On stage: Beyond lights, camera and action

Theatre techniques

Every kind of technique used in theatre brings in a different kind of experience for the audience. Initially, the curtain was used to signal the beginning and ending of a scene. Today, it is used to express the depth of the situation or to show the pace of the scene. Experts believe that certain technological advancements prevent audience from experiencing the magic of theatre. 

At a session on ‘Rediscovering the magic of theatre’ during National School of Drama’s Bharat Rang Mahotsav, B Jayashree of Spandana theatre group, Bengaluru, elaborated on how technology should enhance the experience of viewing.

“Technology in theatre should be used in such a way that it enhances the creativity of the actor. Theatre is a space entirely for an actor. It is not a space for modern technology,” Jayashree tells Metrolife.

But, according to her, the quality and core values of theatre are decreasing. “In an attempt to attract more audience, below the belt dialogues, sound recordings and videos are used in plays,” she says.

She further stresses on the use of high-pitch singing as an important technique in theatre, which doesn’t allows the audience to sleep during the play. According to her, saying a particular line and singing a song have different impact on audience.

“Apart from being an effective technique, high-pitch singing is also a kind of alertness, a warning to the audience to be attentive during the play for which the actors, producers and directors have worked hard on,” says Jayashree.

Use of technologies like lights and recorded sound have also enhanced the way theatre is experienced. “In some ways, the magic of certain mythological plays is recreated with the help of effects like rain and cinematography lights on stage, which not only illuminates the actor but also portrays them like a sculptor,” says Anuradha Kapur, former director of National School of Drama (NSD).

However Hema Singh, associate professor, acting, NSD, feels that the use of technology is more helpful backstage for elevations of the sets or making costumes.

“The focus on the use of techniques was prevalent in Parsi theatre. At that time, whatever techniques were available, were used in theatre to create magic. Today, we use those techniques to reinvent their use in the past, and they sometimes help and sometimes hinder the quality of the play,” says Singh.

“For instance, the use of microphones is appropriate only for films. In theatre, because of the energy of the actor, the voice becomes too loud on the microphone and thus the nuances of speech are lost. Similarly, the use of video clips and sound becomes too much sometimes and the actor is lost somewhere.”

Seconding Jayashree, Singh too believes that it is the actor who assimilates the stage during a play. The impact of a human being and his changing emotions will be different from an electronic device. 

Another recent development in theatre is that of the duration of the plays have been significantly reduced. While Jayashree has directed plays that stretched for as long as seven hours, today the standard duration of a play is restricted to one-and-a-half hours. But that depends mostly on the content and script.

“If you make a play for the audience, then you cannot force them to sit for three hours or more than that. And if a play needs more time, then it can also be divided in parts, but that becomes difficult for editing the play,” explains Singh.

Agrees Kapur who said that some plays need a longer period of time because of content. “A trilogy like Virasat which talks about two generations of family, cannot be completed in an hour’s time,” she says.

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