Reinventing the theatre

Vision Performing arts have no proper place and the Centre hopes to fill in that lacuna

Vision Performing arts have no proper place and the Centre hopes to fill in that lacuna   | Photo Credit: Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Jose Thomas Performing Arts Centre (JT pac) on the Choice School premises in Thripunithura, seems the perfect stop for performing arts

Visualise this: A school campus, with children in uniform running around and teachers walking briskly about the corridors and school buses dropping off children or taking them home. The campus empties and quiet descends on the complex.

With sundown, a different sort of activity unfolds; the scene turns very adult. Cars start parking on the campus one by one. Art lovers, celebrities and the Page 3 crowd troop into the theatre on the first floor of a sprawling building as the curtain goes up.

It’s a live show, and the performers are established names.

This scenario moves from blueprint to reality in a few months when JT pac (Jose Thomas Performing Arts Centre) turns functional on the Choice School campus in Thripunithura.

Jose Thomas, MD of the Choice group, actor Mohanlal and director T.K. Rajeev Kumar, whose organisational skills are well known, are involved in shaping this dream, with an army of creative artistes in various spheres.

JT pac president Jose Thomas is enthusiastic about the venture.

Standing in the 700-seat theatre, nearing completion, with state-of-the-art acoustics and seating arrangements, he says, “Performing arts have no proper place to be staged today. We will fill that lacuna. Live shows are always more exciting than recorded ones. We will put up high quality shows by the best in the field, from within and outside the country, be it Kathakali, Bharatanatyam, classical, folk or a play. We also intend to get into production. Funding will be through membership, tickets and sponsorship. The tickets are not going to be cheap, because we offer much more than a show in air conditioned comfort.”

The minimum ticket rate will most likely be Rs. 400 for a two-hour show. Rates will depend on how popular the artiste is.

Opportunities to interact and dine with celebrities, perhaps take photos as keepsakes, or to interact with the performing artiste are not add-ons.

There will be a price tag for all these ‘extras’. But it will be an exclusive experience.

Saturday and Sunday are for performances, with repeat shows, but Monday to Thursday, the theatre will have programmes like seminars, workshops on contemporary dance, talk shows by eminent people, debates, quizzes which would be open to school children anywhere. And Fridays will be reserved for conventions like doctors’ meets, says Jose Thomas. Actor Mohanlal, chairman of the venture, is comfortable with stage as well. You name it he does it: act, dance, don a Kathakali costume, do a full length Sanskrit drama in monologues, sing…. So who is better than him for an active ambassador of performing arts? (See box)

“It will be a new aesthetic experience. The very fact that JT pac is situated in a school will give ample opportunities for children to be exposed to these arts, with the kind of workshops and interaction with artistes that kids get,” explains Rajeev Kumar, artistic director of the ambitious project. Rajeev’s vision for the theatre’s future seems clear.

Monthly festivals

Another plan he has in mind is having monthly festivals, devoting a whole month to one form of art, for instance January for Kathakali, February for folk art, March for theatre etc. Having a permanent art gallery, artistes in residence, story-reading sessions, music therapy, research facilities for music, dance and other arts, scholarships and fellowships for the deserving, the possibilities are endless, he feels. This way, dying arts will be revived, new perspectives on several art forms created. In short, a new enlightened audience will be created for performing arts.

This will be a small step to ensure that these arts are rejuvenated in the entertainment sector. Sruthi Sreedhar, who has a strong theatre background, is the curator of the theatre, who will execute the day-to-day functions. JT pac is all set to do a Broadway of sorts in Kochi.


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