There was no stage, and no lights. No music and props, no scripts or treatments either, just two lines “kids you have to define environmental pollution, and show it as creatively as possible”. Two lines, ten minutes and several broken dialogues later, I heard an applause, which I will remember and cherish, for years to come. At 10 years of age, I had just made my debut with a mono act! I knew, right there and then, that lady theatre had grabbed my heart!
The first thing you’d want to know about theatre is that, it’s not about random people with shared interests coming together, talking endlessly about poetry and philosophy, and flaunting their kurtas and jholas as branded accessories.
Theatre is more, much more than that. Quite frankly, it feels stupid to call it a ‘play’, when there is so much of work involved. Let’s talk about all the elements that make theatre what it really is.
- Acting: Actors imbibe the characters they play, and become the face of the production. They are the ones who bring the vision of the director to life, and stun the audience with their performance. Be it the theatre, films, or television, actors over the due course of time, become a brand themselves.
- Direction: A Director is synonymous with whatever happens in a production. Be it in the theatre, films, or television, the director controls it all. He is the central point of all communication that floats between departments. Having said that, directing a production is perhaps one of the most daunting jobs! With so many people working on so many different elements, a director micromanages every single piece that goes on stage. Be it an actor, a script, or camera angles, nothing goes to action, without the director’s nod.
- Script-Writing: Script-writers make the play, they etch the storyline, and write the dialogues that the actors narrate on-stage. They create the aura that, everyone in the theatre feel. Script-writers need to understand poetry, and philosophy, and life experiences, in order to draft a winning script. They need to be smart writers, who can cleverly introduce satire in humour, and still get their point across to the audience.
- Storyboarding: Storyboarding refers to the process of drafting the entire storyline in a visual medium. This is especially important in high end productions and in films and television, where the storyboard forms the basis of camerawork. A story-boarder’s job is to give the script, the element of space, so that the director, and actors can work on transitions between scenes, and people working with camera can decide angles and shots. A storyboard comes in handy, for the art director, to design the set/ location.
- Production Design/ Management: Production Designer/ Manager, can very well be the people who would save the whole performance from the tightest of spots. They are responsible for the budgets, timelines, logistics, and success of the performance. Production Designers/ Managers plan and execute the delivery of props, costumes, and other deliverables from various vendors. They also, collaborate with the Director, to extend central coordination between people responsible for different elements of the production.
- Stage Design: Stage Designers (or Art Directors) take care of how the stage should look, in the setting of the script. Their job, in a crux is to design, plan and execute the best possible, visual representation of the stage. In a fair number of cases, the background and the setting works half the impact, thus easing it out for the actors.
- Stage Management: Stage Managers are responsible for coordinating all the different elements of a theatre to ensure a successful performance. They manage actors, technicians, musicians, light and sound controllers, to make sure that the director’s vision comes to a reality. Stage Managers, need to have a deep understanding of the technical as well as artistic aspects of the performance, and hence are involved right from Day 1 of prep.
- Costume Design: Costume designers design the look of the actor(s) to suit the plot and requirements of the play. They carry out extensive research about the fashion trends prevalent at the time, the play is set in. Furthermore, they put the attire together for the actors, to look their part. This include clothes, make-up and accessories.
- Prop Design: Prop designers hold the responsibility of putting a stage designer’s plan in action. They place each component individually and get it made, custom to order. They are resourceful people who possess impeccable attention to detail.
- Casting Director: Casting Directors, in a gist, audition people for different roles, and finalize the cast, depending upon the auditions. They are also responsible for, devising promotion strategy, and call for auditions, and conducting the auditions. They also draft contracts and mediate negotiations between the company/ production and actors.
- Music Composition: Music composers compose the background score to be played during the play. Depending upon director’s requirement, they may pre-record the music, or synchronize it live, or combine the two.
- Light & Sound Control: Technicians working with Light & Sound, though a little underrated; make the show, what it really is. The impact of a story that is delivered with light and sound, cannot be achieved otherwise. A light designer, designs what kind of light would be required at what point in the act, and the technician makes sure it happens. Similarly, a sound designer, designs the sound effects and track-merging according to the act, and sound technicians execute the plan.
Theatre, as an art and a career option is still kind of unexplored in India, even though it has come miles ahead from the era when a simple talk about a theatre career could land one at loggerheads with his/her parents. We now live in a time, where people, especially youngsters aren’t skeptical of following their passion. Donning the facet of a career, purely driven by passion, skill and industry, theatre and allied domains of film making, direction, and production design are deriving much interest from the young population. Many great schools too have come up with programs that help students, hone their skills and venture out into this exciting career.
Some of the top acting schools in the country are:
- National School of Drama, New Delhi
The National School of Drama is India’s finest institution for the performing arts. The school is internationally renowned and offers diploma programs in Modern Indian Drama, Classical Indian Drama, World Drama, Mime & Choreography, and Theatre music.
- Film & Television Institute of India, Pune
The Film & Television Institute of India offers Diploma and Post-Graduate Certificate in the domains of art direction, acting, direction, editing, script & screen play writing and electronic cinematography. The two year PG Diploma in Acting and the one year PG Certificate in Direction are the most popular courses offered by the school.
- Barry John Acting Studio, Mumbai
The Barry John Acting Studio, in Mumbai is widely popular for its Diploma in Film Acting, and Diploma in Film Arts. The studio also carries out weekend certificate courses in acting and theatre workshops for children.
- Actor Prepares, Mumbai
Actor Prepares, by Anupam Kher is Bollywood’s destination for acting revisions and programs. The institute offers three month diploma in acting and a one month part-time certificate course. However the highlight of the school is personalized acting workshops by industry professionals who share on-the-job experiences and insights.
- Asian Academy of Film & Television, Various Locations (New Delhi, Noida, Mumbai, Kolkata)
The AAFT is an internationally acclaimed and recognized school. One can choose from the school’s wide offerings of certificates, diplomas, bachelors and masters programs in acting, cinematography, scripting & storyboarding, multimedia, direction, sound recording, media & entertainment, mass communication, production design, editing, promotion campaign designing, sound and lights and many more!
- Whistling Woods International, Mumbai
The globally acclaimed school offers degree and diploma programs in acting, direction, animation, cinematography, editing, production, VFX and media management studies. The school is set up by celebrated Bollywood director, Subhash Ghai and, carries out digitization trainings for TV giants like Star & Colours.
- Zee Institute of Media Arts, Mumbai
The Zee Institute of Media Arts (ZIMA) is an indispensable part of the Zee Learn Limited, the educational division of Zee Networks. The elite institute, offers certification, bachelors and masters programs in acting, cinematography, film-making, executive production, direction, script writing, editing and sound engineering.
Though, to so many souls including mine, theatre is more than just art or a career, but it never hurts to hone your skills.
With time, it becomes a medium of self-expression, a medium of liberation, of freedom of thought and of discovery. It’s only in the theatre that one can don any facet of their personality and live freely without being bothered by the conventions of the society. It’s in the theatre that you can see light and live through your strengths, and forget who you are and be someone completely new. It’s in the theatre that you discover and re-discover yourself and realize your being.
If you too are smitten by the calling of the theatre, embrace it, for all the world’s a stage, and we the actors!
Want to voice your love for theatre? Tell us in the comments.