THE Open Air Theatre of Punjab Kala Bhawan in Sector 16 will soon be buzzing with theatre activity with the Punjab Arts Council deciding to give the space for free to theatre groups from across Punjab, inviting them to perform in Chandigarh on a regular basis. The idea is to encourage young theatre artistes to reach out to audiences outside their spaces and in the process also interact with other theatre groups and develop their art.
“Street plays, theatre festivals, training workshops, we have a line-up for these artistes who are working in small towns and villages against all odds and need exposure and support. The Punjab Arts Council and the Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi, as part of a programme, recently connected with as many as 100 artistes from across Punjab at Virsa Vihar Amritsar to understand their challenges so that we can include their ideas and suggestions for promoting theatre in the forthcoming Culture Policy of Punjab,” said Satinder Satti, chairperson, Punjab Arts Council.
Satti added that the free space to perform, providing facilities for plays, encouraging artistes to do ticketed shows would initiate new dialogues and creative endeavours. With many creative and artistic endeavours taken forward by groups and individuals on their own, without government or corporate support, free spaces for rehearsals and performances pave a way for encouraging and supporting artistic activities and hopefully also sensitising audiences towards the many challenges on this journey.
Recently, Neenu Vij, a painter and president of Chandigarh Rotary Club, has transformed an unused space in the Sector 18 club into a gallery and area for workshops, inviting 100 artists and students from the city to create works on the theme of environment. To encourage interaction between artists, Vij is now developing the space so that students and upcoming artists can use the space to hold exhibitions, workshops and interactions for free. “We have painted the walls and also got new lights, so that art works can get a display and also the space can be used for lectures on art,” said Vij.
At the Tagore Theatre, eight theatre groups from the city are rehearsing these days at the two halls given free for rehearsals. With three-hour shifts starting from 9 am to 9 pm, according to Balkar Sidhu, the director, the two halls are equipped with the basics and are a constant space of activity. “It is a central space, with an ambience for art and we plan our day according to the time slot we get here and with most of us funding our own groups, the free space is a huge advantage. Also, we get to meet and share so many aspects of our work with each other,” said a young actor.
Likewise, painter and performing artiste Harpreet Singh, who has created and conceptualised the Healing Art Residency in Morni, said art needs encouragement and support at various levels. Apart from a space for workshops, dance performances, Singh is setting up a small studio for print-making, as many cannot pursue the form, for lack of equipment. The model is that artists come and work here, and give back by sharing their skills with younger artists and also the villagers here. “Opening the space to artists from across the country and abroad will create new idioms of art,” said Singh.