A workshop organised by the Coimbatore Art and Theatrical Society introduced PARSHATHY. J.NATH to the nitty gritty of theatre production

“Granny ... Why are your eyes so big...So that I can see you well, my dear…Oh granny, why are your teeth so big...So that I can eat you up my dear!” Red Riding Hood and her granny converse in the voices of K.V. Siddhartha and Chanda Khaturia. It is story telling time at the Live-Art workshop organised by the Coimbatore Art and Theatrical Society (CATS). The three-day workshop introduced 14 participants to radio plays, mimes, shadow effects and costumes. It culminated with four productions staged by them.

The icebreaker game right at the beginning got rid of any awkwardness among the participants who did not know each other. We had to call out our names and say what we had brought along, just like a potluck party. These were followed by sound and voice modulation exercises. For the sound exercises we mimicked dripping taps, dogs and braking vehicles. The voice modulation for whispers and shouts on stage was taught through rhyme sessions. We learnt what a big difference modulation made. Even Humpty dumpty sounded ominous when the rhyme was rendered in a whisper!

We also did theatrical exercises such as mirror exercises and mime sessions. For the mirror exercise, one person became the mirror image of another and imitated whatever his partner did. During the costume session, the men changed from Victorian ladies to Mexican cowboys in a jiffy. Theatrical motifs such as lightings, shadow effects and radio plays were also taught. During the shadow effects session Siddhartha and Chanda showed how with a simple torch one could create wonders on a plain white screen.

Chanda supervised the radio plays. One team had to go behind a white screen to stage the play. The other team could only listen to it. “It is important to speak aloud and modulate your voice well as our audience cannot see you,” she reminded us. Then, scripts of the short stories were given to each group to be turned into productions for the final day and rehearsals ensued.

On the last day guests streamed in, lights dimmed and the curtains rose for the first play. It was adapted from the short story, A Lifestyle, by Fernando Sorrentino. It was about a man who can’t get out of his flat, and how he gradually comes to terms with his fate. Shourie played the frantic young man and Anisha the older version of the same person. Shadow play that we had learnt about in the workshop was used by the actors.

The second play, An astrologer’s day, by R.K. Narayanan is about a crooked astrologer who recognises a client as someone he had tried to bump off a long while ago. The audience loved the crooked astrologer played by Jagan and the rebelling young man by Vidit Jain.

The third play was The open window, an adaptation of a short story by Saki. A teenaged girl plays a scary prank on a guest at home. I played the niece and Jagan played the frightened old man, Radhika was the aunt and Sagar her British hunter husband. The fourth play was, A drama of our time, again by Fernando Sorrentino. A young boy is attracted to a Spanish girl and calls her up. But all he can hear from the other end of the line is a terrifying voice . Ashfaq played the love-struck young man and Chandini, the damsel.

The event wound up with post-production discussions and a sumptuous spread of roti and paneer masala. Photo sessions, hugs, and exchange of contacts later, we dispersed, sad that the workshop was over.