ABU DHABI, Following the signing last year of a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, between the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development and New York University Abu Dhabi, NYUAD, The Arts Centre at the university has been actively working with the ministry to support Emirati artistes and enhance the culture of artistic creation and performance across the UAE.

Recently, The Arts Centre hosted five Emirati theatre-makers as part of a residency by Elevator Repair Service, ERS, � the team behind the world-renowned production that recently performed Gatz at The Arts Centre. As part of The Arts Centre's "Off the Stage" capacity-building and audience- engagement programme, this workshop enabled Emirati participants to gain insight into the ERS process of devising and creating new work.

In addition to attending the performance of GATZ, the local theatre-makers also toured the state-of-the-art facilities at The Arts Centre, met with technical and artistic staff, and participated in a fruitful conversation with the ERS, The Arts Centre's staff, and members of the NYUAD theatre programme faculty to better understand the history and context of theatre production in the UAE. This multiple-day intensive event was an outgrowth of previous meetings with the Emirati theatre community by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development about the needs of the sector and was designed to bring the local university artists and designers closer together, as a step towards future collaborations. Currently in development is a programme to share skills and experience between The Arts Centre's and the ministry's technical staff in order to improve support for artists and audience experiences throughout the country.

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, commented, "Our partnership with The Arts Centre at NYUAD aims to develop the performance and theatrical arts scene in the UAE, as well as enhance the skills of our creative theatre professionals. This helps in elevating the theatre industry as a vital contributor to our national identity and to the social fabric of the country. Our collaboration also ensures our continued support to Emirati creatives to enable them to showcase their work at international theatres and festivals as well as offer them opportunities to exchange expertise with global counterparts at The Arts Centre through active participation in various activities and events organised by the centre."

NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Chancellor, Al Bloom, said, "Al Kaabi's enthusiastic support for quality education and the arts, and her embrace of creativity and inclusion are an inspiration to all of us at NYU Abu Dhabi. This partnership with The Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development offers the University a remarkable opportunity to deepen our engagement within the community, and to contribute importantly to nurturing artistic talent and discovery across the Emirates. Developing this collaboration offers a powerful means for building connectivity and mutual understanding and appreciation among artistic communities in the UAE, and we are proud to play a central role in enriching the cultural life and shaping the cultural identity of this nation."

Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director, added, "The goal of The Arts Centre is to be a resource for the larger community of the UAE, as well as of NYUAD, through presenting world-class artists, skills and capacity building workshops, and knowledge development through artist talks and Q&As. We also focus on The Arts Centre as a hub for building community through artistic engagement. We have been honoured that Minister Al Kaabi and the staff of the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development have become regular visitors to The Arts Centre, and have chosen to leverage our work to support the ministry's initiatives. These meetings with the local theatre artists were quite inspiring, as we all felt the palpable energy and possibility of the connection made by the ministry. This initiative is a terrific complement to our current creative residency with Emirati poet, Afra Atiq, who we have commissioned to create her first theatre piece, working with NYUAD theatre professor, director Joanna Settle."

Following the partnership's initial success, NYUAD and the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development are developing opportunities for future collaboration including possible faculty and research partnerships, greater student and theatre-maker interaction, and technical theatre training sessions, all of which aim to contribute to the growing theatre ecosystem within the UAE.

Responding to the meeting, Lindsay Hockaday, Education Director of Elevator Repair Service Theatre Company and performer, remarked, "Meeting the Emirati theatre makers was truly inspiring, both as an artist and educator. Even in our brief time together, our conversation shifted to the largest issues theatre artists consider, the relationship between text and performance, author, director, and audience. It felt like the beginning of what could be a rich exchange."

NYUAD Associate Arts Professor, Catherine Coray, also remarked on the recent exchange, "I was exhilarated and deeply moved by our conversation with these distinguished Emirati colleagues to discover our commonalities as theatre artists and scholars, and to realise the potential for learning and collaboration among us."

Theatre director, Abdalla Al Rumathy, commented, "I was honoured to participate in a successful residency which gave me the opportunity to be in front of a successful American play experience. At the same time, I shared my experience in theatre as a comprehensive Emirati artist. This residency opened horizons of knowledge and communication between us as Emirati theatre-makers and experts from in the same field and was a gate to acquire and exchange artistic and technical expertise in this area. I hope that such connections continue and expand in the UAE to all universities and colleges interested in the arts."

NYUAD Associate Director of Drama, Edward Ziter, added, "The conversation left us all hungry for opportunities to see each other's work and, potentially, collaborate. The Emirati theatre artists brought fascinating perspectives on a major piece of American experimental theatre. I feel I learnt as much about Gatz from their observations as from the self-reflection of ERS members."

Source: Emirates News Agency