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Monday, May 15, 2006

Where we are headed!

At the moment... I am beached on the kerb. It is a very fine feeling going into the show with two days of rehearsal left and the hope that there are two techs - one of which is bound to get screwed and the other one to the blessed by Mr. McMurphy (especially since Mathi is a very close friend of his the last 20 years!) - to further muck up before we can claim that the opening night was actually the first decent run through! And to top it all... we had a visit from the press. Not to worry... it is our own family member who happens to be an intern at New Indian Express - Manasi. And true to form, our folks have given her no inkling of an idea what the play is about. They completely screwed up the energy, time and lines... not to mention Mr. Marber's brain child. It's ok. You don't always get them good in life. But what the heck... we are likely to get good publicity the last three days before the show. And going by the recent record of Chennai Theatre shows - quality has anyway been bad... but box office jingles. Why not? When ever would Masquerade then to have its share of financial rewards!!! If bad shows would ensure money, let's do bad shows. Why trail blaze with english theatre in Chennai when we can join the packaging bandwagon? Yeah... dilemma you see! Anyways... since you guys are gonna be busy speaking shit loads of lines... I print in advance my Director's Note: Read on!

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Director’s Note:

This is not an apology note. It’s a sort of thanks giving to all those artist friends of mine doing theatre either with Masquerade or with other companies in Chennai at the moment.

The big question is this: how comfortable are we at this point of English theatre in Chennai, being referred to by our own names on stage. We are always so used to responding to some other name such as a George or James, Kabila or Kuppuswamy, Rani or Betty. What kind of a feeling is it going to evoke when people are referred to by their real names when on stage or sitting in the audience? Is it going to make us uncomfortable or give a little high… or feel unfamiliar and even bizarre! That was the first step my actors had to take to come to terms with the script, since the play necessitates localisation for it to work. How comfortable are we as audience and being directly referred to? As an audience we are comfortably seated in darkness and are secure in the feeling we are not under scrutiny, and it is someone’s life we are witnessing to have a good laugh. We are not part of the portrayal.

The plot and the story may or may not exactly portray the situation we have here in theatre…yet. Thank heavens for that! But the undeniable fact of life is: there are petty politics everywhere. It may all be fine and dandy to say politics should be avoided and that politicization must stop; but theatre is no different from other fields or even life in general. Wherever there is commerce and competition involved people start getting cagey even if they may pretend not to. Such is the nature of life we lead in modern times and we are ourselves culpable. The only possible way out is if we start doing art because we believe strongly in it rather than just be bogged in bottom-lines. We stand at a cross-point of history where more and more new groups are mushrooming because everyone wants to do go it their own way. There have been several groups that have come and gone. Either one takes it as a profession or career, depending on it for livelihood or out of a vision and ideology. If we start doing it just because we like it or we want to play around with it like we do with our hairstyles or footwear, a certain watering down of values occurs and what we have is a lot of attitude and no purpose. And it is reflected in the work we showcase.

Footfalls don’t count in the long run. This is my realization over the decade I’ve been working in theatre. If there is no fear that if we don’t do it properly, our next meal is gone, or do not take pride in the work we do, then there is no stake. Where there is no stake there is no accountability. Where there is no accountability there is shoddy work and a few shoddy works could lead us back to square one – an empty hall or dwindling audience.

Parrots’ Lies is a statement in that direction: what dabbling in theatre due to personal considerations can lead to. It is a sort of re-affirmation of my faith that if the actors don’t take him or herself or the work seriously… or think the audience is “any stupider than they think they are,” the work itself becomes a petty, frivolous, purposeless parody. Thanks for dropping by. Hope you would see some serious truths behind the silliness portrayed on stage. – KK
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