Amid lockdown, Rangashankara goes online

A file photo of Ranga Shankara in Bengaluru.  

Theatre, a spectator art performance, has been facing an existential crisis in times of social distancing following the COVID-19 pandemic. In Bengaluru, the theatre space, Rangashankara, has reinvented itself and is trying to reach out to the theatre community and its audience, online.

As part of the initiative, more than 20 actors, directors, playwrights and thespians from language theatres across the country have performed monologues from their favourite theatre texts for the camera and shared it online.

These include performances by Shabana Azmi, Sihi Kahi Chandru, Mandya Ramesh, Mukhyamantri Chandru and B. Jayashree, while actor Umashree has performed a play after several years. This campaign is also part of the 15th anniversary celebrations of Rangashankara. Those who couldn't record a video have still participated with an audio recording.

“With the lockdown, our lifeline to the audience was cut off. At Rangashankara, we never celebrated World Theatre Day, as we argued we do it every day. But this year was different. As a community space, we realised we had a role to play to keep theatre alive. What we could do now was only work with monologues as all of us are locked up at home. The response we got from the community has been very encouraging,” said Arundhati Nag, founder of Rangashanakara, who has performed a monologue from Girish Karnad’s play Anju Mallige, her first Kannada production.

Live-streaming of plays has become the norm abroad, but remains untapped here. Has COVID-19 forced the theatre community in the country to explore the video as a medium? “We at Rangashankara have tried recording plays for archival purposes, but have failed to do great work like at NCPA, Mumbai. I feel a play in video is reductionist as it doesn't give that wholesome experience,” Ms. Nag said.

Umashree, who started with theatre and went on to become a noted film actor, said the experience of recording the monologue was strange. “I enacted a theatre text to the camera,” she said, but added that after years before the camera she was accustomed to it.

Filmmaker B. Suresha had a different take. “Even at Rangashankara, we have tried to live-stream plays when we got Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. But only a handful of people watched it online. Theatre requires that human element,” he said.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 11:31:43 AM |

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