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This workshop series in Mumbai aims to revive the forgotten love for William Shakespeare’s works

Updated on: 10 June,2024 09:16 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shriram Iyengar |

An upcoming workshop series seeks to revitalise the forgotten love for William Shakespeare’s plays, language and expression for the modern citizen

This workshop series in Mumbai aims to revive the forgotten love for William Shakespeare’s works

A moment from The Taming Of The Shrew; (right) Romeo and Juliet

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This workshop series in Mumbai aims to revive the forgotten love for William Shakespeare’s works

Growing up in Gujarat, actor and theatre maker Deshik Vansadia attended a Gujarati medium school, and made sure to learn just enough 
English to clear his examinations. “As things would go, I ended up at Stella Adler’s Institute in Los Angeles. They gave me a speech by Edmund from King Lear for an exercise. I could not make sense of it,” the 37-year old laughs. The learnings from this experience, and a discovery of love for the bard, shape his upcoming 
Shakespeare Foundation Workshop in the city.

The workshop goes beyond just acting, he points out. Graduating from Adler’s, and later working in Shakespeare productions in Los Angeles, sparked a love for the bard that led Vansadia to found the Shakespeare Company of India on his return in 2019. “I was working in theatre [in India], but I missed the language and the poetry. When I decided to start the venture, I remember theatre veteran Sunil Shanbag warning me that it won’t be easy,” he recalls. Since then, the director has gone on to stage productions of The Taming of The Shrew at Prithvi Theatre, as well as conduct readings of Shakespearean sonnets across Delhi 
and Mumbai.

William Shakespeare. Pic Courtesy/Wikimedia CommonsWilliam Shakespeare. Pic Courtesy/Wikimedia Commons

There is a reason why many, students and adults included, fear Shakespeare’s language, he shares. The bard’s language is more than just a means of conveying the story. There is also a shift in the way the modern reader approaches it. “The Elizabethan world was a world of the spoken word. Ours is a world of the written word. Our tools of articulation have reduced with the rise of technology. The troubles of not being able to read in front of audience, and of not being able to make eye contact, are modern-day limitations,” Vansadia observes.

The solution, unsurprisingly, comes from Shakespeare himself. “If you want an insight into good acting or stage presence and communication, read Hamlet’s advice to the Player King. Hamlet clearly tells the players to suit the words to the action, and play the intention. That’s Adler!” Vansadia points out.

Deshik Vansadia Deshik Vansadia 

It is these simple methods that he intends to put to use over the three-day workshop this weekend. The first step though is to expel the fear of Shakespearean texts, he warns. “The key is introducing Shakespeare and removing the prejudice against the text being something posh or complex. When you speak the language, especially because you are not used to expressing yourself freely, your vocal range and articulation do not match up. it goes beyond acting,” he says. An example, he reveals, was the experience of his sessions of sonnet readings during the COVID-19 pandemic. “People would break down while reading them. It was cathartic,” he shares.

Over the years, the theatre maker has collaborated with schools, educating students. Sadly, the staging of Shakespearean plays has gone down — a result of reduced production budgets, he says, “Shakespeare cannot be performed in small spaces.”

Why not translate it for popular appeal, we ask? “I am in love with his language,” Vansadia declares, “There were Hamlets before Shakespeare wrote it. There were other Romeo and Juliets. If you take out his language, you are simply performing a classic folk tale. You need a writer or a translator to create an equivalent sense of magic. That is near impossible.”

From June 14 to June 16; 3 pm onwards
At Turtle Studio, Aram Nagar Part 2, Andheri West. 
Call 9167287889 for more registration details

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