The two-decade-old State-owned theatre repertory, Rangayana, does not seem to have any respite from controversies, with its Director B. Jayashree now having sought ‘long leave’ on account of alleged non-cooperation of artists and ‘government doublespeak’.

Allegations and counter-allegations by the Rangayana administration, and artist discontent have become commonplace, while the theatre fraternity is pained at the development.

Disappointed over the inability of the Department of Kannada and Culture to address issues of concern, Ms. Jayashree has sought a long break from office.

According to sources in Rangayana, when the Director took some administrative steps to “streamline” the functioning of the repertory, artists refused to cooperate. Her plea to the artists regarding revival of old plays has been met with a lukewarm response.

In the line of fire

Ms. Jayashree has also been in the line of fire for renting a house, suggesting renovation of the Director’s chambers and making strict rules mandating the presence of artists on campus during working hours. When vested interests tried to blow the issue out of proportion, she clarified that the quarters assigned to her had certain limitations. She had expressed her reservations about staying in the quarters meant for the Director as it was not in proper condition. On this account, she had asked for permission to take up private accommodation which the Government allowed.

Similar was the condition of the Director’s chambers where no toilet facility was in place. She had sought permission to create such a facility, but this issue too was blown out of proportion. On the differences with artists, she had clarified that she had only asked them to stage old plays rather than new ones. She said she was not against experimentation, but hoped to revive the charm of the old.

The discontent among the artists again resurfaced during the B.V. Karanth Rangotsava. A statuette of poet Tiruvalluvar was brought by the Culture Department to the Rangayana premises during Dasara in order to help design a tableau for public viewing. This landed Rangayana in a problem.

When Karnataka Rakshana Vedike activists protested against the need for a Tiruvalluvar tableau, the replica was sent back to Bangalore, from where it was brought.

While Ms. Jayashree alleged that it was a conspiracy hatched by the artists to tarnish her image, the artists said the installation of the replica was in accordance with the Director’s orders. When the artists were served a notice seeking an explanation for the act, they accused Ms. Jayashree of humiliating them time and again.

The artists also feel that they should be free to enrich theatre and that it is not right to restrict artists’ freedom.

Meanwhile, the premature ending of the course being conducted by the Bharatiya Ranga Shikshana Kendra (BRSK) has also come in for criticism.

However, sources in Rangayana said the move was to facilitate commencement of a diploma course in theatre, which was being conducted in association with the Karnataka State Open University.

The ongoing tussle between the artists and the Director, and the latter’s decision to go on long leave, might put the organisers of the Bahuroopi Theatre Festival, which is scheduled for December, in a tight spot.