How this indie space in Versova is looking out for its performers during rains

Jul 14, 2018, 07:55 IST | Snigdha Hasan

An indie space in Versova is ensuring the rains don't play spoilsport for performances, with an initiative where performers pay rent according to audience turnout

How this indie space in Versova is looking out for its performers during rains
Theatrewaalas' Recharge@99, a satirical play on the modern world's obsession with the mobile phone, will be staged next Saturday

Among the many odds stacked against the live medium of theatre, the prospect of performing in a sparsely occupied venue can be the most daunting. A low turnout could be the result of an odd weekday slot, low or no publicity budget, an unforeseen clash with, say, a World Cup final, or even when other eventualities are taken care of, a downpour.

With rains wreaking havoc on the city year after year, catching a play is not the first idea on most people's mind even on a weekend. Staging a performance in the monsoon then becomes a prerogative of only the brave, and established theatre groups with a steady following. But why must the exigencies of weather come in the way of creativity, is what the founders of OverAct: The Alternative Theatre Space in Versova had in mind when they made an interesting announcement earlier this month.

Sheetal R and Rohit Tiwari, the founders of OverAct
Sheetal R and Rohit Tiwari, the founders of OverAct

Under their newly launched initiative, any performing group or individual artiste can stage an act in the indie space until August 31, without having to worry about filling up the seats. What this means is instead of having to pay a fixed rent for hiring the venue, they pay a certain percentage on each ticket sold — so, a zero turnout translates to not having to shell out a single penny.

"Since the time we started OverAct on a terrace in Andheri in 2013, we have been noticing a slump in bookings after May. We wanted to do something about it and started doing so on a case-to-case basis when we moved to Versova last year. But this being our first full-fledged monsoon, we decided to make things formal," informs actor-director Rohit Tiwati, who co-founded the space with his wife Sheetal, who is a language, speech and drama instructor. "Why should a talented person sit idle for four months just for the fear of rains?" he asks. Since the announcement, the venue's July dates are fully booked, and slots in August are filling fast, too. "Having a packed calendar [during an otherwise lean period] helps the venue, too. So, it's a win-win situation for everyone," he adds.

The Caretaker
The Caretaker

The model was put to test last Sunday when Mumbai entered the second day of incessant torrential rains. Ten minutes before staging his adaptation of Harold Pinter's acclaimed play, The Caretaker, Rishabh Sood was wondering if anyone would turn up at all. "Eventually, we performed to an audience of 10, and though you can't call it a crowd, we still had a show. And a production only gets better with each performance," he says.

Actor Srikant Maski, who is premiering his play, Khurana is Purana, at the venue next week, is pleased with the initiative for another reason. "When you delay the staging of a fresh project, the flavour fizzles out," he says. "If only other venues in the city picked up the baton."

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