A personal experience of what it is to be part of a theatre program –learn, rehearse, act and enact with a team led by theatre stalwart By Chaitra Pallavi
Theatre has always intrigued me! Way back in college days had got an opportunity to play with my imagination while studying Shakespeare, Dickens and analyzing plenty of poems and sonnets as part of a three-year undergraduate program in English Literature. Then on, have been watching plenty of plays, but never dared to get into a theatre production group. This time around, with an urge to do something different and creative I was lucky to get acquainted with ‘Bangalore Little Theatre’ group and Mr Vijay Padaki in particular.
And believe me, this is one the best things to have happened in 2017 and the final show with the advent of the New Year 2018! When we started meeting for SPOT summer program sessions in early October, I went with an open mind, with a view to have some fun and make new friends. Little did I know then that I would be doing more than just having fun and become part of a play on stage and tour and interact!
SPOT was a revelation and the weekends well spent. We used to start the session with a small brisk walk around the venue followed by stretching, it helped me loosen up. Further, the physical activity helped my entire fellow SPOTters bond. As we slowly moved towards understanding how bodies loosen up, the voice modulation exercises came very handy. And time and again I was so blown over by Vijay’s activities, be it the role play’s, hearing about the anecdotes, which he shared effortlessly and most of the times spontaneously. Those were little gems. Without our awareness, we were doing a lot of things. Understanding the folk forms, trying to do some folk dances, experimenting with voice, feeling the basic senses, and importantly trusting the team partners as part of the activities.
Some activities which really broke the ice was moving randomly and taking any form without losing the eye contact with your partner. This helped the team to trust each other. Other, fondly called ‘Caterpillar’, where we had to trust the team and roll one-self on the grabbing hands. Experimenting with the pitch of voice by increasing the space between the audiences and most of the spotters will agree with me about the blindfolded walk in the vicinity.
At the end of few sessions, I believe, we had almost shed all the inhibitions, where making eye contact and were comfortable with ourselves. And without our knowledge, we were part of Play Reading a Chinese folktale ‘The Year of Rooster’. Seldom, I knew much about China, except about the Chinese product dump worldwide, cherry blossoms, and of course Chinese food. The effort helped me read about their culture, social system and a little about the folklore. As were progressed with the play reading I evinced a mental form taking place. And with-in very little time we had other theatre enthusiasts and experienced performers as part of the play reading and we were a team!
Finally, I learnt that I was playing the role of Lady Whitewaters, a second daughter to Prime Minister of China in the play. With butterflies in my stomach and zero confidence, I employed all the character analysis which we did during college days to understand Lady Whitewaters. She was married to a gentleman of rank but not of substance, the character had grey shades to it starts off being a snooty, arrogant and patronizing wife in the beginning of the play to a helpless daughter in despair when her husband is to be prosecuted in the closing and final act.
But when on the stage as part of the crew during rehearsals, magically all the comfort level, a command in the voice, pronunciation, the character analysis et all evaporated. All the years spent in the corporate world, being timid, sophisticated, and aware of surroundings took its position. That was the biggest challenge for me, to let myself loose and get into a character which was stark opposite to me in real life. But the cast/team played a very big role, particularly the director who instilled faith and helped me in shedding that inhibition. And today, with a total of 20 shows, a past now and to have performed in 10 odd shows, I have taken that one minuscule step ahead to see myself as a performer.
Looking back, some major takeaways from SPOT and the performances –
First, meeting and befriending people from different age groups, and different walks of lives coming from varied professions. Theatre is such that it will take anybody in its fold and gives an opportunity to irk the imagination and let oneself loose without fear.
Second, learning to face the audience, Vijay asks us to make eye contact with the audience, but believe me easier said than done. The entire process is exhilarating, the immense fear of erring before getting onto the stage, and once on the stage, lines and act happening smoothly.
Third, an understanding of what goes behind putting together a play, and the vision of the person who is directing it. It’s one big team effort, some get the limelight and some don’t.
Finally, doing/acting a character and not getting into it more than skin deep, once the act is over ‘you are who you are’!