Years ago, when Marathi playwright Satish Alekar visited Marathi theatre director-actor Vijaya Mehta in the green room before a show, he spotted a bottle of phenyl kept in one corner. When he asked her about it, she said since toilets in the performance spaces were not very clean, artistes preferred to carry phenyl bottles with themselves. Alekar recounted this as theatre practitioners from 17 groups from across the country completed their course in SMART (Strategic Management in the Art of Theatre), the first-ever capacity-building programme in theatre.
According to Alekar, while theatre in India has largely been disorganised, its practitioners have found some ingenious ways of dealing with it. SMART is an attempt to better that by addressing theatre groups’ need to understand the role of strategic thinking and management in their work. A collaborative project of India Theatre Forum (ITF), India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) and Junoon, this course, Sanjna Kapoor says, is a very special arts management intervention that can change the face of Indian theatre in the long run.
Sameera Iyengar, course founder, says, “We were gratified to see groups like Abhinaya (Thiruvanan thapuram) and Jana Natya Manch (Delhi), who have been around for over 40 years, open themselves up to serious questioning and soul searching, and take active steps to address their organisational structure and functioning to make it more relevant to the current times. Young groups like Natak Company (Pune) and the younger brigade of Samudaya (Bangalore) identified the need for learning and knowledge.”
After the graduation of the first batch, certain changes have been introduced in the course. Iyengar says, “It has now been developed into a two-year programme. In the first year, the course will be carried out in three phases — a 10-day foundation course, four-month mentorship period and a two-day final workshop, followed by graduation. Next year, a three-day conclave will bring together more than 100 theatre people to learn about stories of innovative efforts in management for theatre from India and abroad.” The next course is in 2016, beginning June/July.