Johanan Newnes’s love for public speaking drew him towards the theatre group at St Andrew’s College in Bandra.
Three years into the group and he has not only improved his acting and expressions on stage, but also made his closest friends.
Theatre groups in colleges are getting increasingly vibrant and their festivals more and more advanced technically.
From Paresh Rawal to Rahul da Cunha, a lot of Mumbai’s theatre circuit has its roots in college theatre.
Theatre festivals such as St Xavier’s Ithaka and IIT-B’s Performing Arts Festival (PAF) provide students a platform to put up a few big productions every year. Students can participate in theatre competitions in college festivals such as Malhar, Umang and Mood Indigo.
Many of these productions have received stage time on mainstream theatres such as Prithvi Theatre and National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA).
Now, there are separate platforms, such as Thespo, just to showcase youth talent in theatre. "We saw Equis, a play about a young boy who was sexually fascinated with horses, at Ithaka last year and felt it had immense potential so we invited them perform at Thespo this year," said Amanda Cardoz, who is a part of Thespo.
"College students have a lot of talent as far as acting and scripts are concerned but they fall behind on production, sound and sets. At Thespo, we try to harness talent by giving the groups feedback and conducting workshops with them."
Students, too, realise how these theatre festivals can train them for the big ticket they hope for. For example, the recent St Andrew’s College theatre festival, Olio, gave participants the platform to liven their script with technology.
"At Olio, we had to use lights, sounds and technical equipment like profession theatre uses. Just performing at the St Andrew’s stage was a big deal for us," said Vikrant Dhotle (19), a member of the St Xavier’s College’s theatre group that put up a play about homosexuality at Olio.
Theatre personalities who owe much of their career to their college theatre groups and festivals encourage the youth to use the platform. "Being a part of the English theatre group in Ruia College gave me the discipline and the passion to know that acting is what I wanted to do and fight for it," said Anand Tiwari, whose career as a professional stage and film actor took off soon after he left college. He recently bagged roles in films such as Udaan and Aishaa.