The art form is now attracting more students in the city

J. Joelah Christlin is an amateur scriptwriter for plays which focus on contemporary issues in society.

A final year student of English Literature in Fatima College, Ms.Christlin recently scripted Modern Eve, which was enacted by her classmates in a workshop on theatre at the college. The play revolves around the life of the protagonist, Charulatha, an 18-year-old rebellious college student, and the constraints she faces in society.

A Bangalore-based theatre artiste, who conducted the workshop, helped Ms.Christlin and the performers learn the nuances of stagecraft.

“We had no idea that theatre had so many components. Now that we know the nuances of drama, we are confident enough to stage our plays for public audience. In fact, we are in the process of perfecting the minor defects in Modern Eve, which we will re-enact during our college literary festival,” says Ms.Christlin.

The World Theatre Day will be celebrated on March 27, and colleges in Madurai have set aside time to revive the theatre art.

“The art of theatre is almost dead after the invasion of films. Colleges such as The American College and Lady Doak College keep the art alive in Madurai with their annual plays. There is a need to breathe new life into the art,” says S. Geetha, Head, Department of English, Fatima College.

Ms.Geetha is preparing to start an indigenous theatre club, which will combine Indian dance forms and folk art techniques with theatre. “I am giving shape to the idea. We will focus on alternative people’s theatre that will create an impact on society. The activities will commence in a few months. Academicians from a few other colleges like Lady Doak College have consented to work with us,” she says.

“If we can pull it off, it will be the first time that colleges collaborate to work on theatre in Madurai,” says Beatrice Anne D’ Couto, a senior faculty member of English Department in Lady Doak College.

Lady Doak College produces plays every year, which is open to college students and the public. This year’s production is under way and the students are busy rehearsing.

“Our play this year will be staged from March 26 to March 28. We select performers through auditioning,” says Dew Laurent, another senior faculty member, who directs plays. The college has staged plays such as Arms and the Man, The Importance of Being Earnest, Madame de, The Proposal and The Three Blind Mice.

“Theatre is a dying art. There is a good response from college students to the plays we stage and the public do turn up, but their number is not always as high as we expect,” says U. Chandni, a student of English Literature in the college. The play also has performers from other majors, who share the passion for theatre and acting.

More than 500 people turned up when the Fourth Wall production of The American College staged Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, its annual play after a four-year hiatus in January this year.

“The response to Twelfth Night was overwhelming. Amateur theatre is flourishing in Madurai more than ever before with several schools organising theatre festivals and colleges keen to revive the art. It is as if people have realised that theatre is an art integral to their lives,” says N. Elango, Head, Department of English, The American College, who directed the play.