Sunday, November 16, 2008

exploring dis-'connects'

somewhere art has become a lonely word. It is not complete.. like broken columns, the forms co-exist. Is art a kind of disciplines or is it interdisciplinary? Can art be purist? who is an artist then - one who can perform, express, create, communicate. Who is a good artist then? What is quality of art? Can a dancer, sing? A poet, act? An actor, paint? A sculptor, dance? Can they work with each other?

In the days of company natak, one couldn't do without the other. The stage would be be blank without the painted curtains, the play would not be complete without the 'complemenents' of scientists and artists. Did they do it just because they had no choice and they were dependent on the other? Or, only when you had a little of everything could there be entertainment? Or, it was a conceptual, conscious decision? What happened to the collective spirit today?
We don't need the "other" today. Art has turned out to be competitive, comparative, caught in rigid compartments to achieve moving targets. There are differences, distances and disconnects between the arts and amidst one art form.

One fine day we arrived at theatre jam. It redefines itself frequently. The idea is to explore connections between various art forms, to create a space for dialogue and expression, to learn from new art forms, to colloborate and improvise. It is a bit like playing hide and seek.
Our familiarity with theatre drove us to start with it. It need not be only a 'theatre' jam. The space will slowly open out to explore other forms like dance, song, fine arts, installations, discussions, writings, readings... The observer, the audience, the participants, play a key role as this process meanders. In Bangalore, after episodes of shedding tears, drowning in sympathy, complaining and experiences other disorders, we decided to just do something on our own. What's important is to ensure regularity, and collectively deciding plans and actions.

The last two jams, has been magical, as we saw the process unfold.. from states of mind, to stories, experiences, feelings.. together and alone, a dialogue with oneself and others. There have been glitches and concerns, highs and lows, confusions and melodies.. but it is slowly getting rooted.

some of the things we need to address in our next meeting are:
a. Why only, theatre? Can we open the space now to different art forms?
b. Is Nelamanagala too 'far'?
c. How can we focus on bringing in new audiences?
d. Are we trying to build a community? Will that homogenise the diversity within the group? Do we all have the same goal, ideas of this process?
e. Should there be a facilitator?
f. How do we follow up on critique and appreciation that is discussed within the space?
g. What does this space mean to us?
h. How do we address the fragmentation between theatre and music within the space?

sounds like a boring questionnaire, but I see these as questions that we need to arrive at eventually at least.

for me, personally, I see that there is a need to bring people from different backgrounds together, in this 'one' space to explore if they can connect, if so what connects them, what happens after this connections and how can these connections be shared with a larger group.
It seems like there is a need to relook at the perceptions of art and reclaim access to art through different routes for more people.

maraa, has attempted to initiate this process, and all it's participants play an important role in leading this process and re'forming' it.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Observer

So far I have been, like the title, an observer for the first two theatre jams, and must say that despite my nervous apprehensions, have been pleasantly surprised by the response. Which obviously means that we're on to something here!

Moving on to specifics, I thought the first one was kind of intense, and yet a nervous entry, which was natural I suppose, because it was the first time this was happening. I think we all got a bit carried away by the "this is happening right now" of it, that we focused on the performances, and there was very little discussions.

The second one had definitely more balance between the theatre and the jamming :)

These are some of the thoughts roaming inside my head when we talk/think about the event:

1) We should somehow get Kannada speaking performers/audiences to be a part of it. Come to think of it, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and all other languages also will be great.

2) What happens when the day comes when there are too many performances lined up? Who decides what theatre gets a chance and what gets left out? Questions of censorship..

3) It is free but not actually, because there are food costs, and certainly some coordinating costs, and hopefully we'll be able to sustain it in some way

4) There are some interesting discussions on what constitutes a performance? Is it a reading, or a song? or perhaps the question is what is theatre then? Both the form and the time question are being challenged subconsciously at this event, and we wait eagerly for more such challenges in hopes of finding some answers

5) It would be great to have more musicians coming in to collaborate with the performers. Gopal from Guruskool did a spontaneous jam with Deepak's performance last time, and I hope this spurs on to more collaborations

6) I wish there was some way of keeping alive or documenting some discussions which take place at the event. Last jam had some really good ones about the Engish language, and the ghost of shakespeare still haunting us, and our approach to his work. There are also some really neat technical performance specific points which are being discussed, which may be useful to practitioners...we shoud think about keeping those some place/space accessible and distributable

7) From a purely selfish point of view, I'm itching to see the day when we get to see some forum theatre...been waiting to be a part of one..since i've heard so much about it

8) The most interesting part has been the intersection of the place and the space. While the theatre jam is a mental construct, a hopeful project about some of our dreams of collaborations and open spaces, I think the actual farm house place also plays a part. I some how want to figure out how much of a role the actual place plays in this event. Would the audience and performers see Theatre jam as an event in Nelamangala, or does the place not matter? This is of huge interest to me

9) It would be good to get some of the more conventional and heard practitioners to enter the space and engage with the Theatre Jam folks at Ranga Shankara, and proscenium theatre groups, of which there are many in Bangalore

10) It will be good to dovetail this event into other debates we've been having at Maraa, concerning nature and approach to development, issues, public spaces, sexuality etc. Theatre has a long history (her-story) of being a people's medium/space..and be good to revive some of those stories, and see how we can rewrite some of those stories for the contemporary!

Now that I've come up with at least ten things to say, I will end the diatribe, with a final point of how good this whole thing has been to engage with, to the point that one day, I hope to cross the line from being a lurking observer to a performer!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Space to Breathe

Two theatre jam sessions... and I've loved them both.
For me its been a simple and enjoyable journey where I could meet up with my friends, travel together to this lovely location and then be a theatre artist in the way I choose.

I fearfully performed on the first jam session, scared of revealing myself... but once I did it was an exhilarating experience.. I felt free and happy.

The second one was unique in a way that its got me thinking.. about theatre - and my stand as a performer and more importantly as a person...

I have this space in my life.
Oh yes, like Gayatri said, I don't have to wait to be an actor :)


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Opening out dramatic spaces


The challenge of finding alternative spaces and places for dramatic work is being well met by the Sunday jam.  Here's a bunch of reasons for why I liked it.

1) As Ekta said its creating spaces for short performance work that does not have space in traditional auditorium spaces.
2) The openess of the space allows for so much experimentation and playing around. So potential artists are not paralysed by form and structure and can keep coming out with work. I know the burden of coming out with a 60-90 minute production of good quality can be such a task that you wind up never doing anything. Using the forum keeps your creative practice alive.
3) Its free.
4) The post-performance discussion is an excellent space to think through our work and allow others to engage with the issues brought up. The performance then is not only about aesthetic form, but also about ideological and creative content which is open to debate and discussion.
5) It allows for collaborations to happen both spontaneously and through negotiation between different artists. This is interesting because so much of the work is 'solo' and moving outwards into collaborations. You see something that you might like to work with and in this open forum can negotiate a collaboration.
5)And most importantly people have a space to do theatre and be actors. Its not a long term dream that needs to be shelved until... until... until. There's a space every month for you to go up and own as your own stage!

Thank you guys for making this happen!


Monday, November 3, 2008

theatre sundays

hello all,
before all the excitement frizzles out, I thought it best to talk a bit about the afternoon well spent at Guruskool farm yesterday... Nov 2nd 08 that is

i used "well spent" and I hope that isnt too irritating to some of us who have to share not so well spent moments and times...but please bear with me. I don't, for one see the not-so-well-spent moments as negative. I think dialoging about them will make it an evening well spent :)
a dialog that continues in to and through out theatre lives, theatre selves and as theatre artists.

Lets briefly recapitulate.
November 2nd saw three activities around which our attention and time was centered. A reading of a scene from Shakespeare's Hamlet, a short sketch with voices of personal and universal feminism by Gayatri and yet another short "religious" song based theatrical sharing by Deepak (thats me).

This time, hopefully some better time was utilised (than the previous jam) in sharing and talking about the process of (reading or performing). The reading brought in debates about what a reading should constitute (in terms of "how an actor reads") , why are Shakespeare's works performed/read/ "learnt" and how does one relate to him-as literature or theatre, poetry or life's realities. The performances also had their share of audience prodding and participation.

We had also wanted theatre collaborations within music and music to work in theatre. In some ways, there was nascent amalgamation in the area and we hope this can be deepened. Gopal played his mandolin for my song piece and we then went on to jam a bit with flute, song and strings...I loved the experience of my idea of the song changing form and moving into different spheres...

this jam was different from the previous ones for various reasons, a number of things coming up along the way. ill wait for others to add in this area...

one of the things about why maraa (a collective that we are) wanted to work with theatre this way was because of our individual experiences within theatre spheres... and how we did or didnt want theatre to be a "certain" authoritatively defined way. Open space is what we called it.

I write this blog not as a part of maraa but as a part of a theatre community because just yesterday, i realised that there could be the danger of collapsing into being just one role- that of coming from maraa and being an "organiser". Of course Im part of maraa but i need to shift to the threatre self in me to voice anything pertaining to theatre as an art, and theatre as a evolving performer.
So i'll write about theatre on maraa's webpage too but Ive created this blog so we can dialog here about the art, content and evolutions of theatre, things we can share as performers or theatre enthusiasts. And we can do it ourselves beginning with logging in personally and posting directly.

Do post your views on theatre jam that just passed. Content, understandings, theatre...
plus the process. this is our space to write, challenge, concur, express dissent, celebrate, collate learnings, etc.