Not all who WONDER are lost!!

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After Yogi and the Bear tickling ribs across the country, Alex is getting ready for his solo standup special “Alex in Wonderland”. Here’s him telling us what it is about!! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the third year since I left my 15-year long corporate career to do performing arts. If you are reading this, you are indeed a part of this journey, directly or indirectly. I thank you for being there. In case you have not heard, I am launching my solo standup special ‘Alex in Wonderland’ in September. You can find the tour details in bit.ly/alexwonderland.  (Just getting this out of the way. That’s all :) ).

It has been a fabulous three years.  I feel grateful to have come this far. At this age, there is plenty to look back into. There are wonderful things to be happy about. But then, there are always things to fuss about. If you can laugh at all of them with child-like optimism, then, that, according to me, is your wonderland.

What do I talk about, in this show? Parenting is one thing. More than sharing my parenting stories, I am keen to share things I will want to tell my children. If I have to write a letter (like how Poet Na.Muthukumar did for his son), which my kids will read long after I am gone, what will that be?  I have not written and performed much about parenting, yet.  That ‘Sishya School’ comedy is one of the few. That story too is not so much about Sishya but about how we have managed to create Sishya like situations all around us. We get the kids up on the competition mode even before they are out in the world.  It looks like,  the world can not run without competition anymore. You switch on the TV, it is filled with competitions. Almost all shows are competitions. Be it singing or dancing or cooking, you have a competition. Even a small group of people living inside a house is now competition. More than the art,  so much of attention is given for the drama around it. A great amount of time and energy is going into watching and wondering about other people’s lives. If only, we can spend half that time to watch our own lives!

Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti has  spoken some wise words on how competition form the foundation for all the conflicts, wars and ruins in the world. I hope the world heads towards a comparison-free, competition-free, and a war-free world. No more losing millions of lives over pieces of land. I hope we move towards the world, where peace of mind is valued over and above a piece of land. We should hope for a world where there are no comparison and competition, but only collaboration. When you collaborate, you will get to focus on YOUR strengths, rather than worrying about getting better than someone else’s strengths. Focusing and building on your own strengths will be so much more fun.

Then, I want to talk about Jallikattu. I know, it is not in the headlines anymore. but, hey, we spent weeks sitting in the beach. We have to hold on to that cause a little longer. I grew up in a village in the 70s and 80s. So much has changed in these 40 years. Jallikattu issue was a moment for us to wonder whether these changes have done good to us at all. In these four decades, most of native seeds have disappeared to make way for the genetically modified seeds from the Trump land. Plants are not having their pollination fun anymore. We now come to know about how native bulls and cows are fast disappearing. In many states, natural insemination is banned and artificial insemination supplies are coming from Trump. Yes, the cows and bulls are not having fun together anymore. The next step, who knows, could be for humans. Or maybe it has started already.  So many things changed. While I was growing up, we were roaming around the fields and farms like the country chickens. (They were called just chickens back then). Now we all have migrated to the cities and living in the corporate cubes and the same have happened to the chickens too. Somewhere a balance and restoration of natural living is needed.  I think this is worth talking/joking about.

When all else fails, I truly believe, there will always be art. Especially music. Music is God’s own mocktail. You can drink as much as you want. It’s all good. I believe good music gets the soul to secrete love and compassion and good things start happening. Growing up in the village, I always woke up to the intense high pitched singing of Seerkazhi Govindarajan from the temple early in the morning. Temple’s loud speaker was the common alarm for the entire village. Seerkazhi’s ‘Vinaayakaney Vinai Theerpavaney’ can release you not just from obstacles of life but can also get you out of bed. We would wake up and head to the church for the morning service. On the way to church, walking around a big pond by the fields, you can’t miss but hear the voice of Nagoor Hanifa from the mosque in the neighboring village. Nagoor’s “Iraivanidam Kai Yendhungal” will be so convincing that you will believe asking God will always work. When we return from church,  All India Radio’s  ‘Bhakthi Paadalgal (Devotional Songs) will still be on.  Seerkazhi and MS Subbulakshmi and Yesudas and Nagoor would be filling the air. That old radio box filled us with MS Viswanathan and Ilaiyaraja. (Rahman broke all the radios and records. That’s a different story).

Alex in wonderland is all about me happily wondering about all these things with insane optimism. Yes, be assured that it’s a comedy show. I am telling you all these now, because when we get on with humour and music at the show, we won’t get to talk about all these in detail :). In any case, keep wondering and count the wonders around you. Don’t underestimate the power of wondering. Remember this, those who wonder are not LOST!

Alexander The Comic

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Can Theatre be taught online?

In this blog, John Pradeep, the Academic Dean of Happy Cow, talks about digitizing children’s art education.

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I recently had a very interesting meeting with this gentleman who works on an online children’s education platform. He asked me if we can Digitalize Happy Cow’s curriculum so that children can access it from wherever they are. I didn’t have an immediate answer. But I left the meeting wondering if teaching (in any form) should go digital at all. I did some research on how digital learning methods work.

The current digital learning:
The world has quickly become digital, and the younger generations are using technology that just may make study materials like notebooks. In the past students used notebooks, pencils, pens, and folders to school. Today, students carry digital devices like computer tablets, smart phones, and other digital devices to the classroom. Another item that may go the way of the dinosaur is the printed book. Students can now carry an entire library worth of reading material on a slim e-reader device or on the many other evolving tablet-type machines. There may be a day when one no longer browses the aisles of the school library for a book, but only downloads the text instantly when needed. Some textbooks are already offered in digital format, and some school systems and teachers may opt for the convenience of digital devices.

What Digital learning should be:
There is a difference between getting children to learn from digital resources and teaching them to make the best use of the digital resources. For example, asking children to memorize all the foods that are rich in Vitamin C from a fun animation on their tablet is different from teaching them to find out what they should eat if they have teary and reddened eyes.

Theatre? Digital?
Some schools have stopped insisting on writing as the world is getting digital. When you stop writing, the child is not getting used to holding the pencil. Which means, he is not getting used to the motor skills to use a Scalpel at a later stage if he becomes a doctor. Through this era of digitalization of education, art forms like painting, dancing, theatre are the ones that immerse the child with almost all aspects of multiple intelligence. Just listing down the modalities of Multiple intelligence below for you to contemplate if digital learning will cover these:
Musical-rhythmic and harmonic
Visual-spatial
Verbal-linguistic
Logical-mathematical
Bodily-kinaesthetic
Interpersonal
Intrapersonal
Theatre programs expose the child to almost all of these intelligences through learning their lines to moving to rhythm to manning a finger puppet or a string puppet. Thus, it has become the need of the hour for theatre or any art education program to stay as it is for as long as possible so our generation does not fall into the gap between the exploratory learning methods and their application in the future. It will still involve multiple trainers travelling to various schools and having smaller batches and getting lesser money. But it is what theatre is for. The physical presence.

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It’s Playtime!

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Cinthoorika heads The Hindu Theatre Festival along with her colleague, Vasanth. This is her 9th year of working on the festival and her journey with evam started from the 2009 fest! She claims the best part of the fest is the Pizza party that the hospitality team arranges for the team.

 

9 years back I was in the phase where you are done with your college and basically sending out resumes to all the places where you want to work and hoping that you will be called in for an interview. Since I had ample time in hand and very less interest in sleep or TV (Yeah! I am odd like that) I had discovered a sudden interest in reading newspapers. And one day, I noticed a small article in Metro plus calling out for volunteers to join the managing team of The Hindu Theatre Festival.

Intrigued, I sent in a mail and got called in for an interview (for once!) Little did I know that the mail would change my life at that point of time. And so I attended an informal interview and joined the team and started working along with a 30 member team.

The Hindu theatre Festival (Then it was called The Metroplus Theatre Fest) is an international theatre festival conducted by The Hindu every year during the month of August. It travelled to 5 different cities – Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi and Coimbatore.

What followed next was one roller coaster ride. The team got divided into different portfolios – Promotion & Marketing, Ticketing, Hospitality, In venue (Show day logistics) and Production (Backstage).

At any point of time, you would have found at least 15 kids camping at evam office doing some work or other based on their portfolios. Promotions started first with the entire team running from pillar to post, putting up posters, giving out flyers, conducting mini activities to promote the fest; Ticketing team glued to their laptops making scores of excel sheets following the trail of every ticket; Hospitality team was scouting cute little giveaways for the different hospitality kits for the performers; Production team getting hold of carpenters & local Ironwalla anna’s contact for the final day setup.

After some one month of prep, the D day arrived and In-venue team started their work regarding the look & feel of the venue. Brochures & tickets were counted and given out; rental furniture were taken up backstage, and standees were taken and put up at relevant positions! I was more curious about whatever happened onstage – setup for the play. Even among the chaos that unfolded backstage, there was one odd understanding & mutual respect among the troupe’s production team.

And finally the moment arrived and it was marked by a huddle conducted by LP (who was the project & city head at that time) I still remember her telling the team – “Treat this event as if it’s a wedding in your family! Wear your smiles at all point. Make small talk and most important of all, Have fun. Enjoy. Watch some good theatre!”

My favourite play of 2009 fest was Hamlet – The Clown Prince (Directed by Rajat Kapur). I remember being amused when the play started with couple of clowns on stage speaking Gibberish!! I was like “Seriously?” 90 mins later, I also joined the auditorium’s standing ovation among the deafening applause. And just like that, I was hooked!

This is my 9th year of working on The Hindu Theatre Festival and as my colleague calls it, Its my Lala Land! I still get to meet 30 odd new team members, work with them and watch some really good theatre – Except I get to conduct those interviews this time & run the festival from evam’s end :)

The 13th edition of The Hindu Theatre Festival 2017 is starting around August 2nd weekend (11th of August) spans across 3 cities this time (Chennai, Hyd, Bengaluru). You can find the schedule and Box office details right here-http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/stage-right/article19186912.ece

It’s Playtime :)

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What the heck is “Blood Chutney”?

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Its my 3rd Standup Comedy Special – #PokeMe was 2015-16, Second Decoction was (is) 2016-17 and then this is what is following them up…
Someone close to me, told me something yesterday that set me thinking- they said that this one could upset the Apple cart… and i didn’t disagree with them. They were right. This one seems disruptive – if you put the existing two specials into a graph as data points, then this one will not behave in the trend that could be indicated… and i know this coz i have been the engineer amidst the artists, the mathematician amidst the gypsies… i like order and the sense of control it gives me over things.
#PokeMe was a mish mash of many things and it helped me find the funny!
Second Decoction was born out of one thought – why the duck is my mind so Middle class, and why do i resist the notion of Happiness so much? Why do i wait to be asked, and why do i feel like i should wait to be found ‘deserving of’ by another?
The 3rd special came knocking in a year when a Cyclone came and rocked my boat much… a real Cyclone also came, and believe me it was merely manifesting what was already brewing…
Im sure you have gone through a torrid year where nothing seemed funny – and you would have been walking around wallowing in misery, or with a short fuse that you were ready to set a spark to, or just busying handling the several leaking holes in the ship, thinking that plugging those would set the ship back on sail, without realising that the vessel you are aboard would later be remembered as the Titanic…
How does a Comic handle a year of finding nothing funny?
I used to watch shows or visit open Mics and walk away with a sense of numbness and listlessness… all the premises and the jokes i had written seemed worthless and stupid and banal and like ‘whats the bloody point of it all!’…
How do you go on stage and crack a joke when there is Blood on the Dance floor and you know who is bleeding…
Lots of people told me to take a break… skip a season… go quiet and build a bear or something!
Good advise – coz then i could wait for the Spring again, and then when the birds are chirping and squirrels are getting frisky, i could get back to fluff and silliness and whiskers on kittens, and hot dosa on a summer day!
But then that would mean that Comedy for me becomes a fair weather friend… like someone i would meet up once a year and we would make plans and then if time and weather and world permit, we would have a great laugh and ‘keep posted!’.
But what i chose to vent into my Comedy – what if i could tell it my deep fears and shameful truths- would it sit and listen and respond and accept my trust and my hug and and help me heal…
and then if i could heal with it, why could i not pass the secret sauce as a recipe for happiness and a panacea!?
What if my Blood could become my Chutney – where i dont get daunted by its deep redness and i choose to treat it with some lightness and laugh at it and with it, like a Friend who could take a joke, and maybe would even laugh along, and then take the liberty to poke me back even?!
What i actually went through is now immaterial – in fact its all Material now – Comedy material… im healing as i prep for Blood Chutney and hopefully we have a cathartic emotional Standup Comedy special that celebrates Tragedy and Comedy alike…
And in the spirit of IF by Rudyard Kipling,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
Blood Chutney will be this season’s offering – Main Course Comedy. Side Dish Blood.
It could upset the Apple cart – but then we should celebrate by making Apple pie, Apple sauce and even Apple punchaamrutham!
Come and share a hug, and i promise you a great laugh – and maybe even more…
P.s: If you would like to come and watch a Tester show of Blood Chutney, check out this link: bit.ly/bloodchutneytestershow
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36 Vayathinile

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Praveen Kumar is a Bangalore based stand up comedian, whose first love is Biryani and then comes everything else. He is here, talking about his next solo special, in this blog.

 

 

 


India, as a country has been witnessing lot of famous foreign stand up comedy acts for the past few years, latest in the list being Eddie Izzard at the beginning of 2017. The whole of stand up comedian fraternity was so excited and all of them were discussing only about the visiting comic. I usually feel really really lost during all these conversations. The main reason being I don’t find any of the foreign comics relatable. Probably I should blame the way I was brought up. But lot of fellow comics would advice me to watch them… I tried… a lot many times… but failed miserably. But I would watch Tamizh comedians like Goundamani, Vadivelu, Vivek and Santhanam a million times, listen to the same jokes, still laugh hysterically. Probably its the connect, probably its the relatability or probably its the language.

Yes I feel more connected to the jokes if it was in my mother tongue. I thought, if I feel more connected to Tamizh jokes, what if I do my jokes in Tamizh and establish a better connect with my audience? Thats exactly what my friends and fellow comics Biswa and Sundeep told me. “Why are you thinking in Tamizh and translating into English and performing? Instead, perform directly in Tamizh..” Golden words.. I thought about it for a few days and decided to give it a shot. But I ll have to give my best.

As soon as I decided to give this a shot, I spoke to Rabhinder and checked if evam would be willing to produce the show if I come up with a one hour special in Tamizh. He was very happy and said “Lets do it bro!!” Thats it. And so came to be my fourth special. I usually like to work backwards so I am motivated enough. So I booked dates for the show first and started working towards it. I would probably be the first person to come up with a Tamizh solo stand up comedy special. I felt special.

Then I started writing Tamizh jokes, for which I have been waiting for so long. I enjoyed writing jokes in my mother tongue. I didn’t decide on the theme of the show yet. But I started writing. Eventually I came up with the name of the show “36 Vayathinile” which means “At the age of 36”.  So I decided to talk about things from a 36 year old man’s perspective. About the responsibilities, the pains, the likes, dislikes etc. Basically I belong to the generation which is like a sandwich between the extremely conservative older generation and extremely modern newer generation. So I thought I can talk about that on stage.

But where do I practice? Where do I hit open mics? I cannot try Tamizh jokes in Bangalore open mic. I had to travel to Chennai to try open mic. Probably thats the only downside of the whole project. But I was telling myself that if I have to give my best, I have to be ready to work hard. So I decided to travel to Chennai frequently to try my jokes, whatever I have written. I started writing around March end and I would have travelled to Chennai for open mics and other shows where I performed in Tamizh at least some 15 times. I hereby take this opportunity to thank evam, Chennai Comedy and Tanglish Comedy in Chennai for giving me guest spots whenever I asked for. Really means a lot guys. Also special thanks to Rabhinder and Sowpernika from evam for creating some shows just for me to try out material.

I am still travelling and still trying out jokes in Chennai open mics. For all you know, I will be travelling when you are reading this blog. As of now I have about 32 minutes and I have to finish writing the remaining half an hour, try that, practice in open mics and open spots, try a longer spot, do a run through (secret show) everything before August 5th as thats when I am launching the show in Bangalore.

Ok guys, if you have read this blog, please try coming to the show. Aug 5th in Bangalore and Aug 27th in Chennai.

Ok. I have to go book my Chennai bus tickets. See you guys soon.

Thanks and Regards,
Praveen Kumar

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Brainstorming – The core of Brandrama!!

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Vasanth Subramaniam – Division Head of Brandrama and Manager of Digital Content at evam! In this blog he is talking about what makes Brandrama unique :)

 

 

 

 

 

At evam, our two key words that we try to make a Mantra on a day to day basis is ‘Imagination. Rigour’. Of course we don’t always succeed at accomplishing both in all of our activities, but a healthy mixture of these is crucial for successful execution of anything really.

People have always innovated and figured out newer and better ways of doing things, but before Social Media, most of these were not widely known. Now, anything innovative done by a team, it is highlighted, talked about, appreciated and ‘viralised’ online. So much so that unless you are offering something new, your product or solution is not seen to be of much value. While Imagination is key, it is also equally important for the team involved to have the rigour to execute the amazing ideas to the best of their abilities. Without proper planning and ownership, even the best ideas fail at every level and scale. So: Imagination. Rigour.

Now, Brainstorming is a crucial activity in Imagination. Even if it is two people sitting down to figure how best to promote and sell a stand-up show in a pub or a team of 10 brainstorming to figure how to best run a multi city festival – more than one mind coming together and generating ideas (irrespective of feasibility) is the starting point of a well laid out plan.

This is the most fun I personally have at work, where your brain is utilised to the fullest. Understanding the requirement, suggesting ideas, hearing other people’s ideas and suggesting tweaks (or shooting them down :P), having your own ideas discussed and evaluated and during all this judging your own ideas as to whether they are unique / interesting / effective enough. At the end of every brainstorming session, everyone involved is so mind f#$%ed (in a good way), that it is so fulfilling.

For a division as niche as Brandrama, servicing requirements that are so unique and diverse, and having the utmost need to be innovative and ‘wow’, effective brainstorming becomes super key. Almost every single ‘off the shelf’ product that we have at Brandrama was born out of similar unique requirements from clients in the past. And the rigour of execution, ensuring high quality delivery, has made them highly sought after and effective solutions.

Here is to many many more Brainstorming sessions at Brandrama ! And of course many many more briefs from prospective clients bringing in the need for it! :)

Imagination. Rigour.

Vasanth Subramaniam

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Starting from Scratch – The Cast Talk!

pp (1).jpgFirst Rush is evam’s beginners acting course which starts with a two day acting workshop followed by a month long production process and ends with a stage performance by the participants. The 32nd batch of First Rush, are all ready to go on stage this Saturday! They have christened themselves as “Starting from Scratch” and their production is called “5 Finger Fries”. The mentor for this batch was Mr.Chetan Rao and the director is Mr.Hari Ramakrishnan. Their show consists of Five short plays out of which one has been written by one of the cast member herself.

As usual, this batch was also a mix of different personalities. One was a life coach, other one a participant in the life coach’s class, one fashion designer, who has already started taking up orders from her fellow members in the batch. In this busy last week where everyone is running to get things done, we made them stop and have a small talk with us. Here it is. By the way book the tickets for the show here :

https://in.bookmyshow.com/plays/5-finger-fries/ET00057233

  • How did you find the FR workshop and the 30 days of rehearsals?

Prashanth: It was like taking the blue pill and exploring the untrodden path.

Syama: The FR workshop was a great learning for me from Chetan Rao. And in the one month rehearsal I have tried to apply what I have learned in the workshop

Priyanka: It was like doing bungee jumping. Because I consider myself to be an introvert. Chetan and Hari just made me comfortable to keep myself apart and put on a different skin. These 30 days were seriously the best and so much of fun. Even though I had to rush out of work early and practice and work late night, it was worth it. So much of laughter and masti! I will miss it when it’s over :(
I thank Hari for giving me the opportunity to have my script even though I’m totally new to script writing. This faith he showed and the platform for such a chance is something I’m grateful for!!! 

  • How was this one month prepping for the show?

Joe: This one month was a good experience. It was really fun. Informative and having a real time experience of making and marketing a theatre play made me feel great.

Joel: I have learnt a lot. I have learnt how to and how not to act. This one month has showed me that I have a lot of time that I can put in use to. I am wondering what I am going to do with the extra time after this Show. Please do come for the show :D

Priyanka: The big day… The thought of so many people looking at me and just waiting to see what I’m doing, watching my every step, every move, every word! That’s scary… But I feel ready!!! :D

  • What’s freaking you out the most while getting ready for the big day?

Syama:  I am quite nervous about the big day as I have a lot of my own people watching me on stage doing a very different character. They are in for such a big shock though :D

Tanay: I am playing a terrorist😅 and that’s freaking me out. There I go! Spoilt the surprise!

Prashanth: Performing flawlessly before a live audience! If I accomplish this, I can start breathing normally.

  • The most funniest moment in this one month of rehearsals?

Joe: The whole crew is funny. Most funniest moments for me is the improvisations we did to form the play “Indecent proposal” and finally my character became a gay at the end of this play. Wait!! Was that a spoiler?

Priyanka: The funniest moments are when we start pulling each other’s leg and all the teasing. Something hilarious happens every single day and I have never laughed so much. I can’t believe that we were all strangers a month ago.

Joel:  The most funniest was when Syama and Lalitha’s romance blossomed during the course of this one month. I am not going to give more details though!

  • A few lines about the character(s) you are doing? 

Prashant: A Detective and a Dad. Both begins with a “D”

Joe: Akram, an Arabian gay. I tried an Arabian English accent for Akram. This is a funny character . Sanju: This character is an average youngster we find all around. For this character a lot of home work is needed with ques and reactions.

Priyanka: All 3 characters which I play are so different and random. One of it was a challenge because I had to be someone I’m totally not as a person. I don’t want to reveal too much. Let’s see how its like on the show day

  • What next?

Joe: I love to work with entertainment sector particularly on theatre productions. I am leaving to Ireland for my masters in management and then will try to become a part of theatre and would like to work on theatre management. Lets see how it goes.

Priyanka: Next, I realised that I definitely enjoy theatre!!! Will look out for more opportunities to learn and improve myself.

Syama: I look forward working with theatre in any of the form and division possible. Also looking forward to learn theatre more and be with the fraternity forever. Hey “Starting with Scratch”, lets be the audience for this year’s “Short and sweet” and participants for the next!!

  • A few words about your director!

Priyanka: Hari is amazing. He gives us the space to learn and express ourselves. With him, its the right mix of having fun along with us but also gets stern when he has to! I couldn’t have been ready for this show without his inputs and encouragement

Joe: About Hari, he is very straight about performance. He gives us criticism which helps us to improve a lot. He shouts sometimes but in the end its all for the good show that’s gonna happen this weekend. Apart from practice, he is a good friend. Overall he is a talented director.

Prashant: Young Talented guy, age 26, eligible bachelor looking for a good bride. Interested brides come over to the show to meet him in person ;-)

 

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