West End production first for a Saudi with a passion for theater

Author: Denise MarrayFri, 2017-04-28 03:00ID: 1493325073614063600If you had asked Saudi national Soha Khan what career she had in mind as a fresh graduate, she might have said, “maybe journalism or corporate communications.” That would have been logical given that she studied under the King Abdulaziz Scholarship Program for a master’s degree in communications at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Never would it have crossed her mind at this stage that she would in fact have a career in theater production, a career which today is going from strength to strength. Right now she is immersed in her role as associate producer for the upcoming West End production of the rock musical “The Quentin Dentin Show,” working in close collaboration with the creative team to put on a first-class show at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden.In the midst of this busy time, she is also working on presenting “Egyptian Extravaganza,” which will open in London next month. The show will take the audience back to 1920s Egypt at the time of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. King Tut will engage archaeologists in a battle of wit and witticisms over what is the “real” Egypt. “This production, which is a work in progress, examines the theme of cultural appropriation,” Khan said. “I am testing it out with four performances and am relying on crowd funding so the budget is quite small.”She hopes the show will attract the right level of funding so that it can be developed into the kind of thought-provoking quality production she has in mind. She is also looking for opportunities to bring both productions to the Middle East. “I am in discussion with venues to see how ‘The Quentin Dentin Show’ can be toured in the region. Similarly, with ‘Egyptian Extravaganza,’ I want to see if there is potential to take it to the Gulf,” she said. Khan appreciates London for its great facilities, support for artists, and the wealth and depth of experience. But for opening the doors to the world of theater, she first and foremost credits opportunities given to her in her first job at Saudi Aramco and subsequently at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. She appreciates the assistance given to her to learn her craft including sending her on overseas assignments. These included nine months with the British Youth National Youth Theatre of Great Britain where she worked on a performance forming part of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She has also had placements with Les Enfants Terribles Theatre Company, Seabright Productions and international touring company Complicite.As she works to build her knowledge of theater, she is encouraged by the possibilities opening up in Saudi Arabia. Under the recently established General Entertainment Authority, initiatives are under way to open up many new artistic avenues within the context of the culture. Khan is keen to be part of the creative drive. “I want to create work that can transfer easily between the Gulf and the UK,” she said. “That means looking at new projects and new narratives. I am very keen to work with Middle Eastern directors, writers and actors, and possibly even produce an Arabic musical. I hope to set up my own theater production company one day.“Visual arts and film have been making great strides and now it is time for theater. I would love to meet more people working in theater, which is at the moment largely restricted to community work. I would like to build a bridge between the creative teams here in the UK and talented actors in Saudi. Bring them together and see what comes out.”It hasn’t always been easy for Khan to make her way in the world. She recalls how in the early days of her career in community theater projects, she had to contend with some resistance from male actors who felt uncomfortable with her presence. However, she has kept moving forward, making the most of every opportunity, and learning at every step of the way. She will complete her masters in Fine Arts in Creative Producing at the Central School of Speech and Drama in June.While her parents were initially unsure about her career path, they now fully support her. “Now, my father is my No. 1 supporter. I am very happy that he wants me to forge ahead,” she said.Asked what advice she had for young women who might want to work in the creative industries, she said: “I would say to young women, especially those who might be thinking about pursuing a career in theater, that there has been a definite shift in the Kingdom and interest to encourage shows and performances. There are more and more cultural centers that are likely to be emerging soon, not just in Saudi Arabia but also across the Gulf region. “So don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid of failure; see what life brings to you. I didn’t know what this direction was going to bring me but I love this work with passion.”If you happen to be in London this summer, you can catch “The Quentin Dentin Show” at the Tristan Bates Theatre, running June 20 to July 29. Next month you can see “Egyptian Extravaganza” at the Colab Factory near London Bridge from May 10-13. —life.style@arabnews.com
Main category: Offbeat

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