Theatre actresses Laila Soliman and Sherine Hegazy ran an improvisational theatre workshop held over the course of 10 days in Faraskur Cultural Palace in Damietta with interesting results.
Mahatat’s initiative, Shababeek (Access to Art), presented the workshop as part of their Face to Face project that aims to develop the artistic and creative skills of Damietta’s youth.
The workshop was created for actors and directors -- professional or amateur -- to explore and practice theatrical improvisation with the aim of them being able to draw from their personal experiences to enrich the performance.
The final piece was a collective by all the participants and was performed on 7 August.
The workshop focused on how to build, as a group, an improvised story that bounces off the other actors, practicing speed of response, and coordinating movement and interaction with the space.
“We had a framework, or a starting point, but no script. Each person has a general idea of what they have to do on stage, but they have to swiftly respond to how the others play out their parts,” Sherine Hegazy tells Ahram Online.
Hegazy and Soliman also mentored the participants, teaching them skills such as how to strengthen their presence on stage, as well as how to maintain an appearance of 'naturalism' despite countless rehearsals.
“What we created was experimental, but it was raw and truthful, and the audience at the Culture Palace of Damietta, where we performed, commented on the movements of the actors,” Hegazy says.
Hegazy, though happy with the outcome of the workshop, reveals to Ahram Online some of the challenges they faced.
“There were participants between the ages of 12 and 32, which made it quite uncomfortable at first,” she says.
Hegazy, who gives workshops for children in theatre, dance and body language, adds that dealing with children in theatre is different than with older actors and mixing both age groups can disrupt the balance of the workshop.
“We asked for participants no younger than 16. But the ones who applied were from the troupe of Farakskur Cultural Palace and we didn’t want to break their group.
“In the end we successfully managed to work in such a way that was appropriate for the young ones, though without boring the older participants. Yet had the age range been smaller, I think it would have been even better, and we could have made clearer progress with them,” she says.
The number of participants was also unexpected, with seven Farakskur troupe members and one participant from Cairo.
“We expected around 15, but we ended up working with just eight people. At first we thought it was too few, though during the workshop we discovered it was a great balance between having a group and being able to focus on each individual,” Hegazy tells Ahram Online.
“I’m personally very pleased with how the workshop progressed and its outcome, and as a trainer I learned a lot too,” she says.
Hegazy is an actress on stage and screen, as well as a choreographer and contemporary dancer.
Both Hegazy and Soliman previously worked together in Spring Awakening, a play directed by Soliman.