A lockdown story worth telling

Going digital is a cumbersome process for theatre groups, but city-based theatre group Storyboard Productions has an interesting story during lockdown

By   |  Aishwarya Lakshmi T  |  Published: 28th Sep 2020  6:53 pm

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive negative impact on all sectors of the nation, including creative industry like theatre and other performing arts. The performing arts sector has been affected more, as many avenues have been closed because of the physical distancing norms which has impeded public performances. Owing to this, many theatre groups have started digital workshops and online plays.

Hyderabad-based Jonas David, actor and founder of Storyboard Productions, speaks on the Covid impact and transformation, how theatre has come to a standstill not only in Hyderabad but across the globe. “All theatre artists and practitioners are looking forward to getting it back in their lives. Only the theatre community knows how special it is to everybody. Pandemic gave us faith, no matter what, that theatre will survive. As an amateur production house, we are trying our level best to do whatever we can.

Staring at a bleak future, Jonas decided to work it out digitally from March. “As it’s a new medium, we brainstormed a lot and the whole team came up with ideas. But it wasn’t easy to implement. By May-June we could pick it up slowly. In July, we started holding more shows and now we are going at a good pace. We implement an idea and if it’s working, we enhance it and it has become a learning process,” Jonas shares, adding that poetry recitals, dramatic play readings, workshops for different age groups and story telling for kids are include in online theatre.

How difficult is the process of bringing art online?

It was really difficult initially. We planned to do 10 shows of our latest and most ambitious project. We could only do one show. So we were restricted to just reading the plays rather than enacting it for sometime. Later we looked for plays which are a one-room stage setup so that there isn’t much confusion. As an actor who loves the stage, it is very disappointing though. Being on stage cannot be replaced by anything else.

What other challenges are you facing?

The biggest challenge is with internet, technical glitches like audio problems and bandwidth issues. We have subscribed for extensive zoom membership as it is easy to hold meetings for an unlimited time. All actors are scattered across different places and bringing them together is a challenge. We have actors spread across the country. Due to these virtual shows we are able to reach audiences across the world. We even have requests coming in from the US for a show that would suit their time zone. We are in the midst of working out the logistics for that.

How do you bring your audiences?

Its not hard to get an audience, especially during lockdown. As people are at home, they are looking for anything entertaining, live shows, especially those who like theatre. Definitely on stage experience is different but we got a very good response for the dramatic play readings. We promote the events through facebook, Instagram and other online platforms. If 100 people register, 60 people make it to the show.

How do you make it interesting for the audience?

Within the limited space, the act is performed by them. We are trying to make it more interesting by actors changing costumes for every theme. Care is taken more on makeup and facial expressions.

How are you charging for the shows?

Registration is free for all the shows. We follow a ‘pay as you like’ model after each virtual event. We like to receive contributions not out of obligations but only out of love and appreciation.

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