What began with the common passion of five young people as an evening’s show of theatre has, in its 12th year, morphed into Thespo, an annual, week-long celebration of theatre, music, eclectic performances and, above all, youth. Ahead of the selection process for Thespo 12, scheduled for December, comes a two-day lead-up workshop, starting on Tuesday, in Mumbai.
The workshop, Yoga for the Actor, will be conducted by actor and yoga expert Ashwamedh. The workshop aims to teach actors to hone their craft—using yoga, for instance, to perfect their skills. Some of these participants may take part in the December festival in Mumbai, as in the past.
The youthful organizers of Thespo, a festival for youth, will also begin screening plays for selection later this month; the last date for registration is 15 September. “A team of two people from the festival establishment tour the country evaluating the many plays registered by various troupes all over the country. Finally, around five or six plays are selected for being staged at Prithvi Theatre and the NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts). You can judge the craze for participation by the fact that around 96 plays were registered last year,” says Vidisha Kanchan, the festival director for Thespo 12. Performances are usually finalized by mid-November.
The Q Theatre Productions’s team.
Christened Thespo after Thespis, the famous Greek poet-actor of antiquity, the festival was started by actor-turned-theatre director Quasar Thakore Padamsee’s Q Theatre Productions at the behest of stalwarts from the Theatre Group Bombay.
“Thespo is a festival for the youth and by the youth; it is run entirely by young people in their late teens or early 20s, to maintain its focus on the youth. In fact this year the director of the festival, Vidisha, who is just 18 years old, is doing a fantastic job of managing the preparations for the festival,” says Padamsee.
Thespo has proved to be a wider platform than was anticipated. It has gradually expanded its scope to include entries in several languages from all over India and even abroad in the last couple of years. Theatre experts from India and abroad, such as noted actor and playwright Ronald Rand from the US, have associated with it, conducting workshops. Some plays, such as Butter and Mashed Banana, have been staged abroad. Over the years, Thespo has also come to incorporate live music acoustic performances and some young bands, such as Zero and Something Relevant, have received rave reviews and exposure at the festival.
The going has not always been easy. “After the first few years, we did not really know where to go from there but it has been driven by the people to a stage where they run it,” says Padamsee. “At a point when we (the founders) started wondering whether we should continue, theatre persons from different parts of the world would call and ask about the Thespo, expressing their desire to be part of it.”
Despite the acclaim and the milestones crossed, there is one aspect that has become more challenging: finding sponsors. “With the scale going higher it has been hard to find sponsors and keep the associations we have made. As advertisements don’t figure high on the theatre platform, few corporates are keen on long-term associations with theatre events whereas they would make a beeline for cricket or Bollywood events,” adds Padamsee.
Financial hardships notwithstanding, the plan this year is to take the festival to audiences in Bangalore, Kolkata and Delhi. To begin with, however, performances in Mumbai are scheduled from 14-19 December.
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