‘Our forthcoming shows will be dedicated to the memory of those who have lost their lives’ — Aysha Rau, The Little Theatre, Chennai
The Little Theatre, one of the oldest theatre groups in the country, had no choice but to suspend their popular Little Festival festival due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That said, its founder Aysha Rau has assured us that their Christmas Pantomime is on track and rehearsals for the same will begin soon after things get back on track. The group has also launched their YouTube channel, with the help of its artistic director, KK, and his team.
We find out from Aysha more about how The Little Theatre plans to adapt to these trying times while listening to heartwaring stories from her home during lockdown days. Excerpts:
Theatre organisations around the world are releasing their content online and making them available to the public. From your point of view, how much digital access does Chennai's audience have to your content, and what more can be done from your side to broaden the scope, with regards to both quantity of your body of work online and its reach among the masses?
Our Artistic Director Krishnakumar Balasubramanian aka KK and his team are in the process of setting up a YouTube channel. Over the last few productions, we have been shooting with multi-camera setups to edit and upload our shows. Now with the lockdown in place, I guess KK and his team must be having more time to work on this! In time we should have our shows uploaded. We do have a tremendous body of original work, so I guess it will be good to have it available online!
In what ways and how much can this pandemic and the lockdown affect the theatre industry?
The pandemic has definitely hit the theatre industry very badly. Everything has come to a grinding halt. Not just here in Chennai but across the world, like in Broadway, NY, and the West End, London.
As for The Little Theatre, we have cancelled the 11th edition of The Little Festival, as the visiting productions would have a hard time getting here. Further, I am not certain whether the Museum Theatre will be open and whether schools will be willing to allow their children to congregate in an air-conditioned hall.
Other festivals, which I was invited to attend, conduct workshops and give talks at, have been postponed to 2021. Shows and training programmes that we were supposed to do in April and May have been suspended; we obviously have to reschedule them. Also, a festival that we are supposed to participate in August is still not confirmed.
What are the major changes that you are anticipating in Chennai's theatre scene, once things get better? Will there be a change in approach towards the medium of showcasing your work? Can we expect to see more innovative ways in which you can reach your audience (virtual and augmented reality for example)?
The Little Theatre is working on getting small professional shows to schools during the festival slot so that schools do not miss out on The Little Festival. I’m in touch with a number of schools and I have received quite a few positive responses. Otherwise, we are working towards our annual Christmas Pantomime in December and also Peter Pan. And the shows will be dedicated to the memory of everybody who have lost their lives to the virus this year. It is a global tragedy. But we need to move on. We all come into this world with an expiry date. However, while we are still alive we must all remember to live. As they say in theatre, the show must go on!
Do you have any new productions in the pipeline? And, what will be the first play from your stable once the ball gets rolling again?
Our Artistic Director Krishnakumar Balasubramanian aka KK is working on a couple of small productions that can be mounted easily in different school auditoriums. We are looking at a show to cater to the primary section and one for the middle and senior school children. These still work in progress and we haven’t yet given them a name.
Our shows Garage Gang and 5loose Boots are ready to travel as soon as we reschedule. Otherwise, it’s our Christmas Pantomime in December.
Lastly, how have you been spending your lockdown time at home? Could you share some interesting anecdotes?
We had given our maid paid leave before the curfew on the first Sunday. I told her I value her life and so to remain indoors with her family, and yes we will pay her salary as I want her to return after all this is over!
We have two 90-year-olds living with us. My mom who’s young at 95 and my father-in-law who is 90 are in lockdown with us. I’ve always cooked every meal in our home and so that hasn’t changed! Except for the absence of my sou chef!
We had just finished renovations and painting our home the night before that first curfew. So, we have had all this time to sort out, thoroughly clean and put things away! This has kept us very busy. I’ve been reading a lot but not writing much. However, I intend to work on my manuscripts! I’ve also been watching various productions beamed across the internet. Theatre even on a phone is so entertaining, even if one can’t go out to see the real shows!
It’s quite interesting to have two 90-year-olds living with us. It leads to much humour. The other day at lunch-time my mom who had woken up from a short nap asked if it was morning and time for breakfast! And I had made pancakes with jam and honey that morning for breakfast! And from the other room, there was this call, “Jayraj! Jayraj! Bread. B-R-E-A-D!” Jayraj went in to ask. “Appa! Why do you want bread?” Appa promptly replies, ”You forgot to give me lunch. I’m feeling hungry!” Jayraj and I burst out laughing. Here’s one of them thinking it was morning and the other one thinking it was night, when in fact it was lunchtime! It must be confusing because we are at home all the time!
I’ve been keeping myself amused making videos of all my quick recipes and sharing my menus and recipes with everyone. This way I really don’t mind producing meal after meal and getting creative with whatever ingredients I can find in my kitchen.
Also, there is this kite who comes every day and sits outside my bedroom window. It gives a distinctive cry when it reaches its perch. It’s a game between us. As soon as I hear it, I try to take a picture. It’s very amusing. I gingerly lift the curtain. Once it looked at me straight with its startled big gooey eyes; even I got a shock and couldn’t stop laughing. Another time it had its wings stretched out with its head resting on its right shoulder while sunning itself facing our window. As soon as I lifted the curtain, oh so gently, it opened its eyes wide and flew away in a matter of seconds! Again I was in splits of laughter. Couldn't capture that frame, but that funny startled look is engraved in my mind forever. It was hilarious! I will persist on getting a shot of this amusing quick-as-lightning kite!
I haven’t gone past my front door in one month. It is going to feel very strange when I eventually do step out. I guess everyone will feel socially awkward after this period of social distancing!
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