Mumbai city's youth theatre movement turns 20 years
We get an all-access pass to the 20th edition of the city's youth theatre movement. From full-length and fringe plays, dramatised readings, workshops and the launch of a volume of select plays by young writers - it's all happening at Thespo
Milestones come with celebratory paraphernalia. There's a body of work to take pride in, there are names to raise a toast to, there's much to look back on - and perhaps take it easy. But the folks at Thespo would rather focus as much on what's to come, as on what has been done.
Born in 1999 when QTP, a newly formed theatre group, felt the need to create a platform for young artistes, Thespo took shape when QTP's idea found its anchor in Theatre Group Bombay's quest to make theatre attractive for young people. One of India's most enduring companies, the latter was founded by Sultan Padamsee, and has produced stalwarts such as Ebrahim Elkazi, Gerson da Cunha, Alyque Padamsee and Vijay Crishna.
This blend of young energy and mentorship from veterans has seen the festival grow into a youth theatre movement with year-round workshops, collaborations, outreach activities, an e-zine and an annual festival in December.
"When you turn 20, there are several moments of stock-taking. But it's 20 years for us, and not the young crew we work with! And they said, we need to look at what's to come," says Quasar Thakore Padamsee, who co-founded Thespo with Toral Shah, Arghya Lahiri, Nadir Khan and Christopher Samuel.
Apart from full-length and fringe performances scouted from across India, which will be staged at the festival, they are also releasing a collection of plays called Thespo Writes! featuring four works by playwrights who were under the age of 25 at the time of staging them at the festival. "We don't have enough published volumes of plays in India. You may find collected works of Dattani, Karnad or Tendulkar if you are lucky. Fantastic plays by young writers, however, may be staged just once. But [publishing them] gives them a new life," shares Thakore Padamsee.
This year has also seen the highest number of submissions from young theatre groups. "We received 270-plus entries coming in from Delhi, Pune, Jammu, Dehradun, Karad, Islampur and other cities. While we haven't been able to include all of them, it goes to show that young people across India are getting interested in theatre," says Rachit Khetan, one of the festival managers, who moved from Nagpur to Mumbai to be a part of the event. Thakore Padamsee adds that this year, they have also ensured that artistes get to stage their performances twice.
While the Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to theatre veteran Shanta Gokhale, the festival has been dedicated to Alyque Padamsee. "We were more of theatre buddies than father and son," recalls Thakore Padamsee. "He would always gravitate towards the young and was very giving in his expertise. It is that spirit that at some level made Thespo what it is."
FROM: December 17 to 22, 9 am (workshops) 6 pm and 9 pm (performances)
AT: Prithvi House and Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.
LOG ON TO: bookmyshow.com; thespo.org
Quasar Thakore Padamsee
Gal Kufr Di
A full-length play from Mumbai, it is a story of love and betrayal set against the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Encapsulating abuse at multiple levels, the play talks about the lack of human virtues, hinting at how everybody is an infidel in their own way.
Based on Kashmiri-American Agha Shahid Ali's collection of poems, The Country Without a Post Office, it is the story of a boy whose life is torn apart by the insurgency in Kashmir.
Memories down the lane
Glenn Hayden's association with Thespo goes back to 2008 when he met the QTP team in Adelaide, and came to India for the festival next year. "I fell madly in love with India," says the Australian theatre director, who has been the teaching the creative development process to artistes for this fringe play. "It requires the writer, director and actors to workshop together to flesh out a play," he says.
A tribute to the well-known social activist Narendra Dabholkar, the play by a group from Pune's Abasaheb Garware Mahavidyalaya is a satire on superstitious beliefs. It is the story of one man's fight to bring about change.
A non-verbal movement- oriented solo piece, it depicts the story of human evolution. It will be performed by Akshaykumar Mande, who explores the pure state of the body.
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