Building Skylines: ISTA Drama Festival 2019

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi hosted the ISTA (International Schools Theatre Association) festival this year, bringing together eight schools from the UAE as well as Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and India. The event took place from 7 March – 8 March under the theme of “Building Skylines” that reflects both the metaphorical and literal inspiration of how this region continues to develop. The ISTA festival and organizers hold the belief that the future of our world depends on confident, internationally minded, collaborative and culturally literate young people who are empowered to engage with and change the world responsibly. The ISTA experience provides an opportunity for this to be achieved by gathering young people, artists and teachers from different countries in different settings to experience, create and learn about theatre. Daniel Sarstedt, ISTA Artistic Director, stated “The whole week was just stunning, and especially how you all at Cranleigh made us feel so welcome. I can’t thank you enough for the experience.”

Participating schools from outside the country included the American British Academy from Oman, FMV Özel Ayazaga Isik from Turkey, the KAUST School from Saudi Arabia and Oberoi International School from India. From the UAE, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi was joined by GEMS American Academy, The British School Al Khubairat and Raha International School. Pupils spent the first day engaging with the cultural landscape of Abu Dhabi, visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi where they were able to work on their ensembles after viewing the different exhibits. The rest of the days were spent with participants breaking into ensemble groups with workshop leaders that addressed different components of drama and performing arts.










Philip Brooks, Head of Drama, added, “I was proud to work with such an amazing Cranleigh team. Also a big thank you to the ISTA Artists and visiting schools – what a great experience!”

The workshops included sessions such as “Go With Your Gut” where pupils were taught to follow their instincts, “Move and Dance” where pupils learned a pop dance routine, “Shadow Puppetry” where they learned how to make their own theatre, “Castle without Walls” where they explored the different elements of set design, and “Musical Theatre” which allowed pupils to compose using vocal techniques. Sydney Smith, ISTA Artist, stated “Twas lovely to spend so many lovely moments together. Thanks for all the jokes, chats and quality time we spent together. Cranleigh will always have a special place in my heart.”

The festival ended with showcase performances to a public audience from all participating ensemble groups and workshop leaders. Watch a video of the festival highlights here.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi from Cranleigh Abu Dhabi on Vimeo.


ISTA Day 2 from Cranleigh Abu Dhabi on Vimeo.