The pandemic has seen a rise in creative output across the world. In the UAE, one woman is determined to encourage and showcase the creativity of People of Determination.
Creativity Undefined spoke with Alba Quadros, the founder of Determined and Dramatic, which offers People of Determination the opportunity to explore their acting side. The group’s most recent project was Quarantined for What Feels Like A Lifetime, a virtual play created by Alba in partnership with The Hive, a Dubai-based performing arts organisation.
“I started working on the play as way to keep myself busy because I was missing my son terribly,” said Alba, a special needs educator. It had been nine months since she saw him but was unable to travel to India and bring him back to Dubai due to the lockdown at the start of the pandemic.
“It was a lot of fun and I learned something new every day. I usually work with neurotypical children in my classes at The Hive, coaching them on creating micro-expressions and other excercises. People of Determination have different ways of expressing themselves so I learned the need to be more open, flexible, and inclusive,” the single mother explained.
It took several weeks to stage the play, from the initial call out for auditions to rehearsals to the final performance over Zoom on August 23, 2020.
“I was overwhelmed with how many people wanted to join so decided that I would include as many people as possible from those who wanted to join. In the end, 16 of the 20 people who auditioned were chosen to star in Quarantined,” Alba said. The participants, aged between 13 and 40 years old, were from different nationalities and have issues such as global developmental delay (GDD), autism, Asperger’s syndrome, muscular dystrophy, learning difficulties, intellectual disabilities, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, or have suffered partial paralysis.
The entire process took place between July and August, a time that Quadros characterised as “exhausting but so much fun”.
“I was dividing my time between The Hive’s summer drama school and the play…I learnt so much while working on it, from figuring out how to adapt the script for each actor to figuring out how to direct virtually as well as things like editing and adding subtitles,” Alba said, laughing.
Among her fondest memories of that time are directing participants while also having to deal with the natural, spontaneous chaos that occurs in anyt home during a zoom call.
“We had instances where someone was talking in the background while I was guiding an actor, or ringing doorbells, or helicopter parents who want to help by also giving instructions that led to some confusion,” she said, smiling.
The final play, which was done with zero budget, was a great success, which encouraged Quadros to begin planning for next summer’s production.
“I’m determined to have a regular summer play featuring People of Determination, both virtually and in-person [once that’s allowed]…I’ve been receiving a lot of positive messages from people who’ve seen it and while that’s lovely, I realised that not many people are actually aware of how much People of Determination can accomplish,” Alba said.
As part of her ongoing efforts, Quadros has been reaching out to schools and different organisations to screen the play.
“I want to raise as much awareness as possible…I’ve been [Direct Messaging’] school principals and even the account of Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister, and the Ruler of Dubai],” she said, adding: “I hope that I’ll be able to find someone to sponsor this initiative because I want to be able to offer People of Determination a full programme that allows them to explore their creativity fully.”
Her second initiative, ‘The Buddy Project’, is a continuation of Alba’s ongoing efforts.
“I wanted to pair people, one neutrotypical and one Person of Determination, based on their mutual interests and then work with them to figure out what they can work on or which project’s best for them,” she explained.
Alba strongly believes that once the pandemic is over, there will be a surge in creative output from the People of Determination community, and she wants to do her part to help raise awareness and create dedicated programmes for them.
“I’m planning to launch a full fledged drama class and regular plays with The Hive, who are an amazing and supportive group of women, by buddying up People of Determination actors with senior ones from my other classes…I’m already seeing a lot of stuff coming out from the Buddy Project that I can’t wait to share with everyone,” Alba said, smiling.
You can learn more about Determined and Dramatic here