Seven months ago, the thought of watching a play — which has been created for the online platform, with actors logging in from various parts of the country to rehearse with each other for days — would have been unthinkable. But, as in the case of every other artform, 2020 has compelled theatrewallahs to push the boundaries. And starting this weekend, 30 young playwrights and actors from different corners of India, and even abroad, will collaborate digitally to stage 10 plays on Instagram (IG) Live till December, without ever having met each other physically. Titled The Theatre Project 2020, the virtual festival will be showcased under the banner of Bombay Theatre Company, founded by actor Raveesh Jaiswal and wife Prachi Sharma.
Jaiswal, who has juggled several roles as an actor, playwright and director, and worked with Stagecraft Theatre, Nagpur, tells us that the project came together after the pandemic halted their plan to stage a new production in April. However, the team quickly adapted to the online medium, performing some of their works such as Oedipus’ Prophecy and Exiting, on IG. “Although we had the option to put up pre-recorded shows, I felt that the thrill of a real-time performance could be mirrored on IG Live,” says the co-founder, adding that they attracted a decent audience every time. “At a time when viewers have an array of online content to choose from, what worked for us was our short and sweet format. Encouraged by this, we felt it was time to collaborate with budding artistes,” the theatre-maker shares. And that’s how The Theatre Project 2020 was born in August. “We wanted to make the best of technology which connects us with people from the world over. The aim was to offer a platform to creative thinkers, as well as build the 10-month-old group’s identity.”
The theatre group then invited playwrights and actors to send in 10-minute original scripts in English, and five-minute monologues, respectively. After going through over 180 audition clips and 70 scripts, they shortlisted 20 actors and 10 playwrights from Kolkata, Chennai, Nagpur, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Mumbai, Melbourne, Haridwar, Mysore and Dehradun, among other places.
The actors were then cast for each script. The plays are only 10 to 15 minutes long, and this Sunday’s production, Dear Diary, is a conversation between a girl and her journal, he tells us. From dependence on technology, murder mystery and dark humour to the relationship between a mother and daughter, the effect of human conditioning, and the life of an artist, the scripts explore various themes, Jaiswal adds.
Although almost all the participants are in the young age group of 18 to 25 years with a background in acting or theatre, Jaiswal points out that shifting stages is something they are all still mastering. “It’s so much more difficult to handle the logistics online. We’ve been guiding them on how to change scenes by shifting camera angles, playing with lighting, etc,” he elaborates. The most important trick to learn, though, is holding the audience’s attention. “That’s why we made sure the content is suited to the online viewer’s attention span. Every play has something unique for everyone. The actors have been doing mock lives to get used to the feel. This is a challenge, but the hallmark of any good actor is how well they can adapt to it,” he signs off.
On Every weekend, from October 11 to December 13
Log on to @bombay_theatre_company on IG
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