Do you think of Lady Macbeth while washing your hands repeatedly, Hamlet’s “To Be or Not To Be” when deciding on household chores or Romeo and Juliet as you stand on a balcony late evening? If so, you belong to a community of theatre regulars for whom the lockdown means spending endless days without drama. Theatre has found a way. to reach you A number of performers from across genres are fighting the dark times by screening, streaming and sharing some of their best productions to audiences or offering masterclasses. On World Theatre Day, you could celebrate with some of these works:
Quarantine Theatre Festival
Where: Facebook page of Asmita Theatre Group
Asmita, an activist theatre group from Delhi, has a packed calendar of nukkad natak and proscenium productions at this time of the year. When social distancing came into effect across India, director Arvind Gaur messaged his group, “Log pareshan hai, dare hai, dukhi hai (people are worried, frightened and sad). What is the responsibility of an artist who uses theatre as a social tool?” The brainstorming resulted in the Quarantine Theatre Festival, from on March 21 -31, which features screenings of the best shows of the group. The recordings are from Asmita’s archives and smartly shot and edited. The plays are not trying to be films and you are not allowed to forget that you are watching a screening of a proscenium production. A new play opens at 7 pm every day but you can view anytime and anywhere. The inaugural show, Amritsar Aa Gaya, based on a story by Bhisham Sahni, attracted 54,000 views. The next day, the story about the Partition, Jis Lahore Nai.Dekhya Woh Jamyai Nai was watched by 18,000 viewers. This was followed by Court Martial, a courtroom drama, on Tuesday. Coming up this evening is Ramkali, based on Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan. It revolves around a sex worker, who runs a tobacco shop. When she realises that people were fleecing her, Ramkali invents a ruthless male cousin to keep things in check. Does she succeed in being good in a bad world?
Where: Facebook page of Manish Joshi
Theatre director Manish Joshi begins his Facebook post with, “You have all heard of Dada Lakhmi Chand but nobody knows anything about him.” He has shared a recording of his play, Lakhmiprem, so that people, confined to their homes with their children, can understand the life of one of the greatest poets and performers of the Haryanvi language. Chand is the writer of major works of Swaang, a folk performance form, such as Nal-Damyanti, Mirabai, Satyavan-Savitri and Puran Bhagat. The 1.14 hour recording of the play travels the arc, from Chand as a young boy deeply interested in Swaang to his becoming a writer who had a large following among the youth but little appreciation from intellectuals until Chand’s perseverance won. Today, more than 70 years after his death, Chand is referred to as the Sooryakavi of Haryanvi literature. Featuring 60 performers, the musical uses songs and dances to carry forward the storyline as well as represent the texture of Haryana. The recording maintains the ambience of theatre but is pepped up by casting commercial names such as Prashant Khairwal, a well-known playback singer, and folk artiste Vikas Satrodia.
Workshop on Puppets
Where: Facebook page of Anurupa Roy
If the terms Thol Pava Koothu, Togalu Gombeyatta and Tholu Bommalattam mean nothing to you, a journey into the history of puppets is a good option during the quarantine. Thol Pava Koothu is a shadow puppet of Kerala, Togalu Gombeyatta is the leather shadow puppets of Karnataka and Tholu Bommalattam is the largest leather shadow puppet of India. These are among the puppets that have fascinated Anurupa Roy for more than 40 years. One of the leading theatre practitioners of India, Roy tells gripping stories on stage and street using puppets. Now, she is conducting a workshop on puppetry through her Facebook page. The week-long initiative, from March 22, was in reposes to requests from adults and children and began with the Rajasthani kathputli, which is the most widely-known form of puppetry despite being one of the newest. In her videos, Roy has recorded the video on her cellphone camera to create an informal and “home-made” feel; she speaks directly to the viewers, keeps her lecture short and conversational and supplements it with descriptive notes on the history of puppet traditions and links to recordings of shows by master puppeteers. You learn about the evolution of puppets through regions and political history of India. For instance, why the clowns look so similar across South and South East Asia? Was it because shadow puppeteers travelled between India and South East Asia? As part of the workshop, you also get to watch master puppeteers such as Gunduraju, Chidambara Rao and puppet maker Dalavi Anadha at work to keep alive a vibrant art form.
BBO In The Clouds
Where: Instagram page of Black Box Okhla
If every bookworm dreams of being a bestselling writer, are theatre audiences playwrights in secret? Black Box Okhla, a performance space in Delhi, offers a chance to be a part o a masterpiece. Since March 20, they are running a “virtual engagement” programme called “BBO in the Clouds”. It works on the premise that “if your smart phone screen was your own Black Box, what would you stage?” Every day at 5 pm, the organisers put up a post on their Instagram page and ask you to vote. On March 24, you were asked to choose where to situate the play—a mythical village or a crowded city — and the protagonist, who could be a giraffe or an astronaut. Would you like techno or folk as the background score? Who would be your antagonist — a robot with three blind mice or a government clerk? According to you, would the drama rise when there is a) Message from the zombies, or b) a new scientific discovery. The option with the most votes wins. Till now, the genre of the play has emerged as “Comedic Edgy-Experimental Theatre Piece” and the setting is “a fantasy, performed in-the-round with a large ensemble and thoughtful design with no intermission”. The programme runs till March 31. Nikhil Mehta of Black Box Okhla says, “Only 1 oer cent audiences chose a classical theatre performance over edgy experimental play? That’s a thrilling result and makes us excited to create work for our audiences.”
The Roots India
“I know that staying confined to the house can be unsettling but we can interact over social media. I though literature is a good way to escape present anxieties. Let us read some stories and poems to each other,” says actor Zeeshan Ayub in. a recorded video. He reads out from Harishankar Parsai’s Mahatma Gandhi ko Chitthi Pahunche, a story that resonates with present politics. The video is a a part of the collection that The Roots India art organisation is making available publicly “to keep the artistic instinct alive in all of us”. The arts inputs will arrive on your phone in the form of a poem, recording of a play, short story or reading materials such as the writings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Tiil now, the group has sent out an enjoyable 18-minute shadow puppet performance, Machhar Ka Pyara Sandesh. a poem by Sahir Ludhianvi, titled Yeh His Ka Lahu Hai, and a letter from Bhagat Singh to Sukhdev on April 5, 1929, among others. The collection includes performances from the Short Play theatre festival, such as a collegiate street play caed Bhein, Bahot Badiya University and Date If you are bored over the next three weeks, check your phone for tidbits of literature and performances. Register on the WhatsApp number 9953384330.
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