The Theatre Project 2020 shifts productions from stage to Instagram
Necessitated by the pandemic, the theatre has travelled from the stage to mobile phones. And Raveesh Jaiswal, Founder of Bombay Theatre Company is one such enthusiast who is taking theatre to the digital medium. Every weekend the thespian brings original productions with his 'The Theatre Project 2020' on Instagram. “We wanted to definitely engage with new people, so we conceptualised and strategized a collaborative theatre initiative which will enable us to invite new people to work with us. We received audition clips from over 175 actors and play scripts from over 70 English playwrights. Finally, 20 actors and 10 plays were shortlisted,” tells us Raveesh who roped in theatre enthusiasts from metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai to towns like Haridwar, Patna, Nagpur, Mysore, Guwahati, Dehradun, Andaman & Nicobar to Melbourne. We spoke with Raveesh to know more about the 10-minute live productions on social media. Excerpts:
What was your initial thought behind staging the shows online?
Our plans for staging our first theatre production in Mumbai were halted by the pandemic. We then migrated to an online platform and chose to do quick 10-minute plays on Instagram Live, respecting people’s attention span. The ‘Live’ feature of Instagram allowed us to leverage the very essence of theatre; performing to a live audience. The plays were well received by audiences and they loved the snackable 10-minute format of entertainment. After the success of our initial Instagram Live theatre productions, we started receiving a lot of collaboration requests. Many artists and theatre enthusiasts wanted to work with us. And thus, we got on board 30 theatre enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds.
How are the shows designed on Instagram? Please share the details?
The Theatre Project involves 10 plays, 20 actors and 10 playwrights. All the plays have a cast of two actors and even the playwrights have doubled up as directors. The entire team is being mentored by us. Starting Oct 2nd week till December 13, every weekend, the plays will be staged Live on our Instagram handle. The list includes For Better, if not Worse, I Did It, Appendix and others.
How was Bombay Theatre Company founded and why did you feel the need to start a theatre company?
Bombay Theatre Company was a result of an earnest desire to have a venture of my own and to collaborate with some like-minded people from India and abroad. Also having a post-graduate degree in Management from the prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai & a corporate experience of over 5 years provided a strong learning foundation for the execution of this desire.
I started doing theatre in 2009 at the age of 17. Many years later, one fine day while I was ruminating in context to my venture plans, I asked a simple question to myself – “Which is the thing I enjoy doing the most and have been doing for a good amount of time & something that I know well?”, it didn’t even take me a second to answer. Theatre was the only answer which came from within.
Your thoughts on theatre, post COVID?
Looking at the fact that theatre is not an art form which was created for a virtual audience, it will always be very challenging to gain acceptance virtually. I don’t deny that going virtual will definitely increase the reach of the art form, but then it will also make it a competitor to the Netflix and Amazon Primes of the world. But looking at this tough time, am really proud of the entire community of theatre makers, as to how we, in some or the other way, are trying to keep it alive! But I truly hope and pray that we get back onto the stage, our actual home, very soon. But yes, going forward to managing a physical stage production will involve a lot many new guidelines like the cinema shoots. I don’t deny that it will not be very convenient but the safety of the cast, crew and the audiences will be always paramount.
Tell us about the future plans of Bombay Theatre Company.
Our first ‘physical’ theatre production which was to be staged in April 2020, eagerly awaits its debut. Hopefully, by April 2021 we will stage it. Post ‘The Theatre Project’, we will continue to stage our regular virtual theatre productions, but instead of a weekly schedule, we might stick to a monthly or a fortnightly one. ‘The Theatre Project’ has cemented a place in our calendar and we plan to conduct this collaborative initiative every year around Oct-Nov. Also, we have been getting a lot of requests from people that they want to learn with us so we will be launching some virtual workshops soon.