Interview with Luay Eljamal for our monthly snapd Wood Buffalo artist feature Centre Stage with Arts Council Wood Buffalo!
Theatre has been a prominent part of Luay Eljamal’s life since the tender age of 12, when he first performed in elementary and high school productions. He viewed his theatre practice as a hobby, but after gaining provincial acclaim directing a one-act play, Luay was encouraged to pursue the arts into his post-secondary degree studies. In 2015, he moved to London, UK to complete his Master of Arts in Contemporary Performance Making, remained in London, working with various theatre artists as an assistant director, audiovisual designer, as well as general managing an independent theatre. Luay is now bringing his wealth of theatre experience to the stages of Wood Buffalo, launching his new theatre company called Symmetree Theatre.
“To start my own theatre company has been a dream of mine for 9 years now. I have always felt that the beauty in theatre is that it shows the world through a lens that looks beyond what we can or have already achieved in reality,” he says. “It has the power to show us what a more inclusive world would look like and inspires audiences across the world to work towards achieving and celebrating those ideals. I also think it’s important to empower audiences to think and feel.”
Symmetree Theatre’s debut performance is a new play called Freeing Heaven’s Secrets, written and directed by Luay. This immersive audio theatre performance follows Scheherazade, a young blind girl on her deathbed, who promises her father that she will visit him in his dreams and let him know what her heaven is like. On her journey to the other side, Scheherazade passes her blindness onto the audience, and gifts herself with sight, inviting the audience to experience her heaven through the element of sound alone, and allowing them to experience her heaven the way she would have experienced our earth.
“A lot of the time, theatre operates showing us the hardships that marginalized groups have had to endure in order to thrive in our society,” explains Luay. “This is important—plays such as Rent, and Angels in America exposed audiences to new groups of people and the hardships that the struggles that they were fighting to overcome. While it is important to shine a light on these issues, I also felt it was important to show people what the world would look like should these people be seen in stories that are not about those hardships. Stories where, despite their differences, they fight to overcome issues that plague us all as humans.”
When first arriving in Fort McMurray, Luay was surprised to learn that this small town had a state-of-the-art theatre, and expresses pride to see our arts community continue to grow: “I have always felt fortunate to be exposed to the theatre world through the Wood Buffalo arts community” he says. “We have been blessed to have the support of the oil and gas industry here, which has given a lot of our artists the agency to explore their own skills and talents, whatever their medium may be.”
Freeing Heaven’s Secrets will be performed on November 1st and 2nd, 2019, at the Suncor Energy Centre for Performing Arts. For more information on Freeing Heaven’s Secrets and Symmetree Theatre, visit www.symmetreetheatre.com. If you would like to learn more about Arts Council Wood Buffalo, our programs and events, visit www.artscouncilwb.ca, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.