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Learning stage craft

Prachi Shrivastav has spent the last eight days running around her campus, supervising rehearsals of her class play in the day, helping out with stage set-ups for their theatre festival in the evenings, watching a new professional play every night, and at midnight, going back to her class play rehearsals.

mumbai Updated: Mar 28, 2011 01:29 IST
Aarefa Johari

Prachi Shrivastav has spent the last eight days running around her campus, supervising rehearsals of her class play in the day, helping out with stage set-ups for their theatre festival in the evenings, watching a new professional play every night, and at midnight, going back to her class play rehearsals.

Despite the sweat and exhaustion, these were easily the best days of Shrivastav’s academic year.

The 23-year-old is a first year student of Mumbai University’s Academy of Theatre Arts, an institute that runs a two-year Masters degree course in theatre. As part of this year’s Vasant Natya Mahotsav, the Academy’s sixth annual theatre festival that concludes on Tuesday, Shrivastav’s class staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for which she was one of the two assistant directors.

“The play is in Marathi, a language which I don’t speak. But I know every word of the play by heart because theatre is about passion and zeal, not language,” said Shrivastav, a university hostelite from Delhi who decided to follow her dream of working in theatre after completing a commerce graduation.

“I chose to study in this academy because in just seven years since it was launched, it has gained the reputation of being second only to the National School of Drama,” said Shrivastav.

In their two years, the lucky 25 students who get into each batch study everything from theatre theory, acting, direction and play writing to play production, dance, yoga and even martial arts such as mallakhamb. Every batch stages three major plays during their course, of which two are directed by faculty members.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, however, the only amateur play that featured in Vasant Natya Mahotsav. The festival, which has fast become a well-recognised event on the city’s theatre scene, stages a host of professional plays by renowned playwrights and theatre groups every year.

This year’s line up included Alyque Padamsee’s Broken Images, Naseeruddin Shah’s Ek Shyaam Ismat Apa ke Naam, Feroz Abbas Khan’s Dinner With Friends, Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghashiram Kotwal and even Bhawai, a Gujarati folk theatre form.

The festival was inaugurated by renowned theatre director Vijaya Mehta and actor Paresh Rawal.

“The aim of the festival is to bring on one platform plays in different languages from different parts of the country,” said Tejashri Prabhu, 22, a second-year student at the Academy who is proud to be a part of the organising team of the biggest cultural event on campus. “We are easily the most happening students in the university,” grinned Prabhu.

According to Academy director and Marathi theatre personality Waman Kendre, both the festival and the Masters course aim to support meaningful, quality theatre in the country.

“The Academy has filled the gap of a good theatre institute in a city that is a drama hub,” said Kendre.