Defining Drama for myself -
Pakistan Press Foundation

Defining Drama for myself

By Saleha Aziz

The literal definition of drama is staging the interplay of fictional characters with thematic relevance. Taking the definition a step further, we can say that drama is also a platform provider that mirrors the society we reside in and the issues and ideas that suffuse through it. An expanse of wooden tiles swept to the last spot bordering a peninsula-like stage, dressed in curtains of satin or lace, pinned neatly from the top with ravenous lights, hunting down the hearts of the show- the characters, ornamented with scrupulous detail, all contributing towards the struggle to perform ‘a great show.’

Drama — for some, the term can almost immediately take them back to an antique anglicised Shakespearian set or a gaudy settee featuring Rama and Sita, but for me it is a phenomenon which parallels the understanding of the meaning and structure of life. Having partaken in my school’s Annual Play just recently, the idea or conception of a performance being almost belittling changed to one of great value and respect. Being my first ever play, it was a matter of great honour to have been allotted the lead role; it was this event that was going to promote my title from being an ‘inexperienced’ actor to one in which the prefix of the term is removed. Starting off from ascribing it as much value as only an additional credit on my school profile, I witnessed an unravelling of depth and progression which helped in realizing that the idea of a performance is not one that is merely confined to stages and bright lights. In fact it is universal and applicable to all. It is based on the idea of a ‘role play’, an idea effectively practised by all within the circumference or ‘stage’ of their own life.

“No matter what happens, do not come out of your character, whether somebody falls, breaks a limb, faints, or even throws up, you will maintain your roles and do what is required of you,” my director Madiha Gul ended her elaborate pep talk.

She had directed the play with great detail, the passion of a dreamer, and somehow managed to instil her flare in her cast also. Minutes before the curtain call she asked us to close our eyes and meditate for five minutes, pondering over the purpose of our role in the play, and the journey we had made from the first day to the last. “The show must go on.” It really has to, doesn’t it? Moving out of the ambit of theatre, the fact is that as an active actor in society our roles have already been outlined for us by our directors and co-performers. The discharge of that role is in our own hands, and no matter what the outcome or level of delivery may be, the role-play will go on.

Enlarging the idea, one realises how the crux of the society is akin to that of theatre. Blasts, genocide, natural disasters, communal violence, whatever issues may arise, the show must go on. Whether a cricket team’s captain fails to organise the team or the prime minister is unable to purge the political system from corruption, the match will continue and the government will carry on with its governance.

Blame it on indifference, or the consumptive characteristic of time and fate but the fact of the matter is that the world order offers no room for pauses or wait. The audience will continue to carefully scrutinise the ‘actors’ on stage, and the “music will play, lights will fade, Pally and Wally will play their kazoos, Bezano will gallop around the ring, and Madam Xena will try to make the red lions love her” (an extract from my dialogue as He from He Who Gets Slapped).

The recognition of talent reduces to that one moment of stage play which every actor is given fairly. In that moment of noticing, one can either make the greatest impact on the audience or pave way for disgrace. “You are doing this for the applause, for that one night where the audience will gorge in claps and appreciation and shout out only your name, so work for that, struggle for that,” exclaimed my director.

All of us work endlessly to carve our niche in society, to obtain if not eternal, then at least a moment of glory which adds meaning to tireless efforts. All one needs is to comprehend the rules with clarity and the rules are simple — one that directs well and delivers well, is the one that reserves all the praise and wins.