Theatre spaces lift the curtains in Bengaluru, but with caution
COVID-19 precautions in place; performers have to rehearse with physical distancing
The new year has brought good news for Bengaluru’s theatre community, which was mostly dormant in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s prominent theatre spaces, including Ranga Shankara and Jagriti, have resumed, albeit with caution.
Alliance Française de Bangalore (AFB) reopened on January 2 with Theatre For Change’s stage production of renowned playwright Safdar Hashmi’s works. The cultural centre has announced a discount in the rent for its auditorium for cultural events, including theatrical productions.
Jagriti staged Not just a half, a collection of anecdotes and monologues about the experience of being a woman. Ranga Shankara’s first show of 2021 included Kannada plays Shraddha and Stainless Steel Paathregalu. According to its founder Arundhati Nag, all shows were sold out.
The managements of the venues are, however, cautious. For instance, only 50% occupancy is allowed, a section of the usual theatre audience is still likely to be wary of live shows, and the performers have to rehearse with physical distancing.
“We sanitise all the seats, we provide hand sanitisers at the entrance, and we don’t let anyone in without a mask,” Ms. Nag lists the precautions being followed at Ranga Shankara. “In our case, we are filling less than half of the seating capacity. The front row is empty because it’s too close to the performers.”
Despite the inconveniences and uncertainties, the theatre community is glad about shows returning to the stage.
“None of our actors had second thoughts about returning to the stage,” says Ankita Jain, co-founder of the theatre group Kahe Vidushak. Their productions Jinhe naaz hai and Do kaudi ka khel are slated to be staged at Ranga Shankara on January 19 and 20, respectively. They are returning to the stage after 10 months.
“Though we were active in the digital medium, it wasn’t the same as being on stage. Being in front of people and hearing their applause is a different feeling. So, even if it’s just going to be few people coming for the show, we are excited,” she adds.
WeMove Theatre’s founder Abhishek Iyengar says, “It’s good news; an important news for the theatre community. But we are back to square one. We were out of touch with the audience. So, we need to make efforts to bring them back.”
WeMove is set to stage its first production of the year in February. But they are promoting shows by other groups on their Facebook page. “It’s important that the theatre community sticks together in these times,” he adds.
Ms. Nag reckons the return to normalcy is still far. “A few countries are going back to lockdown. It will take a while before everyone is vaccinated. Until then, we have to count on patrons and philanthropists to keep us afloat.”
Some of the plays to be staged at Ranga Shankara are:
Jinhe naaz hai: Abhishek Majumdar’s anthology of three short plays Baana (translated from ‘The Arrow’ in Kannada), Namak (translated from ‘Salt’ in Hindi by Srinivas Beesetty) and Raashan that revolve around the theme of existence and survival in extremities.
On January 19, 7.30 p.m. by Kahe Vidushak; in Hindi and Kodava Takk.
Maavinagudi Colony: This satire by Shankar Ganesh discusses the themes of development and globalisation.
On January 22, 7.30 p.m. by Rangasourabha; in Kannada
Thief. Cactus. Goat. Smut.: Swetanshu Bora’s play involves the murder of a goat; a classic children’s play about thieves and murderers; a pornographic film set; and a cactus in the waiting area of a high-end restaurant.
On January 24, 3.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. by Dramanon; in English and Hindi