Theatre: My own Peculiar World | Kaoutar Chahbane from Morocco

This story is not finished… yet.

In a world of cruel reality
It is somehow compulsory
To find a way
To stay away
To find magic
In some peculiar world of magic.

My story starts with a dream, a decision, and determination. It was at the age of 10 that I decided to be an actress (not for a lifetime though). I was that kind of kid who wants and thinks of herself capable of doing multiple things at once. Our primary school organized auditions and training for an annual school play. And that year, I was determined to be part of it. It was a very professional play for a primary school performance. There were auditions and training before even before the audition process.

I loved acting mainly because I love anything that was magical, anything that was peculiar. And for me theatre has all the necessary ingredients to be the most magical thing in the world.

For days, all I could think of is the play and how it would be beautiful to be part of it. I became obsessed. I started imagining myself in different customs, playing different characters, and performing memorable acts. I would wake up on a Sunday morning, stare into the mirror, and start talking to myself, crying with no particular reason, then laughing out loud just for the sake of fun. That’s how I felt about acting- it was FUN. I even convinced my little sister to join me although she was not fond of theatre. OK, to be honest, she hated it. I would act out different scenes in front of my parents. I loved playing the villain, just for the sake of making the evil laugh. Seriously, who wouldn’t love performing the “muwhahaha” laughter.

It was Sunday morning, cold, cloudy, and beautiful. My favourite kind of days. I woke up early, woke my sister, got dressed. We were about to leave when I noticed that it is unusually dark outside. I checked the time to find out that we still have more than one hour to leave. I was that much excited. We sat at the kitchen table, waiting.

After the auditions and the training, I was picked for a main role in the play. I was very happy and proud of myself. The play was called ’A Sheep Called Mabrouk’. It was about a small sheep that goes missing, the aftermath of this event, and the reaction of the whole forest. 

Looking back, I realize that the play was full of symbolism. I played the bear, the wise character in the play, who was the leader of the forest. Somehow in that play, the lion did not have the main role to play except for attending the celebrations. It was the bear that had the authority to make all the rules. The bear was a wise leader, wise enough to care about its people, and to make them the only priority. This character did whatever it can to find the lost Mabrouk, a single ordinary member of the community. This taught me that any capable human being can be a leader. You don’t have to be the lion. You just need to be you. You just need to care.

A part of being a cast member of the annual play was to promote it. We would have to go to different classes in the school, and talk for 10 minutes or so at the beginning of each session about our project, convincing people of the beauty of it, and to make them want to watch it. Also, we would have to do so wearing our animal customs with no shoes on, and not caring at all. Yes, we were that cool. This play taught me so many different things. It showed me how to be more confident. It also made me learn so many things about different people. Because of it, I met so many wonderful people who become wonderful friends of mine. I was taught the beauty of being appreciated by others who were not my parents.

I remember one rainy day, we had a local primary school contest. I was playing in the rain with a few of my friends when Mr. Abdelmalek came outside with an umbrella to protect us from the rain and prevent us from getting sick and missing the play.  Mr. Abdelmalek was a member of the school staff, and perhaps one of the most amazing people that I have ever met. His actions that day made us feel as if we were superstars. It made us feel important. And for a younger mind like ours, that feeling was important.

It was April, the day of our big performance. The day was one of those sunny days that makes you feel alive. It was one of those days that give you the impression of an upcoming discovery; it’s like you’re Alice, and you are just about to follow the rabbit into the magical hole. Though my hole leads to a totally different world. There were no cards, no queen, no babies, and no tea parties. And it was not a dream, definitely not a dream. It was reality.

I decided to wear my flowery shirt for the occasion. I quickly regretted that decision once we were in the car. It turned out that my shirt was made of a very weird material that makes it look so beautiful but very uncomfortable, and even painful. I started feeling itchy, and I couldn’t wait to change outfits into my lovely bear custom. 

We performed in the royal theatre in Marrakesh, a huge fascinating place that was opened for the event “Children Theatre Forum”. For a 10 year old like me, it was like visiting magical Hogwarts. Students came from different schools to share their passion. The large room was full of curious different people: parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, friends, and.. others. There were about 200 or so, cameras everywhere. All came to see a group of children having fun. 

My parents and my two sisters were in the audience. They were sitting in the front row with a bunch of flowers in their hand. As we waited for our turn in the backstage, we glanced through the curtains to see the other plays. One may think that while waiting for them to finish, we revised our lines, trained our vocals, or even wiped our “nervousness sweat”. However, it was the opposite. There was no revision, no training, and certainly not a single drop of sweat. Instead, we spend that time running in the corridors, racing, going to different rooms, meeting other performers, and trying different elevators. As I told you, it was a special night in Hogwarts. 

When it was our turn to perform, we were serious, passionate and focused – we were having FUN. I felt so proud that night. We did really well. Our play contained strong dialogues, dancing, singing, animals of different kind, an interesting plot; it was a success. When we finished, the audience applaud heavily showing their appreciation. Mr. Abdelmalek introduced each one of us, and my mother made my sisters give each one of the cast members a flower. I got two. Again, we felt like superstars. 

Looking back at those days remembering that little dreamy girl, I feel so blessed of being part of that family, of that world. I admire the confidence little Kaoutar and her friends had at that early age. I admire the support that the school staff showed for us. I admire, respect, and love the change that those teachers were trying to make. Maybe one day, making students feel important will be a given. Maybe we will see future students having that much confidence thanks to teachers who are showing that much support. Maybe someday, education will be that much fun.

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