Theatre has had to morph into a new avatar: Shernaz Patel

New Delhi: As auditoriums lay vacant, members of the theatre community struggle to make ends meet, and audiences are snatched off of a popular form of art and entertainment, digital theatre is what stage veterans like Shernaz Patel say will keep makers connected to the audience.

Patel, who is the returning Artistic Director of Aadyam, a theatre initiative, states that theatre has had to morph into a new avatar the world over. “The talent is still there, the desire to tell stories, to communicate — that is not something that has diminished. Theatre makers globally have found innovative ways to make theatre a reality – from zoom plays to recording monologues, to collaborating with visual artists, to phone plays, audio drama, and many fascinating and innovative projects have emerged.”

While she acknowledges the argument that the essence of theatre is that it is live, the film and theatre actor says that necessity has made us embrace new forms of communicating with audiences. “Other countries are slowly returning to performing live…socially distanced, outdoor shows for the most part. For us, unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen in the immediate future.”

“This is a tough time for theatre very tough,” notes Patel.

“We excel in the live, we thrive on the immediate and tactile communion between us and the audience. This love, passion, need – call it what you will – brings us back to the stage year after year, even as sceptics debate if theatre is dying. Theatre has survived centuries. With every catastrophe, we have found ways to reinvent ourselves. Death has never been an option for us. So, in 2020 if we have to perform in 920 x 1080 pixels, we will. We accept the challenge. Because this is what we do, we will find a way to share stories, to entertain and inspire.”

Redefining a new season with the arrival of 2020’s digital theatre opus, Aadyam has embraced change by creating a world-class showcase with Aadyam – The Digital Edition.

Asked how the pandemic has impacted the theatre community, Patel shared over email:

“The pandemic has hit us hard. Commercial and amateur theatre has come to a grinding halt. Many artists have gone back to their hometowns. Not just artists, but every single department – technicians make up men, set builders, designers, suppliers – are all struggling to stay afloat. Auditoriums are lying vacant. The only funds that are being generated are from within the community itself. It’s a very difficult time for us all over the country.”

Does she see digital theatre surviving after normal operations resume?

“Yes, I do. It is an opportunity to reach a far wider audience, not just within the country, but internationally as well. It has been such a pleasure to watch some excellent work from other countries during the pandemic. That’s the advantage of having a well-produced archive of shows. In fact, I feel that in the future auditoriums should invest in multi-camera fixed set ups that theatre producers can avail of to record their shows. But it needs to be slickly done. We have all been used to archiving our plays with a one, maximum two camera, set up. That’s fine as a record of the show, but not something that one can market to a consumer,” Patel signs off

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