it.
Up Close and Personal Questionnaire
What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty. Good or bad. I don’t want to be surrounded by “Yes” men.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I am rarely happier than when I am on stage. I just disappear into another place that I really can’t explain.
What is your greatest fear?
Being old and incapable.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience. I want everything done yesterday.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Laziness – or arrogance.
Which living person do you most admire?
Inspirational leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama inspire me. People who try to be the change that they want to see in the world.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I don’t really have one. Maybe technology.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“One more time!”
What is it that you most dislike?
Which talent would you most like to have?
To be able to dance.
If you could have any job, what would it be?
I would love to direct a show in a large West End theater. But I quite like my current job!
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Making it to 40. I have long suffered from depression and for many years thought that I wouldn’t get this far.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your most marked characteristic?
I used to be a perfectionist. I’m getting better at being happy with ‘suitably average’.
Where would you most like to live?
In the USA in the 1890s when Vaudeville was at its peak.
What are your favorite words to live by?
“Enjoy life – This is not a rehearsal!”
Photos by Dhari Al Fozan.