No place for plays

No place for plays

As the music slowly reaches a crescendo, the curtains ‘swish’ down and the stage is set for scene two. In bustling Bengaluru, where there is no dearth of theatre actors or audience, the going is not good for amateur theatre artistes as they grapple with a multitude of problems such as lack of enough spaces in the City to practise plays, difficulty in availing corporate sponsorship, irregular payment for young artistes and burgeoning costs of auditoriums. 

Budding theatre enthusiasts are practising in cramped spaces, apartment terraces and crowded college premises due to lack of enough spaces in the City. But this is not a new problem.

Ranji David, the Director of Yours Truly Theatre, feels that Indian theatre companies have been grappling with this issue for the past 50 years while Vishnu, a freelancer and theatre enthusiast, adds, “One of our rehearsals took place at a park, where all the joggers watched us practise. Even auditoriums are very far from the centre of City which makes it difficult for most amateur artistes, who comprise mainly college students, to travel and practise after college.”

Auditoriums also aren’t enough for the increasing number of theatre groups and lack the basic infrastructure to support artistes. Abhishek, an artiste of WeMove Theatre rues about the ratio of 70 theatre groups (apart from the international theatre companies that come in to the City) to six auditoriums, which amounts to a ratio of less than 1:10 and says that a few of the auditoriums don’t even have ladders to fix lights. 
 
Burgeoning costs of the auditoriums is another reason why theatre troupes can never rent spaces. While Abhishek says that a group has to pay at least a whopping sum of Rs 60,000 to practise for half a day, Vishnu adds that price to practise is reasonable only in Ranga Shankara.  All this despite the government banning commercial tax on theatre!

Rijul Ray, another amateur theatre artiste says that the pay for young artistes is extremely low which is a de-motivating factor as artistes earn only Rs 2,500 per show. “Lack of space and less pay are problems every theatre artiste faces and this de-motivates a person who starts out in the industry.”

In a City where people are enthusiastic to watch plays even on a weekday, Abhishek feels that the government has to step in to improve its health. He says that though subsidising costs of auditoriums is a start, “Converting portions of parks into rehearsal rooms can be a way to promote theatre. A lot of art events, apart from theatre, can also thrive. It’s not very expensive and can be easily monitored.”

He also feels that government should spend more on the increase in infrastructure.
Vishnu firmly believes that theatre spaces which come up newly should be located in the centre of the City as theatre amateurs, who comprise mostly students, can easily commute and practise.

According to Ranji, theatre will benefit if the government can attempt to understand a tag like ‘Theatre in Bangalore’. However theatre is a powerful medium that expresses the human condition. Ranji is optimistic up that despite the lack of space for plays and other problems that the industry faces, the promise of theatre will never be dented and the art form will never die.

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