Today on Artist Strong we interview Creative Tiffany Schultz who has helped build The Courtyard Playhouse utilizing Aflamnah, the Middle East’s first crowdfunding platform. The Courtyard Playhouse is Dubai’s first independent ‘fringe’ theatre.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Tiffany! Can you share a little about yourself?
Thanks! My degree is in Fine Fine Arts and literature. I’m a sculptor and photographer, theatre-lover, and a bit if a ‘dreamer’. I met my soulmate, Kemsley, in Dubai through a local amateur theatre group 7 years ago. We’ve run Drama Dubai together for the past 6 years and founded the Courtyard Playhouse a year ago.
Carrie: What is The Courtyard Playhouse?
The Playhouse is a passion project that my husband, Kemsley and I decided to tackle in early 2013. We found the Courtyard while looking for warehouse spaces and fell in love with the place. It started out as a partitioned office which we renovated over a period of a year and turned it into a beautiful little theatre. It is a 58 seater but we also have beanbags for those packed improv or comedy nights.
Carrie: How did the idea for The Courtyard Playhouse develop?
We’ve been doing plays and holding acting workshops in Dubai for 7 years now and finally we decided we were tired of renting other peoples space, we wanted to have a ‘home’ for Drama Dubai. We were also tired of complaining about the ‘soulless’ feeling at some theatres and art spaces in Dubai and decided to create something which contrasts sharply with the stereotypical Dubai image of the best, biggest, most famous, etc… so the Playhouse is small, intimate, cosy, quirky, genuinely community-based and made with a lot of love and passion. We also wanted to create a space for locally based talent to develop and thrive. A space where artists, writers, directors and community groups could afford to hire and not have to compromise artistically because of the overriding need to sell tickets.
Carrie: Can you explain Aflamnah to our readership? How did you discover it?
Aflamnah is a great crowd-funding platform, the first in the ME. Run by a lovely husband and wife couple who are passionate and very supportive of the arts in Dubai.
Basically, you offer rewards to the community in return for their financial backing, which can start from as little as 10USD.
It’s not the route for someone after an ‘easy buck’. It’s very hard work to run an effective campaign, but totally worth it. We ended up with over 100 supporters which, for a small arts community like Dubai, is not bad going. It really does get the community involved and excited about what you’re doing.
Carrie: What was the hardest part about making The Courtyard Playhouse a reality?
What wasn’t? It’s never really been done here. The theatres we have are all corporate or government funded (I mean, a theatre in a mall??!). It’s been one trial after another. Financially, because we funded it ourselves, with the help of family and two great partners, emotionally, because we had our first baby at the same time, and physically, because we had a newborn baby and enormous amounts of stress and pressure. Renovations and government licensing, etc. were the most difficult obstacles I would say. But when we had our first Improv show in November, it was the most exciting night of my life. I was totally elated and it was all worth it.
Carrie: What has been something that has surprised you about this project?
The support from the community has been a big surprise. We had no idea how the crowdfunding would go, but we knew we needed the help. Even now, we get companies and individuals who are so generous and supportive. It’s amazing.
Carrie: Can you describe a few of your recent projects/shows that you’re especially proud The Courtyard Playhouse has hosted?
Our Opening Show was in May: Grassroots Revue. The first of our showcases for locally-based talent. We had poets, comedians, sketches, short plays, improv… all written, produced and acted by Dubai residents. It was fantastic to see such talent and the response from the audience was incredible. We are so excited about the next Grassroots Revue!
Carrie: Advice for anyone who wishes to bring the arts to their community?
Draw inspiration from other’s around you who have managed to do it in Dubai, a pretty non-arts friendly place, when all’s considered. Don’t try to do it alone, it’s not easy! There are a lot of people in Dubai who can contribute their talent and support, you just need to reach them by spreading the word about your project, getting people excited.
Carrie: How can people get involved?
Our website is www.courtyardplayhouse.com. If anyone is interested in putting on a play, learning acting or improv, coming to watch some awesome improv or top quality locally based productions, please visit us on Facebook, drop us an email and come to a show and chat with us afterwards!
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Shedding, even briefly, the predefined restrictions and expectations modern society put on us as adults and reconnecting with the natural curiosity and impulse to create which is at the core of human nature.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: How have you utilized the expertise and help of others in your creative journey? Share in the comments below.
*all photos taken by Tiffany Schultz