Thursday, March 01, 2007

Shoestring Theatre's Ends and Beginnings at Prithvi

Click to enlarge poster.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Death of a Salesman on the Promenade

In what was the first theatre activity organized by Shoestring Theatre, we read Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman on the 25th of February on the Bandstand Promenade in Bandra.

We plan to make this a regular feature, and would like to invite volunteers to perform short plays, conduct staged readings, perform live music or dramatized poetry readings.

If you'd like to stage, or read, something at our monthly meeting, mail us on shoestringDOTtheatreATgmailDOTcom.

Our reading has also been mentioned in a Hindustan Times story about play readings in the city.

More photographs from the reading.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Something is taking its course!

Shoestring Theatre's production of Ends and Beginnings had a good show at Thespo 8, Mumbai. We always thought it was funny play, and, for once, the audience agreed.

At Thespo, we swept the awards. We won in every category, except Best Actress, where we didn't have a nomination as Niharika had a supporting role.
(We have our views issues on this, but guess the idea is make things simpler. We'd rather give away Best Male Actor, Second Best Male Actor,
Best Female Actor, Second Best Female Actor. Works so much better in theatre, in our opinion.)

Our awards.

Best Play

Best Production Design
Bijoy Idicheriah, Priyanshi Saxena, Ryan Fernandes (Production Team)
Edsil Coutinho (Lights)

Best Director
Vivek V. Narayan

Best Actor
Warren D'Sylva (Hamm)

Best Supporting Actress
Niharika Negi (Nell)

Best Supporting Actor
Siddharth Kumar (Clov)

Rishi Verma, who played Nagg was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

We're planning more shows in Jan-Feb.
Watch this space for details.

We got a surprisingly insightful review in the Mumbai Mirror dated December 19th, 2006. The review was written by Pragya Tiwari. (No link yet, but it's on page 42 under the ETC section.)

An article written by Vivek was printed in the DNA on
Saturday, the 16th. The editor kept the set-up lines, and chopped the punchlines in the version that appeared in the DNA. Beautiful! However, she him as Vivek Narayan, just 23, writes... For someone who's worrying about growing old, it sure must be quite agreeable to be introduced as Vivek Narayan, just 23.

Here's the DNA article.

This is the unedited first draft of the article.
Two planks, a passion and…?
By Vivek V. Narayan

When I first read Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, it produced a rather profound visceral reaction in me. It was, in precise terms, ‘huhn?’.

I went back to the play later, mostly because a rather grave actor, who was a rather grave professor of literature by day, assured me that the play was about old age!

A couple of re-readings, and I could understand, and worse, even relate to, some parts in the play. The moment of damnation came when I started laughing at the play, and that was when I realized I wanted to stage Endgame.

Having found a text was a start, but only that. I needed a team. Warren D’Sylva, one of the founding members of Shoestring Theatre, came on board soon after. The rest of the team trickled in one by one, and finally, we had a cast and a production team.

In hindsight, our rehearsal process seems to have been one of elimination. We ran through a few designs – one highlighting the chess motif, another bringing out the claustrophobia – all lacked conviction. The only constant (mercifully, there was one) was the element of comedy. We were positive we had a very funny play on our hands. The problem was to get the audience to agree.

Rehearsals were mostly fun, except when we actually worked on the play. The fact that we were all excited young people, brought with it chronic self-indulgence, but also an air of active peer collaboration that allowed us to question everything. Nothing was sacred, not even Beckett. We made changes with gusto, chopped, edited and added, and the play transformed into Ends and Beginnings, a title we thought would focus better on the lives of the characters in the play. We were infinitely more interested in the present lives of the characters than their past. This shift in focus also brought into focus the element of play acting, which became another area of interest.

When we thought the play was more or less ready, we started looking for staging venues. And that was when Thespo happened.

Once we were selected, we had mentoring workshops with theatre professionals like Ramu Ramanathan, Arghya Lahiri and Jehan Maneckshaw. In Ramu and Arghya, we had found two extremely sympathetic critic-mentors, and even more delightfully, fellow Beckett lovers. Jehan came in later and helped us focus better on the craft of our production.

I must admit to having gone into the whole mentoring process with a lot of scepticism and apprehension, but I came out of it convinced of, and touched by, Thespo’s faith in our creative vision. This sensitivity to young creative minds, and the commitment it implies, must surely be one of the most significant elements in Thespo’s contributions to youth theatre in India.

True, one only needs two planks and a passion to make great theatre. But a sensitive festival organizer doesn’t hurt.

Crossposted on angry fix.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

There will be a show tonight on trampoline

Endgame is finally ready to be staged!

Although nearly all the staging ideas discussed in the post announcing the play were eventually discarded, the play mercifully remained the same.

Then came the issue of copyright violations, so it's now Ends and Beginnings, based on Samuel Beckett's Endgame.

That's the story so far.

Finally, after months of weekend rehearsals, that brought us much sympathy from colleagues on Monday mornings, the play is ready to be staged. And having been some days in preparation, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

We premiere this Saturday, 2nd December 2006, at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore as part of Thespo 8.

The play comes to Mumbai on Sunday the 17th of December, 2006, at the NCPA Experimental, again as part of Thespo 8.

We are trying to work out other shows, and these will most probably be in January.

Crossposted on angry fix.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Shoestring and Endgame

Samuel Beckett, one of the most significant figures in 20th century theatre, received international fame, for his first play Waiting for Godot. The play was revolutionary in its form, shocking audiences and critics alike, leading one well-known actor to lament, ‘It is the end of the theatre as we know it’. He was right: theatre was never the same after Beckett.

Beckett was soon to outdo himself in his later work, particularly in his second play, Endgame. A landmark in modern theatre, Endgame is considered a sensitive portrayal of the absurdity of the modern condition. While the philosophical undertones are integral to any Beckett play, the formalistic experimentation is far more exciting, and far more significant.

The play is constructed on the central motif of a chess game that is winding down. This motif is evident in the dialogue, imagery and action. The claustrophobic insularity of the world of Hamm and Clov also point toward this overarching motif, a game where the rules are the last resort. The element of humour, drawn from vaudeville and stand up comedy, a staple in Beckettian stagecraft, serves to intensify his bleak view of the world. Endgame displays in ample measure, the self-consciousness that Beckett’s plays have been noted for. The formal self-consciousness, or the metatheatrical elements, are perhaps most evident in the use of space, a starting point for the scenic design in our production.

Beckett has been noted for his relentless experimentation, his remorseless depiction of the modern life, and perhaps far more significantly, for his contributions to the craft of the theatre: his utilization of space and lighting, sound and visuals, and action and the plastic elements, and the seamless interweaving of the formal and thematic elements.

His efforts to expand the scope of the theatre have led to him being widely acknowledged as having been the inspiration for an entire generation of playwrights after him, including Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter.

For more information on Samuel Beckett, visit the excellent
Samuel Beckett Online Resources and Links Page

The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the shit the more I am grateful to him.

Harold Pinter, on Beckett

Download a complete e-text of Endgame here.

Shoestring hopes to recreate the daring formal experimentation in Beckett’s masterpiece. We hope to reinvent the play by expanding the scope for movement, visuals and music in the play. In addition to intricate movement that will explore a unique dimension of the play, we have also conceived an exciting scenic design that will vastly expand the scope of the play. The elements of humour, the slapstick comedy and clowning, always integral to Beckett’s work for the stage, play a significant part in our interpretation of Endgame. The earthy humour makes the play accessible, immediate and vital, while the bleak setting adds poignancy to the play.

Our production of Endgame will primarily communicate the experience of the play itself – the claustrophobia, the hopeless, the absurdity, the struggle to maintain some kind of dignity in the face of this absurdity. We hope intellectual and philosophical themes will suggest themselves to the audience in hindsight, at a kind of secondary level of communication. Our production, we rather hope, will be remembered for its utilization of space, movement and the visual elements, as well as the underlying humour of its execution, rather than the philosophical underpinnings to which Beckett has unfortunately been restricted.

The Shoestring Story

Shoestring is a group of young theatre professionals brought together by a common view of the theatre as a visceral experience created by a union of the formal and thematic elements. In other words, ours is a theatre where the stagecraft is as integral to a production as the literary and narrative elements.

This interest in the craft of the theatre leads us to experiment with the auditory, visual, plastic and physical elements in our productions, motivating us to engage in a continuous search for unusual forms and themes, thereby constantly reinventing and redefining our theatre.

Shoestring makes no grandstanding claims to arrive at a perfect form, if that were even possible, of theatre. Our only claim is to constantly experiment and explore new theatrical forms.

Shoestring was christened Act II Scene I Productions, in an earlier avatar. Act II Scene I was formed between Vivek V. Narayan and Warren D’Sylva.

This group produced 2 plays in 2005, Life Goes On and Ionesco’s modern classic The Chairs.

Life Goes On was performed at the prestigious intercollegiate dramatic festival Olio, and bagged 5 awards, including Best Play, Best Director, Best Lighting, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.

The Chairs was commissioned by the Department of English, St. Xavier’s College, and was presented as part of Ithaka, the annual festival of the English Department. The play was
well received, and was noted for its extensive use of physical action and humour, as well as its unusual scenic design.

The group was renamed Shoestring as part of a larger revision of the group and its activities. In addition to productions and street shows, shoestring’s proposed activities include a
theatre-centric e-magazine, workshops for schoolchildren and aspiring theatre professionals, and a permanent script-writing workshop.

Besides Vivek and Warren, Shoestring counts Prashant Prakash, Meghna Gandhi, Ananya Parikh, Nimisha Dutta Chavan and Bijoy Idicheriah amongst its members, all of whom bring considerable individual experience to Shoestring.

Shoestring has plans for 3 productions in the near future, the first of which is Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. The other productions are adaptations of Salman Rushdie’s endearing novella for children, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Kafka’s bleak allegory of modern life, The Metamorphosis.

Shoestring attaches great importance to original scripts, members of the group having scripted 3 original plays in the past year, with one more being in the pipeline. Vivek’s The Great Mime, Warren’s Stitch Bitch and Clusterphobia, as well as The Block, written by Prashant Prakash and Naren Chandavarkar, are original scripts that Shoestring intends to produce in the future. Currently, Vivek is working on a performance piece based on Albert Camus' The Plague, and Warren is adaptating Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

What is Shoestring?

Shoestring Theatre is a group of young theatre professionals based in Mumbai, and was formed in August 2005.
Our production of Ends and Beginnings, based on Samuel Beckett's Endgame, won awards and accolades in 2006.
This year, we continue with more exciting work, with Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Albert Camus' The Plague and Harold Pinter's The Dumb-Waiter in the pipeline.
We also conduct fun workshops for children in the age group of 9 to 12 years, as well as introductory workshops for young theatre enthusiasts in the age group of 16 to 20 years.
Shoestring Theatre has 6 active members at the moment:
Vivek V. Narayan, Warren D'Sylva, Bijoy Idicheriah, Rishi Verma, Niharika Negi and Edsil Coutinho.