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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Further Thoughts about Being/Going Professional!

Ok, folks, if anyone gets to read this at all...see if you can survive through this. Am judgemental and pre-meditative here when I say you won't accept any of this or most... because am so convinced that we Indians are petty minded and do not have the honesty to distance ourselves and take self-criticism or social satire when it is aimed at ourself. READ ON!

Someone asked me, in the course of our discussion the other day, what is being professional mean? Does Chennai have the possibility of going professional in mainstream english theatre? Will it ever become professionally oriented?What are the possibilities! Now what does profession mean? Doing it as a job to earn livelihood? Earning sustenance out of it? Pursuing it as a career out of passion, fondness... etc? Irrespective of the need to materially spiral in the embraced vocation, mindless and aware of the fact that it would not get comforts and luxuries that one wants out of the need to emulate others in the society?

Well, several things. All these AND... more importantly, accepting the ups and downs, anarchy and platitudes of colleagues, going through to the end even if chemistry falls out on the way with the team; having the gumption and temerity to take stands out of principle and sticking to it come what may; not trading horses or jumping stocks half-way; not jeopardising the team or original project objective at the face of personal slights; and having the self-respect more than anything to unflinchingly take hard-line stands and abide by it.Well, as long as theatre is done out of excitement of adolescence or passion or fashion or in pursuit of the two-bit applause at the end of performance or indiscriminately... Chennai will never go professional.

SIMPLE RULE OF THUMBS must be STRIVEN AT. EXAMPLE?The realisation that professional interests and amateur passion should not go together. Amateurs must avoid working with professionals if they cannot bring about the same seriousness. It is hazardous to those who seek living through theatre. Professionals must seek co-professionals or train people towards a professional need-based attitude towards work. Training is not theatre skills or craft. It is a mental state where people should work out of common interests and supportive of each other's existential needs. Theatre is not Qwikys or Barista. Theatre is office.


At the end of the performance, only the actors must take curtain calls. On the premiere night the Director should take the curtain call. The director need not be on stage at the end of further performance nights. S/he can sit among the public and watch (perhaps even take feedback notes). The technicians must remain what they are: Back-stage people. The lengthy craving of public's indulgence by way of thanking sponsors, introducing crew, FoH, coffee-stall people, relatives, friends... anyone must be avoided. That is what the Program Bill is for. As long as we practise THANKING those who contributed in real-time on stage, theatre would remain only a ritual. There is not a show where a specific set of people in the audience do not clap for their own dearies... and sustain their clap for the next couple of on-stage curtsie-rs... and then fade out in their clap to just a mime show... to only stop at some point because they don't relate to those who are not those whom they came to see and applaud. So why do it? It is a ritual. The audience is waiting out of politeness to go out.


If one believed in what they are doing or just did, one would just go about quietly having finished the job for the day.


It is true only the actors must take curtain calls... but also on behalf of the crew. THE CURTAIN CALL IS A WAY OF SAYING THANKS TO AUDIENCE and NOT basking in claps assuming stupidly the claps are applause for their performance. HALF THE TIME - the truth of the matter is - IT IS NOT. Most performances, judged by professional standards, that includes MINE as well, are junk, amateurish and undeserving of kudos. In such circumstances, the applause is either a ritual of politeness or smacks of socialite back-slapping.The actors must leave the stage upon final Fade Out or Black Out... and wait at the wings or in The Green Room (if it is nearer) and enter to take Curtain Call only if they hear claps from the audience. Having taken one, should immediately exit and only upon an Encore clap, they must re-enter. Otherwise it is shameless pandering. This procedure is what is followed invariably in all - that includes pro and amateur - theatre companies/groups of the western world from which our modern day english theatre (even if it is an Indian play performance) practises have been copied.Having taken and done with curtain calls, actors must vanish into the Green Rooms to remove make-up, costume and change-over as normal people that they are, and then come out and entertain personal arse-kissing of friends, family, relatives, admirers, sycophants, al.

Similarly, before the show and during the intermission no one must be encourage in the Green Room area.There are many more... but suffice it to say, this sounds a humungous list of to-dos that can't be followed even 2% by practitioners of theatre in Chennai. Then how can we get professional. The only law is the Law of Moses. Am not talking Capital Punishment. I mean it metaphorically. Strict laws strictly abided without compromises alone will make professionalism in anything. Sure, it is going to hurt some. But this in no way is detrimental to seeing performers as human beings or would lobotomise their personality and make robotomised motors on stage, rather would lead to disciplined, focussed, concentrated performances respectful of the audience's time investment to watch genuine theatre.Yes, of course, the stupid Adapting or Indianising of scripts should stop... Adaptation should happen as a result of a certain milieu-based need... it must be borne out of the need to SAY something IMPORTANT to the audience. Not just to tickle the undersides and gills of audience into cheap farcical or slapstick laughter. When do we localise a global thing... or globalise a local thing? When there is a definite need. If a script is inherently good in its comic nature, why adapt? If it is irrelevant to the audience then why bring it to public? If we can't do responsible or relevant theatre... we may just as well do kitchen-sink and bedroom and boulevard comedies as they exist without changing it. If it is entertainment that people want, why warp it? Give it as it is... Most times, to me, adaptation seems like the inability of the producing team to raise to the level of the script. It only speaks of our disbelief in the work per-se. Then why do theatre? CHENNAI WILL GET PROFESSIONAL? I have my doubts. And at the moment am no exclusion to this theory. But at least am aware and that matters.

Exeunt Stage Right, without Alarums or excursions. Amen. If you clap I take curtain call. Or I stay put.

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