The power of the Arts in social change
As the stage lights went out and the theatre became quiet, Angie's heart beat quickly and a shiver of excitement ran through her body. She had been preparing for this day for so long, working day and night with her team to make sure that this play would turn into a big success. It was a very special play for her, since it was the first to be written, directed and produced by her!
Angie Soliman is a 30 year old bright Egyptian woman. She is a smart business woman, co- running a family business in Cairo. When I first met Angie, I found her to be a strong, ambitious and practical woman; but never did I know her passion for arts and theatre until recently.
Angie’s love for the arts started at a very young age when she first encountered the music videos of some of the famous pop singers at that time “Michael Jackson was an inspiration to me. His shows were the best you could get, they were fascinating! All the colors, the music and the dancing provoked me to explore the artist within and to express myself in writing, dancing and singing.” Angie was 20 year old when she decided to join the theatre service in her church. She started by acting in small roles, but soon she developed a special interest in directing. As a business manager, she found a lot of similarities between running a business and directing a play: both entailed managing a mixture of ingredients to produce the desired outcome. Angie’s hidden talent was soon discovered by Dr.Mina, the theatre director, who asked her to join him as an assistant director in 2003. Since then, Angie not only started her journey of discovering the world of theatre directing, but she went deeper onto a path of self-discovery, where she got in touch with hidden dimensions within herself that she had never experienced before. “I discovered myself on a deeper level,” Angie recalls “I’ve also learnt a lot about producing something out of nothing and doing everything from scratch.”
The theatre for Angie was much more than finding solace in acting and directing; it also became a tool for her to help out the youth in her community, especially those who joined the theatre service. “Arts have always been a powerful tool in trust building and relationship development,” Angie notes. “In our theatre team, we try to break through to the youth, to know their needs, and hence to serve them better; theatre helps us do that because they love it and they become themselves totally. We jump on the opportunity and be their friends, and the more plays we act out together the deeper our relationship becomes.” She also observed how theatre helped youth to gain a lot of skills they wouldn’t have gained elsewhere; Skills like communication, teamwork, budgeting and time management are only a handful of what youth gain through their experience in the theatre.
Sending a message through the arts is always a thousand times more effective than just saying it. Youth have realized that through their work in the theatre team, they became more empowered by making a difference in their communities through the messages on which the plays are based. All of the plays they were part of have been crafted around a message and a meaning. “The first play I directed discussed the gap between generations and how this gap can be closed by empathy and putting oneself in other shoes.” Angie notes. “Another play that I assisted in directing in 2005 talked about power, and examples from the history about people who abused the power they had. “
Angie’s work in business has often intertwined with her work in theatre, inspiring her to try different things and to seek hidden angles. As a business entrepreneur, Angie has always understood the importance of taking initiatives and being creative. She noticed during her work in theatre that the Egyptian youth are very creative, but often lacked the confidence or the opportunity to make the best use of this creativity. Angie highlighted during the interview how theatre has a big impact on the youth’ self-confidence: “I always enjoy the confidence in the youth voices and postures after the performance .As they accumulate experience, they become more confident in creating and experimenting.”
In 2011, Angie decided to take her passion for the arts a step further to pursue studies in arts production. This has not been an easy decision since it entailed taking some time off from managing the family business and resulted in resistance from some of the family members. However, her strong passion and her vision made her take this bold step that was a long awaited dream. After finishing her studies, Angie wants to use the arts as a tool for learning and self-discovery “One of the ideas I want to work on is bringing big musicals and theatre performances to the rural children and youth in Egypt. As much as the colors, the music and the dancing provoked me to explore the artist within and encouraged me to express myself in writing, dancing and singing, giving the Egyptian children and youth such an exposure at an early age will make them rediscover themselves, push their boundaries and learn more about the surrounding world.”
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.