Let Your Voice be Heard: Musings and mechanics of the new age of oral storytelling

by Zohra Malik

Photo via Gratisography

Once upon a time; where the setting could have been anywhere in the world; people gathered to narrate stories. Everything from neighbourhood gossip to legends and myths took shape through recounted narratives. Today as we walk through an era where voices are being silenced by the noise of gunshots fired outside homes, let us go down the rabbit hole and explore where storytelling came from and where it is heading.

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A Look Back: The Alexander Technique with Sarah Barfoot

When you try to first find out what the Alexander Technique is, it might seem a fair bit complicated. But you also realise that as a performer it is probably one of the best things to enhance your craft. A good teacher will not only give you the enhancement of the craft, but she will also give it to you in a non-complicated, easy to understand way. That is exactly what Sarah Barfoot did at her workshop on the Alexander Technique at the DSM.

Being a 2-day workshop, it had to move a little faster, yet Sarah ensured that everybody was in the same zone before moving onto the next step at every point. And of course, being a certified teacher with immense experience globally, that came easily to Sarah.

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A Look Back: Acting Through Voice with Hetal Varia

When Hetal Varia announces a workshop, that too with the DSM and that too an open, beginners workshop, it is bound to receive a magnanimous response. And so it did, when Acting Through Voice was announced.

The workshop was a Foundation Skill in Acting workshop, meaning it was for beginners onwards in terms of skill level in acting or performance. Being a 5 day workshop, it was designed to move at a comfortable speed while going to the depth of the contents of what voice is all about and how to better its delivery.

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October Schedule for @theDSM!

After a little break in September due to logistical reasons, @theDSM is back in October with a brilliant talk with Shernaz Patel and an interesting performance based piece.

Here is how it will go down in October.

Conversations@theDSM

14th Oct- 5pm

A talk with Shernaz Patel
Theatre/film actress

Shernaz will share with us her journey in theatre, how her family has had a background in theatre, talk about Rage Productions, and overall theatre scene in and around India.

Performance@theDSM

28th Oct – 7pm

“Backstagewalla Koni”
Written and designed by -Yugandhar Deshpande
(Marathi, Hindi, English)

A combination of reading, performance, interactions and a lot more about theatre, the addas, the people, the groups and everything that surrounds the theatre world off-stage.

 

Workshops

The DSM will hold a workshop or two in the Foundation Skills in Acting or the Advanced Working Practitioners segment in October. Watch this space for updates.

 

We hope to see you in large numbers for the events!


Mohit Takalkar is a medium between the writer, the text and the actor

Written by Gaurangi Dang

 

If we cannot handle the economics of theatre then what remains of it is a hobby, albeit a very expensive one. So maybe we don’t need theatre anymore and maybe somewhere we are all responsible for its slow death.

Mohit Takalkar has an ability that very few people seem to have- he can move people, to an extent that may even infuriate them. It’s hard to tell when and where it began, but one can see its trace present in his work. There is a little bit of him in each of them, his moods, his life, his loneliness, his growth and somewhere his genius in being able to channel it all through fragments and texts. If you were to ask Mohit, he’d probably describe himself as a medium between the writer, the text and the actor, not denying his presence but somewhere not acknowledging it enough. If you spend enough time with him, then you could probably see how his art consumes him.

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The Alexander Technique: 2-Day Intensive Workshop with Sarah Barfoot

The Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is a mind/body discipline, while achieving a proper understanding of the psychophysical self. As a performer, it brings about a sync of the body i.e. muscles, breathing and posture, in order to have better movement and deliver voice in an optimum manner. It also helps in keeping the muscles relaxed before, during and after a performance, and in the long run, helps keep you injury free and utilise movement and voice while avoiding inflicting stress and harm to both.

 

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We are all responsible for the slow death of theatre: Mohit Takalkar

By Gaurangi Dang

 

If we cannot handle the economics of theatre then what remains of it is a hobby, albeit a very expensive one. So maybe we don’t need theatre anymore and maybe somewhere we are all responsible for its slow death. The approaching death of theatre as we know it was the elephant in the room that nobody was willing to address. Mohit Takalkar sat down with Alok Rajwade at The Drama School, Mumbai on the 19th of August and addressed it.

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Acting Through Voice with Hetal Varia - A 5 Day Intensive Voice Workshop

Voice is an essential aspect of performance, and also regular, daily communication. Voice utilises the body and breath to deliver itself, and it is essential to understand how it all functions and to know how to use it well in order to have a better way to use the voice.

The Drama School Mumbai has a Acting Through Voice Workshop designed and instructed by Hetal Varia, one of the best voice coaches in the country in September, which takes you through all of this and helps you understand and deliver your voice better. This 5 day intensive workshop will help you embrace your voice, understand how the body and breathing come together for the voice, and through exercises, make you use your body and breathing to its optimum for a better way to use your voice.


Public Spaces in India: How performance and art can revitalize them

by Zohra Malik

One of the most distinctive ways that we choose to talk about cities is usually with reference to how how they warp time, how fast or slow they seem to move. It’s not just our imagination, fortunately, because studies show that the reason why cities warp time differently is because of the pace of social life. The pace at which people move around in their city, their rhythm, interaction all of these make up the pace of social life which is how we identify with our city and negotiate with our space. In this context, the central hubs that facilitate this construction of how cities move and breathe generally turn out to be public spaces.


Cities have grown out of a basic need to live as a community and public spaces were traditionally designed to facilitate public interaction. However, the need to exploit real estate and construction potential of a city have left no real open spaces that encourage public interaction. Places like Oval and Cross maidan that are located in and around Churchgate; the parks we find at every turn in Chandigarh; even the MMRDA garden located in the suburbs of Mumbai; these usually have the odd group of children running around, a cricket team being coached, a group of adults playing football but other than that they seem to be missing the energetic vibe that one would hope to find in places like these. It’s almost like these spaces have come to embody the quality of “chill” that has taken our generation by storm. We could complain about the dearth of space, and yes, this is an issue but one that is being addressed by the movements like Open Mumbai initiative. For our part, we are trying to address the issue of stagnancy in these public spaces and what sort of a role performance, art as well as design can play in reviving them.

 

A lot of the public spaces in India seem to be designed keeping in mind the principle of function following form. According to movement generalist and co-founder of Mumbai Parkour, Cyrus Khan, the main reason for stagnation in public spaces is because most people stick to the limited possibilities of movements in these spaces and allow mono-utility to thicken like a bubble around us. When asked about how parkour changed the way he perceives public spaces Khan replied, “Parkour is this little pin that you find one day with a simple message. “Everything is for whatever you want it to be.” And with this pin, you go around popping all these bubbles, jumping down stairs, balancing on railings, climbing the walls – just releasing yourself from the narrow blinders to see a world full of possibilities.”

 

Picture Courtesy: Mumbai Parkour Facebook Mumbai Parkour traceurs


He also cites the similarities between the designs of these spaces as one of the reasons for stagnation. “You see replicas of nearly the same play set in most gardens, with the only other spaces being walking tracks or open grounds.”

 

However, that is slowly changing with the government and organizations like ST+ART who are trying to add to the aesthetic appeal of the public spaces as well as encourage more activity. In Delhi, Gurgaon as well as in some parts of Mumbai, parks have been revamped to include machines for exercise that are absolutely free to use. The restoration of Hauz Khas Village and Deer Park and the re-painting of railway stations in Mumbai, have also significantly brightened up these spaces.

Performances and art in public space change the way we look and think about our surroundings, and potentially challenge the design and diktats that we have created for those spaces. While we may sometimes catch the odd performance or two by the NSPA at stations or witness a street play, there seems to be some amount of hesitance in taking art out of theatres, galleries, auditoriums etc. You aren’t as likely to find someone playing a guitar and singing on Marine Drive as you would be to find someone playing the saxophone on the subways in London. Part of the reason could be that when you produce work within an institution there are certain rules and etiquette that need to be adhered to and one’s boundaries as an artist are respected. This isn’t so when the audience is unpredictable and accidental and interaction between the artist and audience can lead to confrontation.

In an article by The Dance Current, Julia Taffe who is the artistic director of a dance company in Vancouver substantiated why it was worth embracing the uncertainties and ambiguities associated with performing out on the streets. “When I was a contemporary dancer working in the sanctity of the studio, I thought I needed to put space between myself and the world to protect and polish my artistry. After many years of public practice I’ve become more resilient, affable, collaborative and intuitive as a choreographer.”


 

It is glaringly obvious that to make art accessible, it is necessary for artists to trust the public. Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, The Art of Asking reiterates the same sentiment as she regales us on a time when she stripped and let her fans draw on her at a Kickstarter party in Berlin, the visceral feeling of trusting strangers and the blurring of boundaries between artist and audience. Artistes in India like Anish Victor and Shaunak Mahbubani have picked up on these ideas and are curating and collaborating on projects such as UR/Unreserved; which is a series of performances that will take place on trains in four destinations, all the while contemplating notions of identity; and Traversing Experiences which was an art installation curated to showcase the experience of traversing through public spaces as a woman.


Shaunak Mahbubani’s Traversing Experiences

So we are able to recognize public spaces where art and culture can be celebrated; festivals like Kala Ghoda and Kochi Bienalle are proof of that but to make using public space for art a long-term commitment we need to recognize how performance and art transform urbanized, individual spaces into a space that is communal, congenial and invites participation. As artistes, we need to show some Palmer-esque grit and trust the public and as spectators we need to create spaces that care about art.

 

To join Cyrus Khan and his barrel of monkey men AND women, you can follow them here:
Mumbai Parkour | Facebook

Mumbai Parkour (@mumbai_parkour) • Instagram photos and videos

To know more and contribute to Anish Victor for the UR/Unreserved project, go to:

UR/Unreserved- a 30 day arts project on trains

 

References:

http://www.forbesindia.com/blog/economy-policy/the-importance-of-parks-and-public-space/

http://www.thedancecurrent.com/feature/reconsidering-public-space

https://dusp.mit.edu/cdd/news/designing-indian-streets-social-public-spaces-contextual-design-and-planning-bangalore

http://www.academia.edu/33179967/_2017_._Good_policy_practices_for_public_space_and_street_art

 

 

 

        

 


The Guru-Shishya Parampara with Sunil Shanbag and Sapan Saran

Written by Gaurangi Dang

The fourth instalment of Conversations@theDSM saw theatre thespian Sunil Shanbag, and writer, poet, actress Sapan Saran talk about their initiative Tamaasha Theatre, Sunil Shanbag’s plays, the changing trends in theatre, and the relevance of theatre in today’s world.
Continuing with the Guru-Shishya tradition, Sapan who has grown under the mentorship of Sunil Shanbag interviewed the latter on 8 July at the Purandare Hall in Sahitya Sangh.

I first met Sunil Sir two years ago, in class at The Drama School, Mumbai. He called me his problem child. Since then, not much has changed. I get flabbergasted and tongue-tied around him every time I meet him, and he being the kind man that he is, tries to deal with me as patiently as possible. In all this time I have accumulated a whole list of questions that I want to ask him. That situation was remedied to a great extent on Saturday, 8 July, when Sapan Saran sat down with Sunil sir at the Drama School, Mumbai for an illuminating discussion.

Sapan and Sunil sir have been collaborating over the last few years. Their first project together was the play Club Desire and in 2015, they co-founded the Tamaasha Theatre. In some ways one could say, that Sunil sir is a mentor to Sapan, like Satyadev Dubey was to him.

Let’s rewind a little bit.

The year was 1966. India had already seen three Prime Ministers in January itself, and a young eight-year-old Sunil Shanbag was boarding train by himself to go to Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh. Then one day in class, his teacher mentioned that he’d be directing a play and asked them if anyone of them would like to be in it. This information came as a revelation to a kid trying to blend in. Despite not knowing anything about theatre, Sunil Shanbag’s hand immediately shot up into the air. On show-day there was an accident where the curtain rose while he was taking still his place on stage. It was awkward and they had re-do the bit, but from there on everyone in school knew who he was. “After that I was in every play that my drama teacher directed.”

After school, he returned to Mumbai and began to do theatre in the city. Dina Pathak, whom he had worked with back in school, got him in touch with Satyadev Dubey. “I kept thinking if only I had joined him five years earlier. Dubey had directed Andha Yug. The critics say that was when Dubey was at his peak.” Later, while answering a question from the audience mentioned every play and every period is important. Having said that Shanbag Shanbag was blessed to join Dubey at a time, when he was regrouping. His core group of actors had moved away and begun to do their own work and he was looking for new talent to work with. Before he knew it, Shanbag became an integral part of Dubey’s Theatre Unit, so much so that his parents felt like they had given their son to him. He went from (doing odd jobs, to) acting in his plays, to assisting him till eventually he was allowed to conduct rehearsals by himself. Dubey was an eccentric man. When you worked with him, “his friends became your friends and his enemies your enemies.” Other than noted theatre stalwarts in the city, the NSD was out of bounds for Shanbag because Dubey hated the NSD. And so, Shanbag was stumped when Dubey went on to direct plays there!

Each theatre group back in the day had it’s own core crew, and you were expected to work with only your group. While Shanbag understood that, he also wanted to be able to sit in on other people’s rehearsal and process. He soon realized that while the theatre circuit was filled with great actors, they had very little technical knowledge. So he began designing and operating lights for other groups. This allowed him to move around freely without being constantly chided by Dubey. Eventually, he was thrown out by Dubey and asked to run his own company. In 1985, he set up the theatre company Arpana.

Almost everybody that did theatre back then, also kept a day job. Most people worked in banks, for a banks had reservation for the arts and had fixed timings, so post five you were free to do whatever you wanted. Shanbag on the other had assisted Shyam Benegal and worked as a documentary filmmaker on projects such as Yatra, Surabhi and Bharat Ek Khoj. This was before the privatisation of television. In 1994 he won the National Award for his documentary film Maihar Raag, on the Maihar Gharaana in Madhya Pradesh.

Whether it’s Maihar Raag or Cotton 56, Polyester 84, there is a specific social objective. He says that it has something to do with where he comes from and why he is an artist. You have to know as to “why do you want to do this play?”

There is a lot more, so watch the video, and be there for the next talk with Mohit Takalkar and Alok Rajwade on the 19th August, at The Drama School Mumbai, at 5 pm.