The Short+Sweet South India Theatre Festival comes back to Chennai after a three-year hiatus

Chennai’s most loved theatre festival returns and the finals this weekend promise 11 plays that are sure to wow!

Romal Laisram Published :  25th November 2022 11:24 AM   |   Published :   |  25th November 2022 11:24 AM
Short+Sweet is a global festival brand, presenting highly successful theatre, dance, cabaret, and song festivals around the world| Photo credits: B Sathish Babu

Short+Sweet is a global festival brand, presenting highly successful theatre, dance, cabaret, and song festivals around the world| Photo credits: B Sathish Babu

The last month has seen Chennai revel in theatre. 47 plays, three weekends and over 140 actors congregated at Alliance Française of Madras for one of the biggest theatre festivals in India. Back after a hiatus of three years and in a brand new season, Short+Sweet South India Theatre Festival is back and how! Weekend after weekend, this November, a mix of professional theatre artistes and amateurs have battled it out on stage, sticking to this insanely precise time limit — just 10 minutes with a minute extra to get on and off stage — to woo audiences and judges alike, as every vote counts.

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“This is the 8th Edition of the festival and we are so happy to be back in Chennai, our home since we began the festival in 2011. Yes, we have taken the best of the festival on multi-city tours in the past, but otherwise, we’re a proud Chennai-based festival,” begins Meera Krishnan, festival director, as we manage to catch up with her on a particularly busy Saturday afternoon.

Short+Sweet is a global festival brand, presenting highly successful theatre, dance, cabaret, and song festivals around the world. The brand provides audiences with exciting and contemporary works that challenge and entertain with a mission to build theatre-going audiences around the world.

“I have been associated with the festival since 2011 and while I was the festival manager for the first two years, I took over as the festival director in 2013. We skipped the festival in 2015 and then again in 2019, 2020 and 2021, thanks to the COVID-19 lockdowns, but we’re back again, though in a different season. We usually do it in July and so we announce the call in February. But this time, because we decided to restart the festival, we pushed it to November as we had another big event in April. So, we opened calls in August this year,” adds Meera, who works with Prakriti Foundation that is also known for several other festivals including Festival of Sacred Music, Thiruvaiyaru and Prakriti Excellence in Contemporary Dance Awards.

Showcasing 10-minute performances to create a platform for artistes’ telling stories, Short+Sweet aims to provide a space for theatre practitioners to showcase their performance skills to new audiences and industry professionals. The idea is to ensure that artistes have a safe place to tell stories in their chosen field.

Photo credit: B Sathish Babu

“It’s always an open call and we’ve had teams from Delhi, Bengaluru and even from Australia participate in the past. However, for the last two editions, participants have majorly been from Chennai. This year too, we had two entries from Delhi, but they pulled out at the last minute. It’s actually a very lengthy process. People can submit scripts; register as actors or as directors and also as independent theatre companies. We open calls for four different registrations. All scripts go through a three-member panel, who select the best ones. If the script submitted by an independent theatre company is selected, they go ahead and produce the play; but in the other cases, we match a script to a director. Also, since we are an official franchise, Australia’s Short+Sweet opens up calls for the Chennai festival at the same time and send us scripts that we can then sift through. So, it’s almost always a mix of local and international scripts. Once a director and a script are matched, we work with them to see how they envision the script and help them understand our format — 10-minute plays with just 30 seconds in between to switch to the next play. The cast is literally one of the last things that is finalised for each play,” explains Meera.

This edition of Short+Sweet South India Theatre Festival sees 50 directors out of which one selection  — Top 30 — features professional directors, especially those who have been part of Short+Sweet before, while the remaining 20 are usually reserved for wildcard entries kept for new directors to showcase their talents.

“Short+Sweet aims to bring the theatre community of a city together and gives actors and directors a huge platform to be seen and noticed. A lot of the actors from the festival end up in movies and more often than not, movie actors willingly participate in the festival too. We also usually hold extensive workshops as a run-up to the festival. This year, however, we only managed one, due to a lack of time, but capacity building is something we always like to invest our energy into,” adds Meera.
The festival that has been on for three weekends in November culminates this weekend with 11 finalists. We also speak to five directors from the finalists to give you a preview of what you can look forward to.

`250. On November 25, 7 pm. On November 26, 2 pm. On November 27, 2pm and 7pm. At Alliance Française of Madras.

Also read: Music to social plays: Qaadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival offers a stage that feels like home

Box: Look forward to: 

COVID: What It Is

This play by RagaLa Theatre and directed by Lakshmipriyaa Chandramouli features Venkataraghavan Srinivas in a solo performance. “It is an absurdist monologue that satirises fear-mongering by the media and forces us to reflect on what it really means to live together in the society. The piece is inspired by an essay by Nigerian writer Teju Cole,” shares Venkataraghavan.

An Awkward Conversation in the Shadow of Mount Moriah

Performed by Drayden Elijah Nicholas and Yohan Chacko and directed by Prashanth Oliver, this play is a take from the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. “After luring Isaac to the top of Mount Moriah under false pretenses, binding him, and nearly sacrificing him, Abraham is faced with an even more arduous task...  attempting to make small talk with his son during their walk home. That’s what we attempt to play with in this piece,” explains Prashanth.

Angel

Put together by the Veshadharis, this play directed by Sudarsun Raghavan features actor Chandrasekar in a solo act. “This piece is about the enthralling rage of a fellow human being in this exclusive world. Asking questions like what if there is no gender present? The idea is to present a case that gender identity is not a disorder and that gender is not an identity,” avers director Sudarsun.

Preethi Andare Yenu?

With an ensemble cast of Yashwanth S, Ananya Rajagopal, Gowthami Ashok, Hridu Haroon, Sukanya Umesh and Beniel Soundarajan M, Preethi Andare Yenu? Or Love Matters is directed by Shravan Ramakrishnan and was originally meant for a Bengaluru audience, hence the Kannada title and lines in the play. “The play seems to ask you what is love? We travel back in time with a young man to find what is love or at least, what love means for him,” Sharan tells us.

Judgment Day

Featuring Manasa R, Mrittika, Rahel, Varsha J, Vishnubala and violinist Michelle Jerome; Charles Britto directs this play that toys around with the afterlife scenario of a seemingly unassuming girl. “Shweta’s (essayed by Manasa) afterlife depends upon her past actions and her confrontation with the seven deadly sins. Will she make it? That’s really what this play is all about,” enthuses Charles.

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