Loom Ensemble’s play Say I Am You brings a new form of theatre to the UAE

The producers at the company, which mixes live music, dance and theatrical story-telling, wrote the play through online discussions between New York and Dubai.

A rehearsal of the play Say I Am You, which has been conceptualised by Loom Ensemble. Jaime Puebla / The National
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What do a research biologist, a pre-modern Chinese peasant, a blunt American college freshman and the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi have in common?

They are four characters in a present-day play that asks: “What makes us whole?”

Loom Ensemble, a New York-based theatre collaboration, which recently branched out to Dubai, will stage Say I Am You at thejamjar in Dubai.

The producers of the company, which mixes live music, dance and theatrical storytelling, wrote the play through online discussions between New York and Dubai.

With two founders based in Dubai and the other two in the United States, the idea was created, written and edited via online chats. They’ve all been working together since May, using Google Hangouts, Skype and conference-call services to work on choreography, rehearsals and script-swapping, as well as sharing spreadsheets, MP3s and video clips recorded on their iPhones. This extended rehearsal period has been crucial in allowing Loom to put on an ambitious production with a modest budget.

"We start with a blank page and collaboratively we weave together – equal parts dance, music and theatre," says Raphael Sacks, a co-founder of Loom Ensemble.

The play has four leads, each played by the original founders of Loom: Michael Bauer, Sasha Bogdanowitsch, Neva Cockrell and Sacks. Three others artists will be flown over from the US for the show and they will be joined by nine Dubai residents for the production.

“Four people from four different worlds come together in an unlikely meeting. We draw inspiration from a traditional fairy-tale-like China, the biography and poetry of Rumi, a story of a modern-day suburban youth and essays from modern science.”

Each character is in search of a sense of well-being and completeness and helps each other in the journey.

Sacks says the idea for the play, which explores human emotions, came about through an introspection of their own lives and the role of art. “We start asking the profound questions of how we lead our lives, how do we build a new modern culture and where is the role of art and performance inside this – which we want to share with Dubai,” he says.

“Dubai as a city is asking these questions about balance and cultural richness – the idea of building a modern society with all of the traditional wisdom and deep understanding of older cultures. We believe art plays a large role in this.”

He says the pensive theme will not take away from the entertainment quotient of the production.

“This show invites the audience to explore a full range of emotions,” he says. “We ask these questions, we open ourselves to heartache, but we also celebrate and laugh through the whole show. We hope the audience can come away with this basic delight and a feeling of wholeness.”

• Say I Am You will be staged on February 6, 7 and 8 at 8pm at thejamjar in Al Quoz 3, Dubai. Tickets are by donation, with a suggested range between Dh25 and Dh100. To reserve a seat, email info@thejamjardubai.com or call 04 341 7303