Online workshops are being used by the Theatre Department of Panjab University to keep the art alive.
By Manasvi Gupta
Chandigarh: Cancellations of plays amid the nationwide lockdown have affected the theatre industry which was already struggling to survive, but artists are using this phase to organize online workshops.
‘Basics of light design’—a national theatre workshop intended to bring a ray of light in the dark times of the COVID-19 crisis and to provide students a chance to explore their creativity, was organized online amid the ongoing lockdown in India.
Deepak, an Indian Theatre department representative from Panjab University said that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit them financially and mentally both. “We had rehearsed for two productions which got cancelled due to the lockdown. It has affected the artists both psychologically and financially, as there is no scope of reviving from those losses now,” he said.
“Theatre has been an integral part of the Indian culture since times immemorial and will continue to remain so,” said Subesh Sharma, Director of Theatre for Theatre NGO in Chandigarh.
Organized by the Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University, Chandigarh, the five-day online workshop from April 11 to April 15 allowed students from all states and academic backgrounds to participate—sans fees.
Dr. Navdeep Kaur, organizer and Chairperson of the department said, “We came up with the idea of this workshop to make this lockdown phase productive for the students as well as teachers. We wanted to channelize their energy in a positive direction.”
Dimple Sharma, a dramatics student who had joined the workshop said, “This is my first experience at an online workshop and it’s quite interesting.”
“It is really knowledgeable as we are able to share new thoughts and ideas every day when we are left with no options amid the lockdown,” she added.
Deepak added that 79 students had registered from across the country for the workshop. It was being held for at least three hours a day via Zoom.
“Also, since the theatre is a practical art form, so,” Deepak said, “The online workshop tended to focus on the theory of light and design. It also included a part of the university’s syllabus. Hence, the workshop targeted two goals to achieve.”
Dimple added that sometimes network issues hinder the pace, but that didn’t stop them from pursuing their interest.
However, Dr. Kaur believes that as long as the art is being communicated, the medium didn’t matter. “Although teaching about live performing arts virtually was a difficult task, yet it was perceived as a successful workshop by all,” she said.
Theatre artists believe that if the government or a company supports a play, it can make a huge difference. “There have been instances when small theatre groups have managed to make a mark, while the renowned groups came and went in the blink of an eye,” said Subesh Sharma.
An analysis showed that theatre is popular in India but it is struggling since the arrival of television and movies. It mentioned that although India produces more films than any other country with the themes fluctuating from social to historical to religious, yet their plots are rarely realistic.
Subesh Sharma questioned the declining popularity of the performing arts industry and said, “All parents want to make their children learn some or the other form of art during holidays. Also, art is an integral part of all the personality development classes. So, it can never vanish.”
(Image credits- Dimple Sharma)