We are at a strange crossroad, where the future of theatre and its associated arts is concerned. On the one hand, it is a challenge to mobilize interest among people who are largely ignorant of the joys of live theatre. On the other hand, there is a rich pool of theatre talent in a city like Bangalore, that needs a platform for showcase.
To go back a little, the future of theatre and in particular, English language theatre in India, reached a crucial point back in the Nineties. The changing face of urban India had curtailed its mainstay – home productions of successful plays from the West. An increase in global travel meant that many had seen the original productions on Broadway or the West End. Then Cable TV arrived along with Santa Barbara and The Bold and the Beautiful!
Then the IT revolution happened, a revolution that has produced a generation with no time or inclination for anything other than work and laid-back leisure activities on weekends. Many have never seen a play, let alone know anything about theatre. To most, ‘theatre’ is synonymous with a movie theatre.
So in this climate of blasé indifference, how do formal theatre spaces such as Jagriti survive? Bringing in those “bums on seats”, as we say, is a conundrum, a never-ending problem to solve. It is a constant drive to make people realise that live theatre is a wonderful thing. And therein lies the rub. How do we ensure that there is a good live theatre for this audience to watch?
I must however add we are lucky that Bangalore is home to much good work in English language theatre. We have good playwrights and have had innovative productions that will last the test of time.
As for Jagriti, we have now been going for nearly six years. In that time we have had some good as well as bad productions. But I am glad we have been able to raise the bar and set in an environment of learning and self-improvement. Theatre companies have come to us largely wanting to learn how to work on a difficult thrust stage or use a fully programmable lighting console; actors who have never worked with texts, have learnt to do so and have realised its value. Well, as long as everyone in the field is willing to keep on learning, the future looks good.
On that note, I sign off for now. See you at our next show!