A strategic plan for theatre

SHARING DIVERSE EXPERIENCES The core team of the India Theatre Forum.

SHARING DIVERSE EXPERIENCES The core team of the India Theatre Forum.

Passion alone sustains theatre practitioners in India. Despite lack of government funding and inadequate infrastructure, there is plenty of theatre happening all around us, in big cities and small towns, alike. In an endeavour to propel the art form forward, India Theatre Forum, a theatre network run by and for people in theatre, conceptualised and implemented, with support from Mumbai-based Junoon and India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), India’s first theatre management programme.

The initiative, Strategic Management in the Art of Theatre (SMART) is divided into three phases, which takes theatre groups from across the country through a practical roadmap or a strategic plan to make them more sustainable, effective and financially viable. The first phase of SMART was held at Fireflies near Bengaluru, where 17 theatre groups from across the country, participated in a 10-day residential workshop. Sanjna Kapoor and Sameera Iyengar of Junoon, Sudhanva Deshpande of Jana Natya Mancha and Studio Safdar, Delhi and Arundhati Ghosh, executive director, IFA, at a press conference held in the city, spoke of their experiences at Fireflies and of the road ahead for SMART.

Sanjna said the time for capacity building within the theatre community had finally arrived. “It seemed necessary to try and cultivate theatre management,” Sanjna said. Sameera added: “Theatre is an informal sector. In India, theatre survives and thrives despite everything. Theatre practitioners are often the managers. We felt we needed to look at what it means in the Indian context. We put together a fairly detailed survey. We sent it out to our database. We got 72 responses. We were very clear that SMART would be for theatre groups. We wanted theatre groups to send two people who are key decision makers in the group.” Sudhanva said the quality of groups who responded were outstanding. “It wasn’t just new groups that had responded, but older, more well-established groups who have been in the field for 20 to 30 years. Each one of the groups is first rate theatre groups, who do different kinds of theatre.”

Sanjna added, “We got participants not just from the metros, like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, but also from small towns such as Allahabad, Nasik, Pondicherry.”

Professor Milena Dragicevic Sesic, UNESCO chair in Cultural Policy and Management and professor at the University of the Arts, Belgrade, Serbia was the course mentor. She said the conclusion of the first phase signalled the “end of one process and the beginning of another process— a long journey of theatre development.”

The residency at Fireflies, Arundhati said, was magical. “We had something in the evening which we called adda . We had researchers and practitioners from the international community, including Ruth Bereson, an arts manager and teacher, Alessandra Gariboldi, Milena and the Freedom Theatre group that have worked in Palestine, share their diverse experiences.”

Apart from Sanjna, Sameera, Sudhanva and Arundhati, the other facilitators were Sunil Shanbag, theatre director, Arpana, Mumbai, and Swati Apte, director, Junoon.

Every group has been given one mentor, and in the next phase, theywill work with them over their respective mentors over six months.

“Among the mentors are Pravin K.P., Rajiv Krishnan and Menaka Rodriguez. They will be facilitators and will act as a bridge. The groups will come back this year again to discuss a strategic plan for the next three years,” said Arundhati. She added that they will announce SMART’s next year’s programme, in August.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 7:29:32 am |