Acts sans boundaries

l Open spaces

Acts sans boundaries

Don’t’ be surprised if you witness some dramatic moments while taking a stroll on the Boulevard. You might have just stumbled into a play in progress.

Theatre troupes are now taking to open spaces like never before. Troupes that were earlier looking for small auditoriums to offer an intimate experience and better acoustics, are now exploring alternate or unconventional spaces such as restro-bars, cafes, bookstores, malls, and sometimes, even a stretch of a road or a dilapidated building. Plenty of such spaces are turning into stages and making up for the lack of ‘proscenium-like’ venues.

The lack of enough auditoriums or closed venues has taken groups outside the four walls of a closed space. Vikram from ‘Tahato’ says, “With the audience spread across the City and auditoriums so few in number, the need to explore a play at an alternate space automatically evolves. In today’s world, traffic plays a vital role in reaching an auditorium
and theatre troupes look to perform outside a conventional stage for a different experience.”

‘Tahato’ has performed at venues like ‘The Humming Tree’, ‘Jus Trufs’ and ‘Beaglesloft’, apart from venues like ‘Ranga Shankara’ and ‘Jagriti’. Vikram explains that directors work around the challenges such as lack of green rooms and re-designing the setup to modify the alternate space. “In an auditorium, the role of lights can be a lot while in an alternate space, it can be minimum due to lack of stage lights. Setup needs to be optimum as there might not be much of a backstage space or green rooms. One of the key advantages of such spaces would that the founders of the space works along with us to make sure we have a comfortable show.”

Swetanshu, one of the founders of ‘Dramanon’, explains that the sheer urge to explore and experiment has led theatre troupes to perform at alternate spaces. “There is a lot of work that goes into an ‘out-of-auditorium’ performance. People don’t look at issues, such as lack of green rooms or setup, as challenges since working around them makes the entire process exciting. Sometimes one makes pieces, so one doesn’t have to confront with things like lights and sets.” He cites the example of ‘Koogu’, presented by ‘Sandbox Collective’, which had over 40 successful shows in alternate and conventional venues.

     Ranji David, founder of Organisational Theatre, says, “The theatre groups have grown larger and auditoriums have become lesser. So the skewed ratio leads people to move to alternate venues. There are also very few auditoriums which are accessible and management-friendly. They control the kind of theatre that happens in an auditorium. Theatre suffers as a result. Many auditoriums also don’t support new and younger groups. If they are supportive to the young, experienced troupes can move to alternate spaces.”

And groups unanimously agree that neither experience is better than the other, but it’s only about adapting and re-creating an alternate space to bring out the best in the theatre group.

Abhishek Iyengar, from ‘WeMove Theatre, has performed in places like malls, jam rooms, dance studios and rehearsal areas. He says that lack of auditoriums; “seven, in a city with 1.2 billion people, and out of which none is centrally located” are a big deterrent. “The minute one says ‘stage’ or ‘place’, they are automatically confined to a boundary. From an artistic perspective, performing at an alternate space is every actor’s dream as it broadens the artiste’s horizons and capabilities. An alternate venue also has to build an audience, as opposed to an auditorium which has a certain kind of audience. Performing at an alternate space receives the most unexpected sort of audience.”

 WeMove Theatre is working on ‘Improv Theatre’ where they are targeting only alternate spaces. “There are times when bystanders and passers-by have stopped us while we have performed in alternate spaces. Although there are no specific permissions or rules required before performing at such an area, there have to be certain strict guidelines so that a play can take place peacefully.”

And the trend is here to remain. Vikram says, “Bengaluru is evolving as a key centre for theatre. The time is slowly emerging where each area of Bangalore has a venue for performance. Theatre groups travelling here explore multiple venues across the City thereby reaching to a variety of audiences. In that context, Bengaluru is defining the role of alternate venues to theatre-makers across India.”

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