Contextualizing Continued Training in Performance-making
“We turn to the arts when we are joyful; we turn to the arts when we grieve. And in times of uncertainty and despair, we turn to the arts again for sustaining our hopes. The arts enable us to forge solidarities, make sense of the present, and come together to imagine collective futures. This is especially true of now when the Coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt and alter our lives.”
– India Foundation for the Arts
A lot of us are thinking about the future even as we do our best to take it one day at a time. Catastrophes of a global scale will do that to you. What does it mean to be a performing artist in these times? What does the theatre of the future look like? How can we imagine it together?
These questions came later of course. What concerned DSM at the moment of this thought’s inception was, as co-founder and school head Jehan Manekshaw puts “how to survive the year financially while keeping our community of faculty, alumni, and followers (many of whom aspire to attend our courses) engaged during their time under lockdown.”
And as sometimes happens, in the attempt to solve a personal question, you arrive at a universal answer. And for DSM, this answer was the Global Faculty Programme.
What is the Global Faculty Programme?
Screenshots from Vik Sivalingam’s ongoing workshop in the Global Faculty Programme
The Global Faculty Programme is a series of workshops for practising theatre-makers, actors, writers, directors and even filmmakers. The Faculty for these workshops comes from drama schools, companies and performance traditions across the world. Each month a Global facilitator will take a group of 15 participants on a deep-dive learning journey into a particular area of theatrical expertise. Designed for remote teaching, the course will comprise of six sessions via video-conferencing and 6-12 hours of coursework that participants will have to do individually or with each other.
The journey is designed to build deeper awareness and provide new tools for further refining their performance and practice. Workshops in this programme will look not just at acting and performance-making, but also at design, lighting, technical aspects of theatre, and in today’s world, also explore the use of theatre tools and methods to bring stories in other mediums to life.
This, we hope will to just open up the door for deepening skills and understanding, but give birth to cross-border collaborations that celebrate what brings us together instead of the <social> distance that keeps us apart.
Why this Programme?
“…accessibility. Across nations, cultures, economic brackets and even individual disciplines. The fact that this pandemic has thrown us into a global melting pot (by virtue of commonality) is forcing us to all find a collective way out of it which is truly very.. unique. The fact we can have conversations with theatre makers in Chicago and Wales and London and they are facing almost exactly our challenges is in itself singular. Nothing else has forced us to hunker down together like this. And that’s what “global theatre” makes me think about.”
As Amba – Suhasini K Jhala, LAMDA Alumnus and DSM Faculty member, identifies, we are truly at the threshold of true global connectivity. Space and time have become amorphous concepts, more so than they had consciously been in the past. In practical terms this means, learning together no longer needs to be restricted to a single physical space or even time-zone. It means that the intersection of digital pedagogy and live theatre training need to be examined and experimented with more rigour and focus because the stakes are higher and in some cases, urgent and irreversible.
With Covid-19 situation, lockdowns and restrictions across the country, we are all waiting for live performances and public gatherings to restart. It’s important for us to recognize the anxiety born of this wait. But it is equally important to hold firm to the belief that the future of theatre still lies within our hands. That we can use these months of isolation and invest them in to global solidarity. That we can take values and tools from Peru, Singapore, London and New York and apply them to local practice, developing new work for this brave new world.
Deshik Vansadia, faculty member and Stella Adler Studio alumnus says, “It comes down to truth. If there is truth it works globally, if not then doesn’t even work for someone seated two feet away.” So as we look at theatre on the promenades and footpaths, in living rooms and empty stadiums, we need to learn from diverse traditions, diverse techniques that lead to a shared experience of this truth.
Side-note: Do read these hopeful and articulate articles on the future of the arts:
- exeunt MAGAZINE: What could socially distanced theatre look like? by Alice Saville
- Medium: What should we expect from art in the next few years/decades? And what is art, anyway? by Carmen Salas
How is it being designed?
DSM’s strength has been it’s highly trained faculty which boasts of alumni from leading universities and actor training programmes. Moreover, over the years, DSM alumni and faculty have further made connections across the globe, through training and collaboration.
The process of designing this programme is essentially leveraging this network. Which means the Global Faculty Programme could see facilitators from drama schools and companies in UK, New York, Germany, Singapore, Denmark, South Africa, Peru, Argentina, Columbia, Paraguay and Russia.
What do we hope to achieve: Exposure to Global Theatre for Indian Theatremakers
Here is a small anecdote from DSM advisor and extended faculty member, playwright and director Ramu Ramanathan.
“While in school I used to travel to Chandigarh or Amritsar for my vacations. My maternal grandfather was a professor and a linguist. He was proficient in six languages: Punjabi, English, Hindi, Haryanvi, Urdu, Sanskrit, etc. He knew his Ghalib and Tulsi and Shakespeare and Bulleh Shah by heart. At that time I realised that he not only could read the original version of the text but he could travel from one language to the other. Also, he could translate and interpret excerpts.
Also, I began to realise that while he was translating or lecturing, he was part of two traditions. And every theatrewallah should be so. Why? Because new worlds open up and new answers can be sought. In this day and age of homogenisation, I think this is important. More importantly, translations help you have access to so many languages: Mandarin, Italian, Japanese, German, French, Spanish, ancient Greek, ancient Sanskrit, Kikuyu, Khasi, Tulu, Norwegian, Russian. You begin to realise that there are innumerable outstanding works that have not been translated, and therefore innumerable writers and their voices to whom we don’t have access to. In a recent online session, the Argentine playwright Rafael Spregelburd spoke about Daniel Veronese, Lola Arias, Mariano Pensotti, Claudio Tolcachir, Santiago Loza, Javier Daulte, Alejandro Tantanian. It’s a matter of concern that theatrewallahs in India have not heard about our contemporaries nor their plays. For me this is the meaning of global.”
What this little tale highlights is the somewhat distressing need for exposure to global practices in the Indian performing arts sector. If we are being honest, every sector – architecture, engineering, medicine, the humanities – actively seeks to learn about approaches and developments across the world. We hope that ultimately, this programme fulfils that same need for performing artists in India. That while our practices emerge from local experience, they are also tempered by global exposure.