25 May

Because we have been a tad lazy with writing the first play review, in the meantime, here are a few interesting reads from the theatre realm we cobbled together.

1) Hannah Freeman of the Guardian writes on a preferable audience code of conduct in theatre and concert performances. Check the comments section as well.

2) A profile of an NYC bookstore that won an honorary Tony for “Excellence in Drama”.

3) What makes an ideal theatre? Lyn Gardner ticks off her list of favourite performance spaces across Britain, including Cornwall’s breathtaking Minack Open Air Theatre. (We might consider a future post on theatres in Hyderabad as well, which should be an interesting thing to examine)

4) Sean Michael Robinson examines Open Source and theatre at The Hooded Utilitarian in Collage, Theatre, Copyright and the Curious Case of Anne Frank Superstar.  An Orlando, Florida based production by a high school theatre teacher is now a critically acclaimed play with multiple stagings, that is loved and detested alike, by equal number of audience and critics. Detested because many believe that there is no place for a musical, incorporating songs by the Carpenters in a sombre account such as Anne Frank’s and that of the larger monstrosity of the Holocaust. Almost forgetting that Anne Frank remained an eternal teenager through her diary, a girl who loved and lived to the fullest in the shadow of indescribable horror.

But the show is also, one could say, largely illegal. Anne Frank’s diary is still under copyright and will remain so for years to come. As would be songs by The Carpenters, used in the play freely. Robinson lays out what it means to publicly perform a play, agreeing to a range of limitations imposed by the playwright as well as his agents which creep into every production. He pits it against a staging of Space Macbeth, and wonders if a play like Macbeth becomes stronger, more durable over time even after being adapted, cut, restructured over thousands of productions and adaptations.

Is it a simple matter of repetition, that when a play has been staged ten thousand times something is broken, that it becomes untethered from some platonic concept of faithfulness and can instead be bent and chopped and rearranged at will? Or is it that certain stories or certain works of art are themselves impervious to adaptation, that the more spins one puts on a text like Macbeth, the more possibilities appear? Is it possible that so many adaptations, so many different stagings and interpretations and resuscitations have helped make the play what it is today, have in fact created that feeling of timelessness and “bottomless”ness that so many feel when they approach the material?

5) Robinson ends by making a case for open-source and rational copyright laws which allow the public to access works instead of lobbyists and companies exercising monopolies over a play much after the demise of an author. A riveting, thought provoking read, even if you skip the other links, this is one you should read.

6) And to wrap things up, here’s a behind-the-scenes from QTP theatre’s Nostalgia Brand Chewing Gum.



11 May

For the first post on this blog are a couple of thought provoking things I came across recently; one in a conversation and the other through experience.

While this blog is to help develop my skills in theatre appreciation and critique through reviews of productions, scripts and thoughts on all things theatre; I leave this blog to assume whatever form it takes on as time passes by.

I am currently based out of Hyderabad. A city well known for its Dum Biryani (induced girths etc), Pista House Haleem, Hotel Shadab, spicy Andhra cuisine, Hand churned ice-cream and pearls.  The British Cantonment area with its colonial architecture where a young Churchill was once stationed, the Ronald Ross institute where the seeds for malaria’s cure were sown, the Buddha Statue on Hussain Sagar and a one-man museum collection from across the globe at Salar Jung Museum. A Persian princess or two, the Nizams, the central university, Chowmoholla and Falaknuma Palaces, the bazaars of old city, and much, much more. Phew. Also, a plague of coaching centres to cater to a morbid obsession its people have towards careers in engineering and medicine.

What it does lag behind probably is on a vibrant cultural scene that exists in other metros. Hyderabad once was a repository for arts and culture, pulsating like Chennai with which its film, music and arts industry was inextricably linked. Within a generation, since the late 80s a sort of ennui set in its peoples’ enthusiasm for the arts. A major contributing factor was the split between the Tamil and Telugu film industries. Much talent migrated or stayed behind in Chennai’s more established cultural milieu. What little continued in Hyderabad: dance and music schools, literature, arts and theatre remains in small, networked circles, within well-guarded pockets of privilege.

In recent years, there has been an outburst of theatre activity drawing in the city’s youngsters. Sparked by this enthusiasm, despite raw and inexperienced productions, older theatre groups in a slumber stirred awake. Hyderabad held a vast Carpe Diem in terms of theatre. It still does. Maybe depending on the established touring theatre companies from other metros was not the only way to experience original scripts or fresh productions of established playwrights abroad anymore in Hyderabad.

What happened however in the course of four meager years was hoarding; of actors, productions, scripts and knowledge. What went missing was amity underneath facades, formation of cliques which inhibit growth; a sort of frog in a well syndrome. Theatre in Hyderabad is also a citadel of certain classes both in terms of audience as well as performers. Good theatre straddles classes. A repository of people from all backgrounds and languages.

For art to flourish and mature, it is of importance to possess goodwill, camaraderie, a welcoming attitude towards new talent and revelation in its discovery. Many of the city’s theatre groups have the proverbial miles to go in this regard and perhaps, never sleep.

In this, I found an encouraging sign in Chennai/Bangalore based Evam conducting workshops while encouraging people to explore theatre and set up their own production houses. A product of their recent workshop was Bangalore’s newest theatre group, The Red Pill, of which a friend is part of. The group stages their new play at Alliance Francaise this weekend and I wish them the best for their debut performance! The play is their production of M*A*S*H by Evam, with added sketches for which Evam reportedly lent much guidance.

The reason behind the group’s name, my friend Shalini said, was a pop-cultural reference to the Matrix series.  And what about “embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality” the red pill indicates? Shalini opened out theatre one more step ahead for me by yielding Oscar Wilde’s quote, “I love acting. It is so much more real than life”. And then she added, “Yesterday we were practicing and someone said something to me and I realized how true it was. He said that I was more “real” on stage than in real life. And it’s true. I feel closer to who I really am while performing”

Couldn’t have put it better. This kind of reality holds true for everything that constitutes theatre. Perhaps, nothing short of coming of age.

Break a Leg, ye all.