The Backstage Back Story

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Software Engineer by profession & Co founder of Playtonik Productions from Bengaluru, Deeban has been heading the Production Portfolio for The Hindu Theatre Festival for past 2 years now! Whenever he is not haggling with vendors for reducing transportation costs for the sets transfer, Deeban annoys his team with his vast knowledge of Bollywood songs and equally cheesy dialogues!

 

 


The Hindu Theatre Festival comes around once every year in August. And it has been a sensory treat for me to be so close to doing something that I am passionate about for a few of weeks in a year. The rush, the crowd, the mistakes, the anticipation, the thrill of energies that are exchanged by performers and the crew and the exhaustion that is a part of every festival is something that has made me grow and learn so much. Over the last few years working on the festival has given me the opportunity to witness some of the best plays touring the country, unfold on stage, and participate in their entire setup process.

This year was slightly different from all the other times I have handled Production for the festival. I was asked to coordinate and head all the production activities in multiple cities (Bangalore & Hyderabad). It was challenging on a different level. But something that my insides did not want to back down from.

What does this even mean?

It means that I am on multiple calls (literally, hundreds 😊) with the troupe’s production managers, and people who were in charge of the production activities in different cities and making sure that everything was sticking to the schedule.

Tasks primarily include:

  1. Getting entire or part of the sets that are constructed locally.
  2. Sourcing the furniture and props required for the plays.
  3. Coordinating with different vendors for the above and any other cool or not so cool tech requirements like Snow Machines, Smoke and Haze Machines.
  4. And during show days, helping the troupes with stage setup, packing-up and backstage support.

We had three plays this year for Bangalore and Hyderabad:

  1. Barff by AGP.
  2. Khwaab Sa by The Company Theatre and
  3. Black with Equal by Masque.

This was the most exhaustive and the most interesting round of THTF production for me and possibly for others as well. In the previous editions I had seen that the theatre companies would have chosen to travel with their sets or be very minimalistic in their format, but this time my team’s involvement started 2-3 weeks before the actual show day as the collective production requirements of the groups were very elaborate and we wanted to get everything arranged and ready for seamless show days. Also, this was the first time for me when all the plays did overnight setup.

Barff  a thriller set in the picturesque Kashmir, was the play with the most elaborate setup. They had huge sets, snow machines, smoke and haze machines and I was initially nervous as the sets got constructed locally in Bangalore and there were too many elements, but it was a relief as everything just worked out as per the director’s and the team’s requirements. And what a fabulous set it turned out to be, which worked in complimenting a power packed performance by the actors.

And it, of course, not surprisingly, got the standing ovation from the audience.

Barff sets in the making and after

Khwaab Sa from The Company Theatre, was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and was performed as a Contemporary Dance and Musical comedy. Though very minimal on set design and set items on stage, (like with an infinity white cyclorama and a drum set right at upstage centre), but with the last minute requirements and some reworks due to wrong specs, my team and me were nimble footed and on our toes till the last minute before the actors went on stage.

The final play was Black with Equal by Masque a satirical black comedy, was a laughter riot. From production requirements perspective they just needed some furniture which was arranged. But every play comes with its own sets of surprises. They had a very interesting cyclorama (transparent plastic fiber 4ft x 4ft panels spanning across the whole stage) and it took us the maximum amount of time due to some setbacks in installation. But it was fun collaborating with the Black with Equal team in putting these panels together and getting the cyclorama up and leveled *Sigh of relief* at 6:00 am in the morning.

The next day or rather the same day Black with Equal included rehearsals for backstage team due to sharp set changes between scenes and intermission including moving a dead body off stage :-)

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With all this action and laughs Black with Equal surely ended the festival with a high for the audience and for us.

Fervent gratitude is required at this stage as none of this would have been accomplished without my fantabulous Production team in both the cities, teaming up, staying as late as 6:00 am in the morning for setup to reaching the venue early in the mornings and taking care of the production requirements during the day till showtime to packup of the sets which have to be done in the night after the show was over and the audience have left. Whew. That was a long list in itself. A huge thank you to evam for asking me to be a part of this amazing experience.

I guess all of us took the message that goes out during evam’s briefing huddle – “We should treat the Hindu Theatre festival as a wedding in the family and the performers as our guests,” to our hearts and no matter what… Atithi Devo Bhava.  😊

-Deeban Chakravarthy

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My Experience with The Hindu Theatre Festival – Hyderabad!

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Aditya GV started working with our Live team from the year 2011 and this is his 7th year with The Hindu Theatre Festival 2017. He was the Hyderabad City Head for the festival this year. Here he is in this blog talking about his experience with the festival.

 


 

We have many platforms to showcase our talent – it may be dance, music or singing but on the other hand very less platforms when it comes to Acting or Theatre work! There are no proper subject oriented or skill developing theatre companies around who are working on the motive to present and make a person better at acting. Because everyone is looking at it as a money-making model. Yes! And it’s only because of the perception that our people have. Everyone considers acting as one form that happens only on big screen but not on the stage where people like SRK and Nawaz came from. The only place where they want to be is inside the shoes of the Hero who kicks some ass, romances and drag races but not into the effort of production house. Nobody really understands it.

It all started 6 years ago when I was done with my Graduation and getting my prep done for CAT. That was the time when my immense interest in plays, acting and art form got a sudden spark due to the ample time I had in my hand. There were 2 things that I was always into big time because of my interest:

  1. Movies and Acting(Watch only)
  2. Dancing

Flipping through the Metro plus addition of The Hindu, I found a tiny piece of advertisement where they were looking for a few volunteers to work on their Theatre Festival that is happening across 5 major cities. Until then, I didn’t have a slight idea of how big this festival is and didn’t know that actually people attend this on a great scale. The super excited self in me didn’t even wait for a minute after reading it. Quickly firing up my laptop I emailed the team about my interest and other details that they found interesting and looped me in to be a part of the 2011 Metro Plus Theatre Festival team.

From being a volunteer in the Hospitality portfolio to becoming the City Head in Hyderabad for the The Hindu Theatre Festival 2017 (yeah, it became bigger) my journey was fantabulous. I did every kind of work right from Production, Hospitality, Ticketing and In-venue which gave me a thorough knowledge of how the festival runs and also many learnings which gave me an entry to a domain called Arts Management which not really everyone has a chance to explore so often. Great people,fabulous team, the Hhngouts which you get to do with the artists and of course the plays and the experience always become better every year. It’s a very short time but it gives you the boost and zeal to look/do something better going forward.

The 13th edition of the festival was done like 3 days back and it was a bomb. This year was tough and I took up the challenge equally along with my team. We had some huge production sets that were a visual treat to the audience and at the end when everyone gives you a standing ovation, talks about how well the play turned out to be… the kind of boost you get cannot be matched to anything. I got to work with and meet prominent theatre groups again and my favourite play was Barff which was directed by Saurabh Shukla. Every year, every fest is a new challenge and experience. I come back with so many learnings and experiences which won’t be taught anywhere else. Looking forward to 2018.

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Aditya GV

 

 

 

 

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Evam Stand-Up Tamasha and Me – 8 months and 5 days…

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Sowpernika, a 24 year old chubster, loves to cook and bake and claims she cannot spell “Chiaroscuro” backwards and has tried it 128482 times! In this blog, she talks about the Open mics and the pub show she handles!

 

 

 

Scene 1:

Location: Ashvita Bistro, Alwarpet, Chennai

Day and Time: Thursdays, 7:30 PM

Cast: Café staff, funny local comics, not-so-funny local comics, 20-30 crowd members who will be a mixture of old grandparents of participants, grumpy friends, over enthu friends, a person who pretends he knows everything about the comedy fraternity and general opinionated folks.

Scene description: From a star comic bombing, to a café staff donning the comic hat, to an angry housewife venting, to a local boy killing, what not, this place has seen it all.

If you have still have not got it, I’m talking about Mic Testing, our open mic stand-up night! It’s been more than a year at Ashvita and this property has been a beautiful platform for anyone who has ever wanted to try stand-up.

And the happiness behind producing this? Is to witness the growth of a comic! In some cheap way, it makes you feel you feel content, a sense of belonging, like you were a part of bigger something.

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 Scene 2:

Locations: Vapour, Bengaluru and Bay 146, Chennai

Day and Time: Sundays, 1 PM and 7:30 PM

Scene description: These 2 pub spaces have witnessed some brilliant stand-up specials in the past one year and have been one of our major strengths. Both these rooms are a favourite among the artists!

With all our new properties like New Material Nights, Comedy Killadees doing so well in Chennai, Bengaluru has been a lovely home to all the solo specials!

And if not for our A team, Raghav and Syama (Chennai) and Hari and Arshadh (Bengaluru), these properties would not be the same!

(Cheap plug-in alert!) So are you in Chennai or Bengaluru and thinking of ways to spend your Sunday? Come be at one of our shows, drink, eat, laugh and have a killer Sunday!WhatsApp Image 2017-08-16 at 2.56.43 PM

 

Sowpernika Ananthanarayanan

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First Rush – Alumni Talks!!

Evam’s next batch of First Rush is happening very soon at Chennai. Let’s see what our alumni from First Rush club has to say!

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Priyanka Shankaran, 32nd Batch Of First Rush, June ’17

Do you remember that time as an innocent little kid who dreams big when asked “Beta, what do you want to be when you grow up”? That excited child who just gave multiple answers: Astronaut, Doctor, Teacher, Writer, ACTOR, Singer… Actor. I remember thinking that I would like to be an actor at some point as a child after watching a really nice movie!

Somewhere along the way, I grew up and realised that I am a quiet and a shy introvert. Introverts can’t be actors! Obviously! And that dream was buried deep and long forgotten. But the love for theatre and cinema could not disappear in the same way in my mind.

So when I chanced upon the workshop poster for First Rush, an amateur acting workshop which culminates into staging an actual show after a month of rehearsal, I couldn’t hold myself back. What is the worst thing that can happen? So, I took the leap of faith and registered myself.

The 1 month of training and rehearsals are easily some of my most memorable experiences to cherish. The bonds and friendships made there are indeed special. It was not all easy to go beyond the comfort zone, break the perceptions of my own limitations. For someone who might not even be audible to the person sitting next to me, I wondered how I could be heard on a stage to a packed audience! But there is some magic in theatre.

The show day was an intoxicating experience. It was the first time to be on a stage for most of us and the excitement was contagious. It was dreamy and surreal to play the characters and go into this new world and tell a story to the audience and make them laugh. Somehow everything fell in place and I could finally fulfil the dream of my 5 year old self!

This has boosted my self confidence in ways I cannot even begin to explain. At the same time, it’s a humbling experience to watch more experienced actors and realise that there is still a long way to learn and improve myself. But the “First Rush’ experience just gave a kick start into new possibilities and hobbies. It was also a chance to open new gateways and loads of opportunities that might have been impossible before. If you are interested in being on stage, and even a part of you longs for it, this is the place to be!

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Sai Charan Kamal, 31st Batch of First Rush, Sep’16

Right from my childhood I have a passion towards acting. I was a part of various plays in Telugu and in English. This passion got developed from school, to college till I completed my MBA. Even though I was acting for a while I did not undergo any formal Theatre Training or any acting workshop. Once I came to Chennai, I was very eager to join any well known theatre workshop that will train me in Theatre dynamics. I always wanted to know how theatre works rather than limiting myself to acting. I came to know about evam’s First Rush workshop through my office colleague. I immediately rushed to evam office from my office that day to enquire about the course. I understood that it fits exactly what I need and registered immediately for the workshop.

15 hour workshop:
The two day (15 hour) workshop is very interactive and is a fun filled learning experience about theatre. The course covers all the aspects of theatre like writing, direction, acting, lights, back stage work etc. The facilitator made us practice the voice exercises which is really useful for any actor to deliver dialogues with better clarity n voice modulation. The favourite part of the workshop comes in the second day where the participants were divided into teams and they were given an English poem. All the teams should understand the poem, then build a unique story on the theme and should enact it with proper dialogue and hand made props. This will be over-looked by the evam jury and appropriate feedback will be provided.

 30 day rehearsal:
This rehearsal mainly helped our team to know each other very well and resulted in a strong team bonding. There were two professional directors, who really understood our strengths, capabilities and cast us accordingly for 6 different plays. The valuable inputs from the directors made us better day by day. The rehearsals became a great platform of learnings, hardwork and fun. Those 30 days passed like 30 seconds.

Show day:
As many of us were acting for the first time, there was a lot of stage fear. Just before the show the directors motivated us to let go of the monkeys on our backs and give our best. Even the back stage activities were done by us. The thunderous applause of the audience at the end of the show still echoes in my ears. Receiving the certificate from Evam is like adding the first colourful feather in my acting cap.

To summarise, First Rush is a great platform to get to know all the aspects of theatre and also to improve ourselves in acting, script writing, direction etc. Surely you will be a better individual after the graduation. The icing on the cake is performing on the stage in front of a huge audience on the day of graduation. Its a learning filled with lot of fun. Thank you evam for all the sweet and lovely memories. You just taught me that acting is a way of life❤

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Shruti Parasuram, 32nd Batch Of First Rush, Sep ’16

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Well, ever since I joined FR I have endless answers to that question.

But before joining the course, I went on a mind rampage. Why do I need to act? How will I convince my parents? What if I am bad at this? I don’t want to be an actor; I have no plans for this Jing bang. Theatre is for “those people”. Yeah right! Like this workshop would make a difference.

Yes! This workshop did make a difference. A difference that I would like to see in myself. I was more confidant, I presented myself better and I had better perspective towards art.

After the workshop, my idea of theatre and acting totally changed. I started to appreciate the multi-dimensional aspects of theatre. Acting is just a part of it. I would not say I am a “Good” actor after the workshop, but I can definitely say I am a better person. One interesting thing I discovered was that – Acting need not only be on stage or in front of the camera. I could be with whoever I wanted and whenever I wanted. It opened up a lot of personalities for me. We act in our day to day lives, we just don’t acknowledge it. Any emotion on stage is derived from an emotion you have felt before. I am glad that I found a method to control my emotions and a way to channelise my energy.

This workshop is not at all a one stop shop for all your acting needs, but it gives an overview of theatre. Moreover, this workshop helped me to visualise better as a writer. I can now plot scenes while I write a script, I know exactly where I want my characters to move. I can completely play the whole script in my mind which actually inspires the director in me.

Hari and Rathy are two ends of a pole and made this process seamless. Rathy dealt with dark subjects which would put you on spot and the processes of getting used to uncomfortable topics will awaken you. Hari on the other hand was a burst of energy and would make you think that you a better actor than you really are. The whole one-month process from script reading to staging your play is fun, once you figure out running between home-office and rehearsals.

Anyone out there having the slightest of inclination towards acting or theatre, just take a blind step of faith in yourself and be surprised!!

The next batch of First Rush is happening on August 19th and 20th at Chennai!! Here’s the registration link : http://bit.ly/FirstRushAug :)

 

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evam in Singapore!!

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Vasanth Subramaniam – Division Head of Brandrama and evam Stand-up Tamasha, Digital. He also produces all of evam’s Singapore campaigns.

 


We’ve been producing plays, stand-up shows and workshops in Singapore over the past 4 years. We have taken over 35 artists to India’s pricey outhouse and it has been a beast of its own from a Producer stand point. This is what I want to talk about in this blog.

First Ever show - April 2013

First Ever show – April 2013

Producing shows in India is mostly a Revenue game. Reaching show info to as many people as possible and selling as many tickets as possible. Costs are fairly low and having base of operations here allows you to do allied on-ground promotions as well.

Singapore is a high-risk/high-reward market with the game mostly revolving around costs. Yes, promoting your event is important, but it is more crucial to keep costs as low as possible. The travel and logistics costs are almost as high as auditorium costs. Also, the planning timelines are way earlier. Auditoriums are booked 6 to 9 months in advance. Box Office is opened 2 to 3 months in advance.

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Since you do not have too much of an on-ground presence, you rely heavily on digital promotions, which is evolving day by day. You can’t use the same platforms and techniques you used 6 months ago, sit back and expect the campaign to go great. But that is the exciting part ☺ Each of the campaigns have a very high break-even number, but considering the currency conversion, once you break-even, the rewards are quite handsome.

More importantly, the pure joy of delivering shows in a place like Singapore is a reward of its own. When I say, ‘The best part of working in Singapore is that people there WANT to work’, it might sound trivial. However, I truly believe this is their greatest strength and a vital reason for a country the size of Bengaluru, having 50 times GDP per capita than that of India. People don’t work out of necessity or to get paid. They work because they want to and demand fair wages for the effort. And this to me, is an incredible concept.

    Standing Ovations are the Best

As the producer on all the Singapore campaigns of evam so far, it has been a huge learning experience. Monetarily speaking, there are great campaigns and really shitty ones. But they are all a joy to deliver and we have made it a point to ensure that it is a great performance experience for the artists every single time.

As a Producer, here is some honest advise to our followers in Singapore. Book tickets early. We always have Early Bird discounts running. Follow-us on Facebook at ‘evamSingapore’. We bring some of the best stand-up content that India has to offer.

We have great shows lined up, with the world premiere of Karthik Kumar’s 3rd stand-up special ‘Blood Chutney’ and one of the funniest from East India Comedy, Sahil Shah’s first solo stand-up special, ‘Childish Behaviour’ on Sept 9th.

Pick your favourite artists, buy tickets early on SISTIC, have a great time at some of the best LIVE shows out of India. We know you are always longing for it ☺ You even have an area cordoned off for this in your beautiful country!

Vasanth Subramaniam

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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

Tour

 

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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