Live theatre in the time of Corona

Kolkata’s English-language theatre group – Theatrecian is all set to enthrall the art lovers with the very first 3-day Live Cellular Theatre Festival using the features of Zoom application from today onwards

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Kolkata: Coronavirus is, perhaps, one of the most daunting threats that mankind has collectively faced in recent times and as the real world continues to remain under lockdown, it is the online or virtual world that has emerged as the new ‘reality’.

Taking the online route has become order-of-the-day and this development is what prompted Tathagata Chowdhury, founder of the renowned Kolkata-based English-language theatre group, Theatrecian to come with ‘Theatre in Your Livingroom Festival’ – the very first live cellular theatre fete – from April 10-12, 2020, 8pm onwards. Theatre lovers can enjoy this very interesting and experimental festival via the Zoom app.

It is noteworthy to mention here that this online theatre festival is also be a fundraiser for the NGO – Yeh Mera India’s ‘Stand with the Needy Campaign’. The registration fee for this event is Rs. 200 – for all three evenings – and Theatrecian will share the entire revenue with the NGO.

Speaking exclusively to eNewsroom, Tathagata said, “Live acts, theatre and performing arts are also bearing the brunt of this lockdown and will continue to do so even when it is over. It will take time to get things back to normalcy and theatre cannot lie dormant all this while. Thus, my friends and I at the Theatrecian decided to give another definition to ‘proscenium’ and utilise technology as the medium of expression. The act must go on, despite the intensity of the pause. The festival is not just an exhibition of monologue, archived performances or radio acts. This is going to be new-age theatre and all the actors will be performing from their respective homes.”

A total number of 80 people can be accommodated in this festival. Each person can attend all the three events or any one of them. On the first day of the session, i.e. April 10, the audience will be treated to a live performance of an adaptation of Jean Paul Sartre’s play No Exit. The adapted play titled – There’s No Exit – has been given a contemporary Coronavirus-related twist. This thirteen-minute long play has been directed by Tathagata Chowdhury. It will be followed by an interactive session with the audience. On April 11, Tathagata will be conducting ‘The Actor’s Scriptwriting Workshop’ at 8pm and on the concluding day, April 12 theatre lovers can enjoy Chalyug Ki Katha performed by @east_india_dastangos.

Tathagata and the actors have been rehearsing for a while now to get the ‘act’ right. Talk to them and they tell you that it was difficult to adapt to the obvious changes and learn the features of Zoom application that will connect and enable them to reach out to their audience. Since the actors will be performing from their respective homes, they had to first decide their common focal point on screen. The director had to decide where the actors should be looking so that they could connect with the audience. The actors had to thus, first learn about Zoom’s technicalities including the blocking application, how to change the backdrop, mute the actors who are not performing and so on.

Tathagatha informed that the entire team also had to cross the hurdle of space and restriction of visuals. “We neither have the luxury of the long shot, nor can we move about too much. We have to remain in static position the maximum time. Thus, as the director, I had to first pick the right play, innovate and rework the entire acting format. Our actors are also in charge of the lights in their respective homes. They are turning the light from the screens of their laptop and mobile phones into spotlights. Matching each other’s energy as actors and then sharing the same with the audience cannot happen in this format since the screen is dividing us.”

“Personal contact and interaction that is needed in live performance will also be missing, but we are taking a leap of faith and all set to experiment for the very first time in a bid to keep theatre alive. And guess what? For the first time in history, won’t request our audience to switch off their mobile phones or put them silent mode,” added, the director with his eyes twinkling.

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