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Performing Theatre during lockdown times

“I don’t know how to do theatre right now, it’s such an intense team exercise.” One of my closest friends remarked. That made me think, can’t we really do theatre, can’t we re-learn to think, act, redo and undo what we know. I truly believe that theatre can be done in isolated conditions without face-to-face human interaction.

For this, let us begin with some things in mind. Theatre is action, action that is based on a plot, after understanding, reading and analysis of it. So here what is required are three steps, going from the most difficult to the easiest one:

1. Action of an actor, in relationship with other actors

2. Plot Reading

3. Analysis of the plot

The easiest amongst the three is the reading of the plot and understanding it. It is easy for the actors to read their parts in the plot via an online video conferencing platform like Zoom or Skype, but the critical part is how will we display the action that is the foundation of theatre. Here the role of the director is pivotal. He has to consider himself like a conductor of an orchestra. Let us start by answering what does an orchestra do, the instruments first practice their parts individually and then come together, playing their parts. Hence, the director has to do the same with the play in his hands.

The director has to first and foremost break the parts into sequences and shots, almost like a film director and make the actors then practice the parts. The reactions of the non- speaking actors are pivotal. What I mean to say is at a particular moment in any play, it is only one actor who speaks the dialogues and others respond to him, either verbally or non-verbally . The director needs to first ask the actor to say the dialogues and direct the other actor on either how to react in dialogue form or move in action.

Here the catch is, the action should not be large but limited, imagine the stage to be only as small as the frame of your laptop or any other electronic device like a mobile or an Ipad. This challenges the creativity and presence of mind of both, the director and the actor. So, if the action is large, like the actor comes in running and panting, here the action has to be much smaller. Here, the director has to open an application like Zoom, the safe version or google hangouts and rehearse the entire play like one would do physically.

After two weeks of rehearsals, the play can have a technical by adding music to it. For lights,

one can use table lamps and full lights for showing night-time, and daytime light to show exterior. Some sequences can also be developed outdoor in the balcony or veranda. One must remember that we, as theatre professionals are unlearning what we knew before, so we need to keep aside all the learnt knowledge . Because in order to learn this new art, we have to unlearn the old and get creative. We have to recreate new steps, new meanings in our understanding. It will become challenging and difficult and hence we must keep a tracker for our daily progress. Here, self- motivation and constant feedback from the entire team is important. One can also fix a daily rehearsal time like one does it in the face-to-face rehearsals and every step should lead into a final culmination of a show, which is digital and virtual.

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