Sagar Pandit has been engaging in ferocious sword fights for the past week. The 19-year-old Romeo (not of the roadside variety) is preparing to fight Juliet’s cousin in his upcoming performance of a parody of Shakespeare’s works for Ithaka, St. Xavier’s College literary festival, next week.
For this second year economics student, like many others, Ithaka provides a platform to engage with theatre and literature. Ithaka is now returning to its literary roots. While the festival started off in 1991 as a literary festival, it evolved into a theatre festival in the later years. This year, along with a line up of plays, events have branched out to poetry slam sessions, screenplay workshops and film appreciation workshops.
“The aim was to bring back literature and show that it influences us in our day-to-day lives,” said Anurag Tagat, 20, who is part of the editorial team of the Ithaka Journal, a magazine they publish each year with research-based articles by students. “The theme this year is ‘literature and the arts’ through which we will explore the influence of literature on animation, films and music,” he added.
Ithaka’s platter of plays offers a wide variety right from Victorian settings of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette to the theatre of the absurd with Harold Pinter’s Hot House. Each of the plays in the festival is an adaptation of the original play, novel or short story.
“Adapting a play takes a lot of creativity, to elaborate, cut and create links as you go along,” said Shefali Shah, head of the English department at St Xavier’s. “When students make a script come alive, they start thinking on those lines even with their curriculum in class,” said Shah who believes that the exercise nurtures mental agility.
Last year, Shah noticed a strong poetry writing talent among her students and to encourage them the session on poetry slam was added to the agenda.
“In this session, students recite their own compositions, which are really good and a lot of fun,” she said.
Students also got to attend a reading by poet Adil Jussawalla, someone they read and enjoyed as part of their curriculum.
The poetry slam and screenplay workshop was a success among students.
“At the end of the workshop, we were made to write a screenplay and now I think I’d like to write one more,” said Tagat, “Now when I watch films, I imagine what its screenplay looks like.”
Students from across academic departments come together to make Ithaka a success and usually get a helping hand from alumni.
Famous theatre personalities such as Rehaan Engineer and Quasar Thakore Padamsee spent their budding years in Ithaka and Padamsee returns to the festival each year to hone young talent.
“Ithaka is the reason I’m a director and I go there every year to guide the committee and help them with events,” said Padamsee, who went on to direct more then 20 plays and founded a theatre company called Q Theatre Productions. “Every year we look forward to new talent at the festival.”