Drama theatres to reopen in Pune: Producers face a challenge to put together team of backstage artists
The decision of the state government to reopen cinema halls and drama theatres after October 22 has sparked enthusiasm among the theatre industry. However, bringing the drama on the stage isn’t a cakewalk for the producers.
As the theatres and auditoriums are set to reopen, after the second Covid-19 wave, drama and show producers are facing a hurdle in putting together the team of artists, especially backstage artists who have gone back to their hometown or have taken up odd jobs during the lockdown.
The theatre industry is also eagerly waiting for the standard operating procedure (SoPs) which is likely to be declared by the state government soon.
“After the government announced that theatres and auditoriums would reopen we have geared up for a new beginning. We have contacted the artists and backstage artists such as technicians, costume makers, make up artists, light and sound managers among others. But many of the backstage artists replied that they have gone back to their hometown or have taken up odd jobs because of the unemployment during the lockdown,” said Mohan Kulkarni, head of the Manoranjan group, which produces dramas.
Covid-19 curbs snatched away the employment of many backstage artists and folk artists as well.
“Many of them started to work as security personnel or put up some vegetable stall. There is still no certainty,” said Sunil Mahajan, president of Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Natya Parishad, Kothrud branch.
On September 25, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced that theatres and auditoriums would reopen after October 22, while observing all Covid-19 safety protocols. He also announced that the SoPs were under being designed and would be declared soon. However, the government hasn’t yet published the SoPs and stakeholders in the theatre industry have demanded to release the SOPs soon.
“Our planning will depend on the rules set by the state government. We are eagerly waiting for the SoPs. Unless the picture is clear we cannot plan the shows. They have to be viable for us as well. There should not be a cap of 50% operational capacity. If only the fully vaccinated audience or the artists are allowed then I am not sure how it would work out,” said Bhagyashree Desai, drama producer.
“The theatres and auditoriums are first to be closed and last to reopen. Corporations should reduce the rent for a play,” she said.
The producers predicted that entirely new shows and plays are unlikely to come on the stage in near future. “Because of the uncertainty, nobody would take a new project in the hand. Everyone would like to wait and watch for a while and then start working on a new project,” said Kulkarni.
There is also scepticism about the response from the audience. “Even if theatres reopen and shows are set to be presented, business depends on how many people would turn up to watch. This remains a concern. But we would like to hope for the best,” said Mahajan.