This poem of mine was published by The Literary Herald, go on, give it a read:
This poem of mine was published by The Literary Herald, go on, give it a read:
An amateur’s recollection/review of the Workshop on Acting Shakespeare
hosted by The Heritage College in collaboration with the Shakespeare Society of Eastern India as the part of an international conference on 25.11.17.
Being an enthusiast of Literature, precisely theatre, I was elated when the little Facebook birdie told me that there was going to be a Workshop on acting Shakespeare. Without much ado, I instantly applied for it.
After a lot of restless waiting, the day finally arrived!
At 2 PM sharp, I was escorted through the sprawling greens of The Heritage Campus to a certain room; which without my guide would have permanently been an enigma. Finally, I met our teacher for the day, Prof Amitava Roy. Honestly speaking, I was intimidated by his presence at first (later it eased out though).
Armed with all the googled knowledge, I ogled at him for a considerable amount of time and let everything sink in.
A few moments later, at about 2:30 our workshop began.
Sir had made sure that we sat in a circle. He stepped into the ‘ring’, gestured at the circle that we had outlined, and asked about it. Some hesitant answers later, he told us that the ‘circle’ or the ‘ring’ that we had outlined was called an ‘open space’ or ‘empty space’. “Theatre”, he said “is a circus” or a bare “boxing ring” where the actors are “opposed to each other” or “fight each other”. The only difference is that most of the boxing that takes place in this ring is of the “intellectual faculties or the ideas” and sometimes it gets “physical” as well. He further added that in theatre “people represent ideas which are in conflict”.
The discussion went forward to “theatre in the round” and what it’s like in the folk culture. Prof Roy gave us an example of a hypothetical performance of The Ramayana in the open. Considering a scene with Sita in it, it is understandable that the actor would be engrossed in the work; but when Sita is required to make an exit, the actor would move out of the circle and sit amidst the crowd, remove his wig (considering women weren’t allowed to act back then) and light up a bidi perhaps!
Here, Prof Roy introduced to us what is called, “Brechtian Alienation”: once the actor moves out of the open space, he alienates himself from the acting space and blends into the reality and vice versa.
“Chhau”, the warlike dance form from certain parts of India can also be considered as a good example to understand alienation.
We were eager to know more about the processes of entry and exits, so he moved on to tell about them in proscenium theatre’s full curtain and the other half curtain form. Full curtain form is just the normal form of revelation in a stage: the curtain moves apart and we get to see the character or the character enters from the backstage. The half curtain tradition, on the other hand, is far more interesting! When a character makes an entry, two other are fixed to usher that character in. The element of suspense is maintained by covering the character’s face with a short curtain and playing suitable music at the back. After some more suspense building and dancing, the veil is lifted and the character is revealed to everyone. People might already assume who the character can be, but it adds an excellent edge to the production which, in spite of being ancient, is more dynamic compared to the proscenium style entries. He added however that this type of an entry is befitting only for a grand character and not for anyone else. An entry of Macbeth, with the combo of song and dance, is appropriate but the case is not so for Rosse and Angus.
The Empty space is filled with a lot of possibilities and theatre keeps exploring those possibilities. Waiting for Godot is a modern tragicomedy. In spite of being so modern, it goes back to the use of empty space and has a minimalistic set design with mostly a tree in it. Talking about the art of acting and production, the discussion then went forward to how technology has thwarted human expression and finally about the Method acting of Stanislavsky who tried to make the audience believe in the reality of the event and not the fact that a conscious actor was playing the role of it.
After a lot of chit chat, we moved on to the acting part. Sir declared that a fully fledged workshop on a play takes at least 9 months whereas we only had a couple of hours. In that brief time span, we learnt a lot about performing the witch scene. Sir had the scripts ready for all of us and we too were raring to go.
The next two hours were over in the blink of an eye. In the meantime, we learnt a lot not only about playing the weird sisters but also how to act like a crooked tree and make strange noises which would go with the supernatural setting. We were divided into groups of three and were given full license to be as ‘weird’ as possible. Needless to say, we had the experience to savour. For that duration, Macbeth wasn’t a mere text written in dry ink only to prepare an answer from, it became a living and breathing entity. It felt as if the Bard had risen from his ‘downy’ sleep only to spend a little time
with our bright-eyed bunch, without anyone having to ‘move’ his ‘bones’.
Apart from all the education, Heritage also gave me a platform to come across some fascinating people for which I will always be grateful to them. I hope they keep re-organising such events again and again!
Sayan Mukherjee (Facebook)
The Heritage College
Shakespeare Society of Eastern India
A play of sorts in one act
Narrator: Ladies and gentlemen, attention please, A red digital clock at Howrah station platform no.3 showed 4:29; the diabolical figure resonated through his mind, as missing the 4:30 local….oh the horror! He dragged his over-exhausted right leg amidst the sea of people and managed to somehow scamper into the much dreaded first compartment.
Boy: Phew! That was so close!
Narrator: His momentary inflated ego was crushed immediately by a nonchalant hawker who shrugged him off as if he wasn’t there.
Boy: Heyy! Can’t you see me? Huh?
Narrator: No brother, you’re John Cena. (pause) Just as he had managed a decent standing place, saw something very odd lurking in a general compartment, (bold sarcastic voice) two young ladies (yay!).
Boy: Oh crap! She is looking at me!
Girl1: Umm…will the train stop at konnagar?
Boy (blabbering): Well! The train, madam, stops at every station but you know, the journey never ends.
Just like love, it goes on and on and on…
Girl1: stupid! (aside)
Boy: (to the audience)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in love, must say yes to everything at first. And…I think…yes, I am in Love.
Narrator: She was not the one for the poets and it was exactly that which made everything so poetic.
Girl1 (to Girl2): Why is he being so weird?
Girl2 (smiles while looking at the boy through the corner of her eye; speaks distractedly): What do YOU think? … well, you should know!
Girl1: NO, I mean..umm …wait! What do you mean by that?
Girl2: Ummm… nothing.. well, I prefer speaking in innuendoes you know!
Girl1: INNUENDOES??? Ughhh!! You and your “MILLS AND BOONS”!
Narrator: The switch my friend is ON!
Girl1: No INNUENDOS and for your kind information No Love Story here..
Girl2: By the way… When did I say it’s a LOVE story? Huh?
Boy (sudden excitement and despair): Oh GOD! I can’t find my phone! (to Girl1; panting) Excuse me! Can you please give me a missed call?
Girl2(whispers): Ahem! Ahem! Divine intervention you see…
Boy: Well, yeah… I do understand it’s awkward for you, please help me out here…
Girl1: Why do you think brother I will help you? Do you think I’m a nun in some Cathedral ready to help everyone?
Boy (whispers): What! Brother!
(aloud): Okay, sorry to brother you… I mean to bother you… wait! Why should I be sorry? A nun is never bothered anyway. After all, she’s the harbinger of love.
Girl2: Whoa!.. is something on fire? Or someone diss-appointed?
Narrator: On hitting call after moments of reluctant dialling… the compartment was instantly graced by the tunes of “Can’t Help falling in Love”, thanks to the Chinese speakers! (pause) After few moments of rampant rummaging, our boy discovers his device, lying below a seat and picks up in the blink of an eye.
Boy: Thanks… (whispers) It is truly said that one can never predict them… (pause) Okay, sorry, don’t mind…
Narrator: She smiles away with her friend on another side of the compartment; leaving the boy red-faced. Thank god for the climax, that was one intensely boring narration! So, ladies and gentlemen, that was our—-
Girl2 (interrupts the narrator): Hey, narrator! You didn’t tell the full story?
Narrator: What story? My script ends here!
*gestures “she is crazy” to the audience*
Girl2 (to the audience; *Girl1 and Boy high-fives*): Allow me to finish it then, and take you all into the future (points at Girl1 while she hides her face)you know “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” Well, what started as a mutual admiration laced with scorn has ended with the two smiling.
Narrator: What are you talking about?
Girl2: Can’t you see the mutual glimmer in their eyes? The glimmer of happiness
Narrator: Happiness! A thing which started as an act of incivility has culminated otherwise? Really!
Boy: See sometimes even a simple start can…
Girl1: …lead to a story!
Boy: (to the audience):
Well, everything said and done,
I hope you had much fun;
I would now like to conclude by saying this—
So as to leave you all in bliss:
You might as now well think, that I had kept the phone there on purpose…..
Well….. Did I?
This was performed as a closet drama by the SA Jaipuria team at Shri Shikshayatan College.
It is inspired by Com Partment: https://thepenarchist.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/com-partment/
, originally written by Samya Brata Roy.
However, it was adapted for the performance by a lot of people:
Samya Brata Roy
Susmita Roy Chaudhuri
and last but not the least
Mr Bimal Chakraborty or as we lovingly call him Bimal sir.
We enjoyed working on it so much that we even plan to release a video of it in the near future.
Nothing special about today you know, yet here I am scribblin’ away about the happenings o’ the day for you my sister.
The day was extraordinarily ordinary, regular stuff happenin’ the way it should.
At Ten o’clock sharp in the morn I jostled my way through the dizzy streets and finally reached my destination: my cubby hole in the office (which I had graciously accepted).
After signing below MACEY in blue bold letters (yes we have a register for cryin’ out loud), I sat down in my rusty chair and started making certain arrangements.
After a few moments, I heard muffl’d voices emanating from the grandiose chamber just in front o’ my humble abode. The ‘show’ as I understood, was ON. It was that good ol’ hag again, his favourite nourishment amongst many others.
I, on the other hand, work behind the scenes and prefer to relish the magic on stage. He brings people in, shows off his guns n’ whistles whilst I keep ‘em polished and prevent ‘em from gettin’ any wee scratches.
Okay, the hag is about to leave now, which means it’s my time to look after his needs once again. As soon as the octogenarian was out of earshot, I received his call in a broken voice.
He, ‘Boss’ as people like to call him sat like a duck, drenched in his own tears.
“Not again!” said I and rush’d inside his office to console him.
“How will I pay for all this? The green leather armchair? The electric heating? The bloody wine cellar!?” he whimpered.
“How many times do yea need me to tell yea that I’ll take care of all that? huh?!” replied I with a reassuring tone.
He picked his turquoise blue tie with shaking hands and said while dabbing gently at his wet bloodshot eyes “It was all for him, all for him” and broke down again while pointing towards a picture of a grim looking boy in a soldier’s uniform.
It was my turn to do something else I would lose him forever, that can’t be good!
So, I went beside him and whispered in his ears “If you are his father, I am his godfather too, you aren’t the only one with responsibilities! Now, do yea want to sacrifice all our efforts down the drain?” Yes, my words were having an effect on him, I could see him clenching his teeth and practising a firm jaw. “Now stop acting like a child and do what you are here for… play the BOSS for god’s sake!”
No teary-eyed reply came shooting back. He was gone, the ‘Boss’ had finally replaced him for good.
He then gestured me to return to my cubby hole to which I replied with a smirk.
The door chime signalled the arrival of a new client/guest to be taken ‘care’ of. One glance told me it was Katherine, crazy girl, thinks that I am a servant here, well that’s a “win-win” situation for me to be honest. As soon as she entered I gave up the stern demeanour and bade her “good evening” in a very docile voice.
Rumour has it, that the girl writes, god knows if she has written about us as well.
This story was originally intended as prequel/sequel to Katherine Mansfield’s The Fly, which on much introspection I decided to give a stand alone appeal.
A red digital clock at Howrah station platform no.3 showed 4:29; the diabolical figure resonated through my mind as missing the 4:30 local would surely have been fatal. I dragged my over-exhausted right leg amidst the sea of people and managed to somehow scamper into the much dreaded first compartment. My momentary inflated ego was crushed immediately by a nonchalant “Murshidabad er gamcha” seller who shrugged me off by a very courteous “dada shorun”. Just as I had managed a decent standing place, I saw something very odd lurking in a general local train compartment, a young lady (yay!).
As fate might have had it, she was directly looking at me(now that doesn’t happen), only to ask me if the train would stop at Konnagar (such a romance killer). A nod came in reflex.
She was not the one for the poets and it was exactly that which made everything so poetic.
The tired train moved with a grunt and slacked like a baby to school. She couldn’t find the perfect posture in the overcrowded compartment and kept turning; new to “daily passenger-i” I thought. With every turn, it seemed she stole one glance here and another glance there as if it opened up different facets to her.
I, the skilled playboy that I am, remained silent and observed the proceedings in awe. Her protruding rucksack hit me sometimes as a reminder from my inner Barney Stinson to start up a conversation. I did, in my head of course as the hawker raved on about his “quality cotton maal” in the background.
I don’t know if it was fact or fiction, but after a few moments, I saw her conversing with another guy. A flurry of emotions wrapped around my brain as if to make folly out of my failures. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.
There was nothing romantic, or there was I don’t know! But at that very moment, I realised what could have been! There are so many people, we don’t know, who could have been so much more, if only…
I didn’t know if she knew him or she did not (please be the former), honestly I don’t care! She was all smiles and so was he.
Is this a tale of love lost or stalking gained I don’t know. But what I do know is that trillion tales have been told of this style but very few are actually experienced.
Everything it seems stopped that day, for them, for me; except the train, which wasn’t supposed to stop at Konnagar (which I remembered after getting down at Bally).
What have I done! What have I done! What have I done!
Two groups of women were battling for supremacy on a foreign turf. But, the fight, irrespective of the context, seemed familiar to many others who observed it from a great distance. The world had never seen anything like this before. Like many other high-born women, Raima was also traditionally sold into another household. Putting her dreams in the dumpster, she took charge of the kitchen during day and kisses during the night. The noble Pal bongsho had just acquired a new scapegoat.
The match was nearing a nail-biting conclusion when the gods of thunder from all mythologies joined heads and decided to intervene. The ominous clouds came from all directions to dampen their spirits. To their utter shock, nothing could deter the spirits of these amazons. Raima wanted to be a player herself but failed, as maintaining a chaste demeanour was considered more important than the very unwomanly barbarianism she was interested in.
It was a do or die situation now, the last moment of action would seal the fate. On one side, a burly lady was charging in to deliver at a great pace and accuracy; on the other hand, a meek Raima was attempting her first roti. Stakes were high: pride of the team and the soshur-bari were at stake on both the sides. The lady delivered with great pace but it was dispatched with equal vigour. Raima flamed one side of the roti for far too long: it was burnt!
The girls’ team were distraught, it was the first time they had reached such a stage but couldn’t capitalise on it. Raima was shocked on seeing the shape of the roti and had started imagining the unimaginable.
Just when everything was falling apart, the girls saw the entire stadium giving them a standing ovation. Kottababu was taken aback by Raima’s grim look. He went beside her, smiled and said “ashte ashte hobe” and hugged her tight.
It was then that these women realised, the apparent defeat is just another stepping stone for success.
What if a war is lost? The battle is there to be won!
roti– a type of flatbread
soshur-bari– in-laws’ house
kottababu– head of the family
ashte ashte hobe-give it time
A hand rises amidst the sea of heads…
The speech begins as the mic lays out a high-frequency screech…
You might want to sit back and clear your mind (or your bowels if you want to) for this. The matter is serious and has already gotten out of hand. So, I have decided that enough is enough, and speak on behalf of my community.
Considering the majority of my audience, I assume that most of you might have used us over and over again till we have given your senses a sore.
You have oppressed us, ogled at us and even thought of exchanging us, but we didn’t complain. You judged us by our “brands” and our so-called features, we suffered in silence. We charged your soul with hours of emotions: laughter, anger, angst et all! Yet you resorted to other means of entertainment leaving us high and dry! Did we retort then?
Then why do this to us now?
Why do you keep breaking us over and over again? It is true that we can’t speak or say a word against your supremacy, your control, it seems we are to only dance to those signals you throw at us!
So, think before shattering us, breaking us with your pseudo-brutality, because remember-
What goes around comes around!
The Television Union
and its predicament after the face-offs of arch rivals.”
The silence is broken by a young guy draped in mono-colour…
“How can you be so cruel, madam? You can be a very good orator and everything but you can’t randomly sexualise this matter for your ends! Do not think that we all are sitting ducks here! Do we not understand your propaganda? You are deliberately trying to make us empathise with your problems by giving it the subtext of a sexual harassment! We do think that your issue demands an answer but please don’t use one of the most pressing issues in our society for your benefits!”
The young man has to stop now as he realises that the lady has already left without paying heed to his comments.
I, myself, standing right at the corner of this very room was carefully observing the proceedings till now with a solemn brow while impersonating a serious Sukanto. But, me being dormant thus far now feel a need to say something to you, my friend… Be it the communal, sexual issues or the protection of certain lactating herbivores- every issue demands our undivided attention, true, but do you know what we need more at this crucial juncture…. unity. Why do I, a mere narrator/writer thus far, feel the need to say this to you (without being a character in my own story)? I do because it is not the race for the throne which is a real threat to us it is the things that lie beyond the wall. Period.
The darkness of the stage is broken by a momentary flash of blinding light and loud cracks.
The light silhouetted darkness is now pervaded by two characters who enter from both ends.
enter Oh and God!
Oh, a highly cynical lady of age surveys her surroundings and keeps stuttering towards the middle of the stage while letting out a puff or two. On reaching, her eyes fall on a young man who wore deep purple robes, a cap and a shiny long necklace, which was the cause of much amusement for the lady.
God!, a young lad, most probably a teenager, perhaps the calmest one there ever was; casually strolls into the stage and looks at the smoking old lady dressed in a curious manner. Her head was covered by a cloth, like a hippie! He couldn’t control his chuckle and let out a loud sneer.
[The coincidental bursts of not so subtle scorn swiftly gained their ways into each other’s ears.]
[Long pause and melodious violin plays as the characters start to dance towards each other and stop at once when they meet]
Oh: So, why do you dress in such a fancy manner eh? RELIGIOUS ARE YOU? Don’t you know that there is nothing called God! How can you be so backwards that in spite of living in the modern times you still cling on to these ancient beliefs? Allow me to illuminate you, YOUNG MAN!
There is no proof about God! Science triumphed way back when Darwin paraded the minds of the intellectuals with his groundbreaking theories! And yet, you crackpots…still believe that someone is up there who created us, eh? Do you even Science, huh?
Religion was introduced as a mean of oppression to thwart the voices of the subaltern! It was nothing more than a fancy narrative, meant for striking fear in the hearts of the laymen. The oppressors enjoyed the shunning of these classes as that allowed them to reap the fruits of their “sinned” lives! How else do you explain the concepts of sin and retribution or whatever measures they have for wiping sin away in a jiffy!
And, you know what, all of y’all think that your faith tells the absolute truth and all the others are absolute nonsense! And that’s MY BOY is the root of all evils in the modern society!!!!!! The devastating wars are wiping the universe of anything human that is left in society, Why doesn’t your God look after us now? Do you have an answer you ignorant fool?
[The young man, after a long period of constant ranting, finally opens his mouth while fingering the insides of his ear]
God!: Calm down madam, such rage is not good for your pursuit to heaven.
[The lady’s face turns purple and she prepares to throw her walking stick but decides against it at the end]
Why are you so angry madame? The evil forces have taken your soul over I am sorry to say. I do understand what you’re trying to say, madame.
See, we, the so-called religious people do understand the reason for your frustration as you all will never be accepted by the almighty. So, you all decided to rant against him to hide your deep seated angsts.
[The lady manages to keep her cool, in spite of shaking vigorously with anger]
And with your science stuff, with all due respect madame, your lot are always coming up with new explanations and theories every day…
Which one do we believe?
Are the modern explanations true? Not even you can guarantee that! Can you?
Coming to the tortures and making others to forcefully believe in your belief,
Is that not what you were doing to me till now?
[The lady opens her mouth and every sane living being could foretell the ranting that she’d be going on right now]
But, whoops!!! Powercut !
All the cast and crew are left irritated with this mishap, the room was pitch black.
The final rehearsal of “Oh God!” sadly met an abrupt end.
The director was forced to scream “Pack-up!” and promised that he would try and squeeze in another session or two before the first screening of the already full house production!
The main characters Oh (played by Adidi Warrens) and God!(played by Hitchen Dawkins) were left disgruntled but hugged each other out after a virtual phase of mutual scorn.
Before leaving the set, Hitchen came running towards Adidi and returned her cross necklace which she takes everyday to church. He almost threw the necklace to her and ran homewards.
“Have some respect!” the lady yelled.
“You and your religion..ugh!” came the reply.
Rumour has it that never again were actors so committed.
One can show their bodies in spite of reluctance but,
Can one reluctantly acknowledge the other side of their beliefs?