7 minutes with...Stage Director Shera Lea Saunders
Far away from the bright lights of Broadway or the West End, a night at the theatre can be a rare treat here.
But teacher Shera Lea Saunders and the Abu Dhabi Choral Group make it their mission to bring quality amateur productions to stage fans in the UAE - next up, a classic with a difference.
Tell us about your upcoming production - it’s a twist on a fairytale favourite right?
It certainly is! ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ is a hilarious, slightly skewed retell of the classic fairytale ‘The Princess and the Pea’ written by Hans Christian Anderson. The classic tale tells of a Prince who refuses to be married unless it’s to a real princess. To be completely sure she is a ‘princess’ the contenders for his hand must pass a series of tests. However, the tests are seemingly impossible. One night a young lady appears at the castle gate dripping wet and claiming to be a princess.
What sort of test could be devised for this
This version of the story tells of a test involving anxious courtiers, a loud-mouthed princess, an overbearing queen and a prince with the backbone of a jellyfish, who all pin their hopes and dreams in a tiny pea placed beneath 20 mattresses. What could possibly go wrong?
What got you into drama and performing?
I spent long hours in the theatre all through high school and university. I was fortunate enough to gain a spot in a conservatory acting programme through the University of Alberta in Canada and graduated with a BFA in Theatre.
Can you tell us how the AD Choral Group got started?
ADCG was pulled together by a group of expats with a passion for music. They got together regularly and started singing music, ranging from show tunes to madrigals to barbershop. That was more than 15 years ago and the group is still going strong today.
It must be a challenge producing something of this scale with amateur actors and producers - how do the cast juggle their day jobs and the demands of the stage?
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. People get called away from rehearsal for conferences and meetings all the time but we try to create a rehearsal schedule that has as little impact as possible on people’s daytime responsibilities. If we’re lucky, rehearsing the show becomes a fun and engaging experience, therefore people don’t mind missing out on a few hours of their weekends.
What’s your favourite stage show of all time?
Usually I’m a ‘straight’ theatre girl. Lots of drama and dark glances but there’s a little-known musical that has recently been revived in London named ‘Ragtime’. I laughed, cried and sang along. I have to say it was one of the most powerful theatre experiences I have enjoyed in a long time.
What do you hope the audience go away with on the big night?
I’m looking for one quotable moment. Something they’ll tell their friends about three days later. Hopefully they’ll wake up one morning refreshed and bright-eyed thinking “Well at least I’m not Fred” then chuckle to themselves on the way to the shower.
‘Once Upon a Mattress’ will be performed at Brighton College, near Khalifa Park, on Thursday May 31, Friday June 1 and Saturday June 2, plus an extra afternoon show on the Friday. Tickets Dhs80 - Dhs50 for
the matinee. For more information, and a map, visit www.abudhabichoralgroup.com