Faced with a cash crunch, Thespo, Mumbai’s annual youth theatre festival, may have to cut down on its programming significantly for this year’s edition. Since it launched its crowdfunding programme in October, Thespo has only managed to raise Rs 84,000 out of the Rs 10 lakh it was aiming for. If the target is not met by December 5, the festival will commence with a significant cut on programming with international artistes.
The fest includes several artistes from the UK – Trin Haldar who will host a session on clowning, Josephine Joy will teach participants about the Suzuki method of performance, and Sarah Punshon will instruct directors on the art of creating stage pictures.
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Overall, Thespo will have 20 full-length productions, short-duration plays, and live music performances.
Quasar Padamsee, the artistic director and co-founder of Thespo, said crowdfunding deadline can’t be extended, as this year’s festival, in its 18th edition, will kick off just a week later on December 12 at Prithvi Theatre and the NCPA. The amount collected will be returned to the donors as per guidelines of Quickberry, the crowdfunding platform Thespo is using.
Padamsee believes that the funding issue stems from excessive focus on quantity over quality. “Sponsorship is now numbers-based,” said Padamsee, “Corporations look at footfalls.” He added that brands earlier aligned with organisations whose work they believed in. “That worked for us. Now, they have shifted their support to events that can bolster their brand name.”
Thespo, however, is not in sync with this approach of corporates. “We are a nurturing agency,” Padamsee pointed out. “We don’t want to have three thousand people turn up. Our festival is not designed for that,” he said.
Instead, the festival prides itself on being an open and encouraging atmosphere for young professionals – the participants are under 25 years – to pick up skills and expose themselves to different forms of theatre. “The young Indian performer nowadays barely knows about the wide variety of theatre forms around the world,” Padamsee said.
Accordingly, the tickets for Thespo are highly subsidised. For students, tickets are priced at Rs 100 whereas general tickets cost Rs 200.