To enter a theatre for a performance is to be inducted into a magical space, to be ushered into the sacred arena of the imagination.
SIMON CALLOW, Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
These words aptly describe my feelings, when with great trepidation and excitement I went to watch the Short Play Festival organized by The Roots Performing Arts Society on 28 and 29 July, 2017, in New Delhi.
The setting itself was seeped in great theater history and the courage to perform the arts under all kinds of pressure: Safdar Studio in New Delhi. Carrying the legacy of the inimitable Safdar Hashmi, well-known for his street theater and cultural activism.
The idea was simple, to provide youngsters and experienced alike, the opportunity to present their story in a short and simple manner. After each day’s performance the participants had a discussion with Sudhanva Deshpande, a well-known theater personality and one of the trustees of Studio Safdar, and Neel of the Third Space Collective, an acclaimed theater group in Delhi.
The space itself was democratic where the audience could sit right with the performers and see the action happening. The ambiance, the enthusiasm, the setting reminded me of the times I could sit with my grandmother, in candle light, together with my cousins and wait for her to cast her spell or those winter nights, or on an outing in the hills when friends and cousins would sit around a camp-fire and tell each other horror stories or tales.
Each day covered diverse themes, acts and methods such as clown play, kathak, etc. Each day ended with a stellar performance by Jan Natya Manch on the first day and Third Space Collective on the second.
It was refreshing to see the young, untainted by demands of fame and popularity and untouched by political pressures, use their imagination to speak on crucial issues affecting the society today. Not only that the theater thespians performed with equal enthusiasm along with the young.
Towards the end, the curator asked a simple question: What is short in a short play? The story? the time? the what? It is to tell a complete tale in brevity. It is to stop a play when it is over.
I came back refreshed and with the thought ringing in my mind: what is short in a short play.
It is good to see Delhi revive its cultural origins and to see these rays of hopes headed by youngsters like Prabhjot Singh who represents The Roots and its team, to reclaim its rightful place as the hub of culture. It was even more endearing to see that theater and its magic is here to stay with the next generation taking on the reigns to question, to tell a story and to perform: fearlessly.