With play readings,Pune theatre finds a new creative outlet
At a bustling local shopping mall,a small crowd can be seen milling around a makeshift stage,absorbed in the events unfolding there. The podium has a small group of actors,carefully reading lines from a script,enacting a play before the rather amazed audience out on a shopping spree. The surprise,however,is a pleasant one. Theatre,now,is reaching people not just through performances on stage but through readings. Traditionally limited to private practice sessions,play readings are increasingly becoming commonplace in public places from malls to five star hotels. If on Sunday evening Vikram Kapadia directed a reading of A Wedding Without the Bride at Radisson Hotel,Christopher Durang-written,Mahrukh N Bharucha-directed Beyond Therapy was read out at Phoenix Market City in June.
I’m not sure if play readings are popular in other cities but in Pune the concept seems to be working well. Our reading had a great audience,who were co-operative and appreciative of our performance, says Kapadia,who made sure that the audience was kept engaged. During the reading,the actors not just read the script but also expressed the nuances and emotions and acted the scenes as if it was on-stage. The only difference is that they are holding the script in their hands, adds Kapadia.
The fact that such readings can be organised in shoe-strings budgets also adds to their popularity and enables theatre groups to reach out to audience who might later turn into regular patrons. A stage performance costs much more,with stage space,lights,music and everything else that goes with it. In a play reading the costs are considerably lower, says Bharucha,adding,This also allows artistes to explore more plays and the audience also gets a glimpse of theatre. They can enjoy a play without shelling out a lot of money for the tickets.
Pune-based playwright Dippale Parmar,was perhaps one of the first to organise play-readings sessions in the city. Back in 2007,she opened her Shastrinagar house for limited groups of 15-20 people. With public spaces like malls coming into the picture,there is wider exposure and appreciation for these performances. It is a win-win situation — the malls benefit from greater goodwill,artistes find an expressive outlet and the audience enjoys a performance, she says.
However,the picture is not completely rosy and play-readings do have a set of challenges. Kapadia points out that the team of A Wedding Without The Bride spent a month rehearsing for one performance. It’s not feasible to practice for such a long time just for one show. The format can only work if we have a series of play readings or we combine it with educational discussions about the writers and the scripts, he says.