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Colour it Theatre !

Edition X: May 2017


A NOTE FROM TEAM THESPO Hello peeps, sheeps and Meryl Streeps of young Indian theatre! We are back, we are excited! Firstly, thank you for that enthusiastic response to our call for Thespo Avengers! We met not just the avengers but also the guardians, the x-men, the fantastic four and so many more, that we could’nt help but marvel!! No but seriously guys. The recruitment for Team Thespo was more meticulous than ever, (also took longer than usual) but we are so glad to have met and spoken to such a huge number of enthusiasts. Let us hope that means an even better festival this year! As this issue goes out, we’re all set to leave for the Thespo off-site which is like a three-day theatre nerds camp slash crash course in Thespo Education. Colleges are set to reopen which for the ones in Mumbai means a splash into the intercollegiate drama circuit. Meanwhile, a new kind of theatre has emerged for our friends in Delhi. With the incidents of participants gathering on stage and keeping completely mum and staying immobile; silence as a mean of protest has resurfaced and spoken a lot. In our issue this month, we speak to young practitioners involved with theatre for kids. A young production house from Bangalore makes its presence felt while we look at spoken work poetry as a form of theatre. We peep into the scary story of a young horror play and Anna Ador is Quick 8 queen. Akash Mohimen gives you the top three plays from his reading list. That’s it folks! Stay tuned!


The Stuff of Smol The Shrieking Shack Quick 8 with Anna Ador A Child of the Page and the Stage Baked In Bangalore Thespo Reccomends By Akash Mohimen

What’s On At Thespo


The stuff of smol ones.

“I used to watch every play at Summertime@Prithvi as a kid. The ones I really liked, my mom and I would sit for the second show of.” I can imagine little Nishna Mehta, watching a play she’s already seen, knowing exactly what’s on the way

and yet, just a big bundle of joy and excitement. And if that isn’t adorable enough, think of an adult Nishna in the tech box, all set to operate lights for a children’s play and spotting smol versions of herself in the audience.


The staff at Prithvi has seen Nishna grow into a young lady, now working with Gillo Theatre Repertory. And grow up she might have, but Nishna never grew out of the magical world that is theatre for kids.

“There’s a different high, a different energy. I tried working on regular plays but somehow I just didn’t enjoy it as much.”

For actor Omkar Kulkarni, acting in plays for children also means working with Pros like Kashin Shetty, Abhishek Saha and Akarsh Khurana.

“Seeing them improvise on stage is maaad!” he says“And so much of children’s theatre means working the play around for the little ones. We often have to judge our audience based on their laughter, adapt and go on. Sometimes, they’ll respond at physical comedy, other times they erupt into

laughter at a punchline. On some days, we find the perfect balance.”

Omkar also believes that increased energy and actions works for the kids. Akshay Anand Kohli, who acts in the play Game Boy, also thinks on similar lines. “I have realised that a

play needs to be auditorily and visually appealing to the children.”

Akshay has also written and directed Game Boy. The story of a boy’s addiction to gaming comes from his own childhood. But don’t children listen to moral stories all the time?

“The key is to make it look cool.. If playing with your friends is cooler than playing with a screen, the kids don’t find it preachy. They start to connect with the protagonist and the message then becomes subconscious. It is important to not cheat them and allot enough time for the vices and the virtues.


Another thing to avoid is adultsplaining (an outrageous form of mansplaining) It’s parents, more often than not who are found guilty of the act. “Kids are

For particularly chatty kids, Omkar’s Pros have their own tactics. “We try

annoyed Sananda Mukhopadhyaya who teaches drama told me once at one such play. Kids are smart, and equally restless. If Akshay and Omkar believe in the physicality factor, Nishna is against it. They will see

The love with which Akshay, Nishna and Omkar talk about these plays, it’s definite that they will all be returning to children’s plays again and again. And what about the little Nishna Mehtas in the audience? They will return too of course. Omkar tells me the story of a little boy who came back to watch another show. When actor Abhishek Saha spoke about that day being in birthday, the excited (and probably confused) boy exclaimed, “Aye but it was your birthday yesterday also!”

smart enought to understand and inculcate stuff of their own” a very

through you if you aren’t in character and tear you apart. Huge sets, lights and props don’t impress them. One thing all three

of our young torchbearers agree upon is that the blackout must be minimized. A blackout means kids will immediately start chattering and once you’ve lost their attention, it’s terribly difficult to win it over again.

including these tots in the play. We respond to them, joke around with them. It makes the kids feel like a part of something bigger than themselves.”


THE SHRIEKING SHACK

“I was sitting in a sound studio, where my friend was putting in the finishing touches to some ad-film that we had worked on. It was way past midnight, around 3.00 am. The studio owner’s dog was sitting right next to the sofa on which I was sort of lounging. Suddenly, the dog started growling. I looked over in surprise, because he was usually very well behaved which is why he was allowed inside the studio. But there he was, with his hackles raised, his tail down, staring pointedly at the open door of the

dubbing booth – as if he could see someone there. And then I saw it. Okay, I don’t know if I SAW it, but I definitely could sense someone standing in the darkened dubbing booth, just out of the light. If I strained my eyes, I could make out the shoulders, the head, the hair. It was standing silently, looking at my friend (who was still lost in his work). I stared at it for a couple of minutes, and then I blinked my eyes and it was gone.


Suddenly, my friend leapt up from his chair without warning, and ran out of the room, followed by me and the dog in tow. Once outside, he looked at me and said, ‘Did you hear it, too? The breathing?’ Needless to say, we have never booked that particular studio for any assignment since that night.” My friend finished narrating this incident, and I realized I had been holding my breath the entire time. My friend, who couldn’t act on stage to save his life, had just narrated the entire event with a gravitas that can only be gained through years dedicated to Stanislavski.

It was there and then that I knew I wanted to try and recreate this feeling on stage.. I called for a meeting with my theatre group, Theatron Entertainment, which at that point consisted of 5

members. After an hour of trying to describe the play that was beginning to take shape in my head, I decided the best way to pitch my ‘horror play’ was to write out a scene or two. This was the first time I had formally decided to write a play. The moment I started to write the first scene in Marathi, I knew I had a problem. It was sounding too goofy. I faced the same problem in Hindi. I think years and years of watching horror films made by the Ramsay Brothers have formed a permanent association of the words ‘bhoot’, ‘pret’, and ‘aatma’ with a specific type of entertainment – which I wanted to stay away from. So I narrowed it down to English – which wasn’t a problem for me, having grown up with Blyton and Rowling.


It was around this time when I was earning most of my pocket-money from performing magic at Birthday parties. I decided this would provide the perfect background for a horror, play, and started adapting principles of stage magic into my script. Writing an effects oriented product becomes a very cumbersome job if the writer and director do not get along. I never had that problem , because I knew I would be directing the play myself – and I get along very well with myself, if I may say so myself!

I decided to write the play only at night, in the dark, so as to be in the right atmosphere.

would write in a little bit of humour into the script as a means of breaking the tension for myself.

I tried to include in all those little horror clichĂŠs that I loved, whilst putting a spin on them. Instead of having a horrific backstory, they were armed with what little knowledge they could salvage from the internet.

The casting didn’t take long, because I had based most of the characters on the people who were available (and could speak in English)!


To their credit, my entire team just let me go crazy with the script, not questioning how some of the things that I had described in the stage directions (chairs flying, ghosts appearing on the stage, people being dragged around by invisible forces)would even be possible on stage.

Almost 3 years and 60ish shows and a bunch of awards later, it seems almost laughable to remember how it all began – the play that taught us that it is way more enjoyable to listen to your audience’s screams than it is to hear just their applause.

Looking back, it’s a good thing that we had to do most of this in a hurry (two nights to write the script, 5 days to put up the play) because that didn’t give us a moment to pause and doubt whether any of this would work. We just had the time to get it done.

So that, dear readers, is the story of how ‘Anathema’ was written


QUICK 8

WITH ANNA ADOR

Anna is a Belarusian, Bombayite, Gujarati actress-writer-directorproducer. She has her own production company, has starred in mainstream films and her shortfilm ‘Sthir is now making rounds of intr’l film festivals

If you could be any performer in the world, who would you be? I’m a huge fan of charlie chaplin.

As a kid I would dress up with him, moustache and all. I used to imitate male figures a lot and it really attracts me.


.


A CHILD OF THE PAGE AND THE STAGE

Is a dramatically read monologue the same as a dramatised poem performed instead of recited? The question made me take a step back and question the parallels between the worlds of theatre and spoken word poetry.

This here is the result of my brain thrashing it out with itself.

my perennial struggle with doing justice to my experiences. Sarah Kay, in a TED talk, once said that spoken word poetry was like the child of theatre and poetry writing. That would probably be the closest I have come to a definition of spoken word.

Spoken word poetry uses wordplay, metaphors and details just like page poetry but these devices are used Maybe someday, with my to create an impact when heard or feeble poetic ability, I will watched and not when read. For write you." instance the most brilliant poetry may make next to no impact at a slam because of the void in Simran Achpal, a poet who captures performativity. in that one line,


Those are poems to be read, so that the poet's restrictions and their overcoming of those restrictions be fully appreciated.

The full beauty and significance of the afterthought in these lines by Plath, comes out only when viewed

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my lids and all is born again. (I think I made you up inside my head.)" Similarly, a spoken word poem will definitely lack the impact it may have at a slam when submitted in written form for evaluation. Take this transcript of 'When Love Arrives" by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye. It seems pretty bland as compared to the performance

because it lacks the modulation, the facial expressions, the _realness_ the situation demands when seen as lines of text-

"Hello ?" (*Heavy breathing*) "Hello ?" (*Heavy breathing*) "I guess they hung up" This is similar to the difference between writing a story and writing a script. A script definitely has more impact when performed than when just read. Think of a cold read of a script on the first day the cast receives it versus the first run through. The latter is certainly more engaging. But a novel needn't be read out and dramatised to be gripping.


In fact, it could have quite the opposite effect. Script and story can be adapted into the other but that adaptation too is a craft. Spoken word poetry can be for a slam, can be read out or recited with just the pauses and stresses or can be dramatised to a monologue. These different approaches can also be blended. One can have a dramatic read at a simple gathering or a stoic read with the smallest bit of modulation at a slam. The script remains paramount in performance poetry. While tailoring it on stage is quite common the performer has to make sure the focus remains on the strength of the poem and not just the panache of the theatrics. In this way, spoken word is almost like Shakespeare's original scripts.

The iambic pentameter and wordplay cannot be foregrounded

In this way, spoken word is almost like Shakespeare's original scripts. The iambic pentameter and wordplay cannot be foregrounded by the actor speaking in a cadence but it must also be respected because of the oceans of meaning lost if it isn't. Subtext is vital. Context is enriching. But text is the spine of the piece. A good poem gets less applause than a good performance but if the artist wishes to stay true to their craft, the artist should prioritise the poem and then approach the theatrical element. Spoken word poetry or performance poetry of any kind, in my view is a form of theatre where the playwright is necessarily the lead, director, editor and dramaturg.


Anyone else stepping in (an "It's just not that fun adaptation or abridging of a play, having fun when you for example. I can imagine an Indian Stanley Kowalski, living in a don't want to have small apartment in Mumbai) and fun, Mom." trying to influence the performance Someone else's depression may not style of the piece will necessarily compromise authenticity because be the same as hers and 'adapting' after the text being paramount, the the poem seems almost like other point of difference in spoken plagiarism of life experiences. word is that one cannot take To compare my experiences with another's voice; another's poem; both: "As I step on stage to perform in a and make it one's own. play, my skin is my character'sBecause of the personal involvement characteristic of the art unfamiliar birthmarks, perhaps a different skin tone, a story I may not form, borrowing or even slightly changing is seen as dilution (best completely know, cues slotted into the sides of my cheeks. case) and appropriation (worst case) of the piece , unlike theatre As I step on stage to perform a where different representations are poem I have written, my skin is my own, stretched tight over my jaw so more than welcome. that my story pours from my lips like This is a highly personal quote from my own drumbeat, my experience Sabrina Benaim's poem about her playing like a sepia film in the back of my mind." encounters with depression,


BAKED IN BANGALORE We really, really love potatoes." "They also really really love theatre, so much so that they believe they even worship it. Meet Baked Potato Productions, who’ve got the recipe to good theatre figured out.. Requirements: 23 year old Prarthna Gupta, whose obsession lies in abstract theatre. 22 year old Bhargav Sanketi, to add a flavour of realism. Procedure : 1.Combine to get a pot full of plays about the nitty gritties of human psyche 2. Add multiple rehearsals at odd hours, sprinkled with discipline, for seasoning. 3. Bake at 26 degrees celsius of Bangalore

And Viola! You have it. The End Result- Tons of people calling Baked Potato to let them know how influential their plays really are! So far they’ve been available in three distinct flavours: Shards of a life - a girl who kills herself and about those around her Leviathan - A story of a psychotic killer and rapist Schadenfreude - A poetic ode to the working of a sadist’s mind

WIth a spoon full of mystery and a dash of thrill these plays are just the BEST which co-incidentally also happens to be the acronym for their project - Break Every StereoType.


In order to see this project through, the Baked Potato Team requires strong willed individuals. And that means an arduous audition process. The audition process usually sees a variety of faces, receiving about 100-150 registrations every time. Some of these are absolutely new to the field of theatre whereas the others are enthu cutlets that had been practicing for years. For the three plays they’ve made as of yet, the participants were subjected to a bunch of heated questions - to gauge their personality- and on mashing in the newcomers with the familiar faces, the team of Baked Potato finally boiled it down to actors firm in their determination and strong-willed.

It mustn’t have been easy, with busy schedules and the emotionally challenging content. The prospects of getting too sucked into a character, especially one with depression, were high. But the actors testify otherwise. The plays, they say, turned out to be therapeutic. Meanwhile, even the peeps who auditioned but didn’t make it to the final cast kept in touch and came in for feedback. This very interest of the people in their thoughts and vision - a phenomenon alien to them during their college years- is the motivating factor for Prarthana and Bhargav to produce various influential pieces, most of which are written by them or their friends.


And now with both the founders travelling abroad within the next few months, Baked Potato sees a possibility of spreading their seeds further. With a new pair of directors who have the constant support of Prarthana and Bhargav as well as their constant supervision (God bless the internet), Baked Potato will also continue its journey in India. Prarthana and Bhargav also plan on producing and directing various pieces during their stay abroad. With the kind of initiative, talent and hardwork the team has displayed, one thing you can vouch for - these definitely aren’t your regular potato chips packet with more air than substance.


THESPO RECOMMENDS BY AKASH MOHIMEN

It’s always a difficult task to recommend plays, to read and to watch. There is a heavy personal baggage we carry into our affair with any text. One man’s masterpiece might be another’s blasphemy. So after a fair bit of thought, I decided to make my list, relevant to our modern day society, an increasingly polarized society, brimming with violence and hatred, and always a spark away war. Dramas which were written in another era, but are as relevant to 2017, as ever before. In an effort to be diverse, I have attempted to select texts from 3 different continents with stories set in 3 very different time periods and 3 different languages.


Andha Yug by Dharamvir Bharati: Any play built around the Mahabharata will always be interesting. But then address the arguments about the politics of war, vengeance and destruction, and one could easily place the story in any decade of the 20th century, and more so in 2017. Add to it the madness of the people with the weapons at their disposal and the violence committed in the name of the greater good. The original Hindi text, written in the form of verse was initially a Radio Play. The five-act play begins on the 18th day at Kurkshetra and culminates in (Spoiler Alert) death of Kirshna.


The Crucible by Arthur Miller:

From the mind of one of the grand daddy’s of modern playwriting, The Crucible was Miller’s middle finger to the prevalent, McCarthyism in America in the 1950s. It had the entire package: an allegory, an historical event, a political statement and emotionally engaging characters. It is a dramatized story of Salem witch trials, which took place in Massachusetts in 1692 and is primarily built around the conflicts of John Proctor. Over 60 years since it was first performed, the play is as relevant in today’s world of half-truths, malicious mud slinging and blind faith, which lead to destruction of lives and society.


Remembrance Day by Aleksey Scherbak (Translated by Rory Mullarkey): A story set in modern day Latvia, is an outstanding look into how interpretation of history shapes our society. Latvians, who fought for the Third Reich halted the Red Army, are hailed as heroes and parade through the streets of Riga every year. But when young Anya, a political activist, protests this practice, a political turmoil ensues, and questions what it truly means to be patriotic. Remembrance Day has a strong emotional core, and plays out as a thriller with the socio-political environment a ticking time bomb, about to destroy the families and friendships.


The Thespo 19 Team is raring to get ready


If you know any young writers. directors, actors, light designers, sound designer, backstage artists, singers, storyteller who you think should be a part of Thespo, any cool people you think we should collaborate with, we would love to hear from you! Write to us on ink@thespo.org


(Started in 1999) is a platform for any and every young person under 25 who is interested in any and all aspects of theatre. Except for the age limit, Thespo firmly believes in including youth from all parts of the world, all fields, all language groups and all art forms who share a love for theatre. Over the last seventeen years it has grown from a one-evening event to a year round movement comprising of an annual Festival, monthly shows at Prithvi Theatre, theatre training programmes, workshops, site-specific performances and much more for young theatre enthusiasts.

(Established in 1944) is one of India’s oldest English language theatre groups whose members (Alyque Padamsee, Sabira Merchant, Gerson Da Cunha, among others) have gone on to become legends in theatre, radio and television.

(Established in 1999) is a dynamic young theatre group dedicated to promoting and facilitating theatre in the public consciousness through socially relevant plays, workshops, readings, news-letters and much more.


ThespoIndia

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Editor: Kalpak Bhave Design: Reema Sunil Cover Page by: Mati Rajput

2017 A YOUTH THEATRE MOVEMENT

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