“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts”
These famous lines from one of Shakespeare’s brilliant pastoral comedy, As You Like It, has become the beacon of hope for many in their existential bouts. The magical world of theatre had transformed how those before our time lived their lives and continues to inspire the generations to come.
This world theatre day, we celebrate all those who have contributed to the dynamic field of theatre and pursue to do so all around the world and, more close to home, in the University of Delhi (DU) circuit. Before we jump into the vibrant world of DU theatre circuit, a small introduction to where it all started.
We can thank the small country of Greece for being the birthplace of one of the world’s oldest art forms, theatre. Incepted in ancient Greece, this 5000year-old art form is a result of ceremonial and ritualistic practices that took place in the everyday lives of ancient Greeks. Interestingly enough the term theatre existed, but not as a separate entity. It was a constituent of an already existing culture of performance that included ritualistic practices, music, politics, poetry, weddings, funerals, and many more such activities which were a part of Greeks lifestyle. Participation in such theatrical practices was not considered recreational, but rather necessary for citizenship and to assert one’s existence as an active member of society.
Oh! how the artists of our era would kill for their performance to be mandatory, but nevertheless, despite all the struggle and starvation, we are blessed to bear witness to their brilliant pieces of work. Be it nukkad or stage productions, the talented dramatics societies of Delhi University never disappoint. The beat of the drum announcing their arrival in college has become a familiar resonance. You know when you hear ‘YAY YAY DRAMSOC’ there’s a special treat in store for you. The culture of performance is used conscientiously to highlight the socio-cultural problems of our society. It elucidates serious issues and comedic adaptations alike. Social evils like body shaming, rape culture, bullying, caste struggle, etc are covered along with dramatic adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth or William Congreve’s restoration comedy, The Way of the World.
Theatre has never been restricted to the stage and over the years, DU’s theatre circuit has evolved into a platform for social change and activism.
We talked to some of the genius minds behind these theatrical masterpieces to get a better sense of what theatre means to those who create these wonderful performances.
“A play always has layers of social issues. We pick a play with normal setting and then we try to un-layer the characters by working with the undertone,” says Meenal Bhalla, Vice President of Verbum, the English Dramatics Society of Sri Venkateswara College.
“Theatre can transform your life, with respect to the environment of the society and the kind of plays you do. With theatre, you are forced to think about the smallest of things: questions like, ‘How should I treat my mother?’, ‘Is the love behind pedophilia justified?’
It makes you more patient and understanding and opens up your mind to different perspectives, especially when you sit and watch someone else’s production, you see their side of the story and try to connect it to the environment of the society that you live in”, says Meenal.
Over the years, the themes for the productions by Shri Ram College of Commerce’s (SRCC) dramatics society have ranged from sexual abuse, acceptance of the mentally challenged, and the education system. Alaukika, Joint Secretary of SRCC’s DramSoc says, “Theatre started off as a hobby for me, but today with theatre, I feel like my voice can be heard and I actually understand the kind of impact it has on our lives, in the way a character can change your perspective.”
In the last 5 years, Kahkasha, the Hindi dramatics society of Jesus and Mary College has taken up issues like rape, corruption, the treatment towards the juvenile delinquents, and discrimination towards the LGBT community. “Theatre and Kahkasha have been everything to us. All that we have learned in the past three years is through Kahkasha. Acting is secondary, theatre teaches you how to express your emotions and be around people”, says Mallika Dutta, President of Kahkasha. Ananya, Vice President of Troubadours, The theatre society of Jesus and Mary College says, “Theatre attracts people. Live performances create a lot of impacts and you connect with your audience on a greater level. This year, we did a play on matriarchy in a control based society and how a matriarch tends to lose her power if she exerts it in the wrong way.”
Theatre is a culture in itself. It is based on interpretations, analogies, different perspectives, and points of view. It makes you wonder, question, think, criticise, and be. It is an art that lets you be completely free and creates a safe yet vulnerable space around you. It’s really important that we don’t let this art die down, rather create spaces for it to flourish.
We leave you with these pearls of wisdom provided by the drama geeks that walk amongst us. We hope this, if not encourages you to participate, then at least helps you appreciate those who take the pain to entertain and educate us.
Feature Image Credits: DU Beat