The Doha Players have been entertaining the Qatar crowds since 1954 and this year they’re pulling out all the stops with some major performances. We speak to board member and producer Haven Tsang about the lights, the curtains and the action…
In a small villa buried in the heart of Qatar Foundation, amateur dramatic group The Doha Players’ board members plan the year ahead. In the past year they’ve put on productions of world-renowned plays such as Hot Mikado, Woman in Black and The Complete Works of Shakespeare – to name a few. But in 2013, producer and behind the scenes techie Haven Tsang tells us, the group is looking to get into stuff that’s even meatier.
‘In the last few years we’ve been doing pantomimes, musicals, maybe a couple of short plays but nothing that actors can really get their teeth into,’ he explains. ‘We think these two [that they have coming up] could spark a few interests.’
One such play is J. B. Priestly’s An Inspector Calls which they will be performing this month. Director Ian Lacey has decided to hold it in the round at Education City’s Black Box Theatre so the audience will surround the entire stage. This is an interesting way to do it, says Haven. ‘I personally have never seen it in the round. I studied it at GCSE. It’s a story about an inspector that turns up at a family gathering because a girl has just committed suicide. So he’s trying to piece together the circumstances as to why she committed suicide.’
Aside from an obligatory pantomime of Jack and the Beanstalk during the festive season in December, The Doha Players will also be putting on a rendition of American play All My Sons in February 2014 and Les Miserables in May, which will be their biggest and most ambitious production to date. Haven will be the producer for this.
‘That’s going to be a big one,’ he says. Before the recent film with Anne Hathaway came out, amateurs weren’t allowed to put on productions of ‘Les Mis’ – only a school version was available. Now they’ve released the full version, Haven explains.
It was he who secured the rights to the play as production manager. It’s his job to also find a location to hold it, put the director and other heads of departments such as technical, props and make up in place, and organise all the auditions.
After that, he has to sort out anything that needs doing for the director and cast. ‘I’m trying to get as many people involved with it as possible,’ he says.
‘I’m trying to get musicians, singers and, hopefully, it will be at the National Theatre as well.’
He’ll also be producing the fun-loving pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk at the end of the year.
Haven didn’t start out producing though. He tried his hand at acting when he was young, but ‘it wasn’t for me’, he says. Then he moved into broadcast journalism, where he remains to this day as a camera and lighting man for a Doha-based news network. He first joined The Doha Players three years ago as a way to meet people and pass on his skills. Then, there was only one person doing the lighting and he’d been doing it for over 30 years. ‘When I first came I thought, Well I need to train more people up to do the lighting,’ he tells us. Now there’s around seven or eight people that could take over the technical elements at any time.
‘A lot of people have more opportunities today,’ says Haven. ‘For me, personally, I’ve moved into producing.’ While The Doha Players do look for all kinds of members, they’re currently looking for people with directing and producing interests. They are also planning to run more workshops this year in disciplines from sound and lighting to directing and acting, for adults and kids alike.
With over 300 members to date, the skills that new members can pick up by joining are becoming limitless.
Most importantly, however, says Haven, it’s about community. ‘Doha is one of those places that if you get stuck in a certain vicious circle – hanging out only with people from work – it does get a bit small,’ he admits. But by joining a group, and in particular this group where you not only get involved on stage and behind the scenes of productions, but also official and unofficial social gatherings, you get to ‘meet new people, learn a new skill and have fun while you’re doing it.’
To know more about becoming a member of The Doha Players visit www.thedohaplayers.com. Membership costs QR150 a year.
An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestly: The Doha Players rendition
At dinner at the Birling’s home in 1912, wealthy mill owner and local politician Arthur Birling and his family are celebrating the engagement of daughter Sheila to Gerald Croft, Birling’s competitor’s son. After dinner, Inspector Goole arrives and explains that a woman called Eva Smith killed herself by drinking a strong disinfectant. He implies that she has left a diary that includes mention of members in the Birling family. Gradually, we learn how each family member has interacted with Eva and how they contributed to her downfall and eventual suicide. As each person’s role in her demise is exposed, they have a chance to reflect on their actions and to change their ways. But will they?
The Doha Players’ rendition of An Inspector Calls will be on October 22-25 from 6.30pm at The Black Box Theatre, Student Centre, Hamad bin Khalifa University, Education City. Tickets are QR75. Visit www.thedohaplayers.com/aninspectorcalls.