Theatre has lost its Joy

Joy Michael

Joy Michael   | Photo Credit: Sandeep_Saxena


A human dynamo who pulled Delhi’s theatre to great heights, Joy Michael will be remembered as a selfless professional

Joy Michael, the doyenne of Delhi’s theatre circuit, passed away on Friday night because of age-related problems. The 90-year-old was cremated at the Lodhi crematorium. She is survived by two daughters. A post-graduate in English literature from St. Stephen’s College, she had the distinction of being the first woman secretary of its Shakespeare Society. Later she studied speech and drama at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and trained at British Drama League.

After returning to India, she co-founded Yatrik Theatre, a repertory company, in 1964 along with Roshan Seth, Rati Bartholomew, Sushma Seth, Marcus March and others. Once she told The Hindu that Yatrik was among the first theatre groups that paid a monthly salary to full-time actors. Over the years, Yatrik grew from strength to strength under her able stewardship.

Consistently honing young talent, she brought new productions every year and put a system in place where the institution was more important than individuals. Ms Michael was the Principal of Delhi’s St. Thomas School and under her watch Yatrik always promoted theatre in education by holding workshops in schools and colleges and staging performances in educational institutions.

Ms. Michael was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2009 and was conferred the Padma Shri in 2012. Her contemporaries, remember her as a self-effacing and warm person, a true friend and companion.

‘A legend’

Theatre director Amal Allana said that Ms. Joy was a legend: “She was a pioneer of Delhi’s theatre movement, among the first to start English theatre in the Capital”.

“She believed that theatre is not just for entertainment but a vital tool for education. Therefore Yatrik did numerous workshops for children and she worked to spread theatre in schools and even Delhi University. Way back in 1960s, she prevailed on the Government to allow use of Film Division’s Auditorium on Mahadev Road for rehearsals and staging of plays. Joy started the Hindi wing of Yatrik to popularise plays in that language,” she added.


Theatre director Bhanu Bharti said he met Ms. Joy as a student of NSD. “My personal encounter with her was when directing Eugene Ionesco’s The Lesson, I required a pince-nez and the first person I thought about was her. I went to her at the Hailey Road office and she arranged it for me,” he recalled. “That is the kind of person she was, someone you could depend on completely without any inhibition. She supported youngsters and made them feel at ease . While she promoted English theatre, she was equally supportive of Hindi plays,” said Mr. Bharti, adding: “An institution in herself, her work for Yatrik will remain a pillar for theatre”.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 7:07:50 AM |

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