ITF 2nd Theatre Seminar: Spaces - Opening Session
Duration: 01:47:39; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 16.129; Saturation: 0.157; Lightness: 0.313; Volume: 0.253; Cuts per Minute: 0.111; Words per Minute: 153.728
The 2nd national seminar held by the India Theatre Forum
intended to address the overall theme of "Spaces of Theatre, Spaces for Theatre" in a wider and holistic manner. It was held between 14 to 18 March 2012 in Ninasam, an extremely special theatre space in Heggodu village of Karnataka which has served as a community centre for over 50 years. The seminar intended to cover a gamut of related topics ranging from the relationship of performing "bodies" to space, to the actual physical spaces of performance, to the politics of the spaces in society , to the new virtual spaces opening up and to the future of Spaces. In other words, the seminar built on the understanding that the act of theatre is always more than simply an act of theatre. To think of theatre and its processes is, ipso facto, to think of its temporal and spatial specificities. However, the main approach of the seminar was not to develop an academic theory of the spaces of/for theatre but to sketch the contours of a "spaciology" of theatre as perceived by its practitioners.
Ninasam, Heggodu, Karnataka
I have been asked to tell you a little about the idea of why it started and here we are... sorry? Oh who am I? Sorry, I am Sameera, one of the core team members of the ITF, there's a whole bunch of others who I will introduce as we...as I tell you...uh...
So, Sudhu has already asked me to stop talking because chai has arrived. I’ll tell you... you will get to know about where the idea's come from... so please go and have chai and come back and then maybe I'll be able to talk.
Chai chai, random comments, laughter... (Sanjna) let's bring the chai in and then we can continue. (Sameera) So all our meetings happen like this.
Should I continue?
So, the seed of the ITF was planted probably around 2002 when Sanjna felt that after many, many years of working in theatre having run the Prithvi theatre festivals and all the other work she was doing in Prithvi, that she still felt a huge sense of isolation and felt very strongly that a lot of people were doing a lot of wonderful work for theatre, and in theatre, across the country but somehow everybody was sort of in their own little islands or in their own little networks. But there wasn't a large enough sense of sharing and giving, a deep sense of isolation, and in November 2002, I had just joined her at Prithvi Theatre at that point and we had a meeting of people from across the country who we felt had a larger sense of theatre, not just their own work, but a larger sense of the field.
And we decided, let's just get together and talk. And then for some very deep meaning we decided to call them an advisory panel and confuse the hell out of them because I think they thought that they were going to be advisors for Prithvi and that was not the point at all. But we really just wanted to get together and share, keep it open-ended, and it was a very wonderful three day open-ended gathering that happened where we just actually shared our sense - I was terribly new at that point so I was more an observer but, uh... a sense of having worked for so long in this field, struggling through the work that we did and trying our best, having our small successes but feeling that really much more needed to be done.
And after that meeting what happened was we had for over the next two-three years, we had all the people who had participated in that meeting had sort of informally connected... and we have our own festivals, Akshara, Sudhanva, Sadanand... a number of people came and participated and helped us take theatre festivals in different directions and I think that connection just started happening organically because we had actually come to the table and spoken. Around 2005- 2006 uh...and I don't know why, we sort of felt that we should try to give it some kind of form, some kind of organisation which is when the idea of ITF was born.
There's a note in the welcome kit that takes you a little further along that journey if you'd like to read it. What happened - we are standing now after; 2006 was the first formal meeting and today is 2012. We are at the second national seminar and we are standing here today and saying, "We've done all these years of organic growth, we've gone with our gut, we've tried to pull people together, but what are we really trying to do here?" I think for all of us sitting here, believe with us, I mean we take it for granted that theatre matters and if theatre matters, then theatre has to thrive. We can't keep accepting a situation in this country where we are constantly struggling, we simply can't accept that.
The ITF is really there with that belief that theatre has to thrive, it matters and we have to do something about it. We can't wait around for somebody else to find the answer. It's going to be those of us who care and those of us who know that it can make a tremendous difference at so many different stages of life. So, we are a loose connection of people from across the country. The core team is not people, we are just people who take on the responsibility of making the stuff happen, right, we are the guys who said, "We'll do the job" - at this point of time.
So right now, we have had changes in the core team since we started, and right now the core team is Sanjna, Pravin... and we are all over the country so I'm just going to tell where people are based. Sanjana is based between Bombay and Delhi, Pravin in Chennai, Akshara is here, Sudhanva from Delhi, Mala has not been able to join us but also from Delhi, Pralayan...we never find...at the National Seminar, we are always looking for Pralayan from Chennai and myself from Bombay.
We also have an office that works with us. We've got Choiti Ghosh between Bombay and Delhi, we've got Ashish Mehta in Pune, Sharvari who right now lives in Bombay but also goes to Hyderabad and Delhi. We've got Vikram Iyengar from Calcutta and Joyoti Roy from Delhi who are the editors for E-rang. This is the formal sort of set up, the office - the five people I mentioned last, are employed by The India Theatre Forum. The rest of us are all voluntary. Because of the kind of loose association that we are, what we really want to do is simply set in motion processes and mechanisms that will enable people to come together for our shared need, for a larger concern of theatre, but to come together in contribution. Everything we look for is how can we come together and make something happen. And then making something happen is open. It's not necessarily an immediate, tangible output. It's also research, it's also understanding, it's also data collection. It’s also all of that.
What we have done over the activities, that we have undertaken over the last six years, have been holding...this is the second national Seminar, the first one was in 2008, we've had smaller forums around certain things and topics. We've in the last National Seminar GPD (GP Deshpande) actually challenged us and said "Are we going to stick to speaking and sharing ideas or are you going to do something more?" and that really hit us all and we took up a number of projects. Those projects were all addressing ,what we feel were things that would add value to the field of theatre, what we felt we could do. And I'm going to ask each of the core team members who took on the responsibilty of the project at that time and ask each one of them to very quickly and succinctly tell you a little bit about what that project is and where we would like to go with it further.
Praveen, would you like to talk about the Best Practices?
Hi, I'm Praveen. So the project that I sort of took over for India Theatre Forum was based on the issue of copyright for two reasons. One was there was a felt need in the community of theatre practitioners that we needed to understand copyright issues further because there were more and more situations where theatre practitioners were actually going at each other, taking each other to court or like other people- publishers and producers from elsewhere taking us to court and so on. We didn't completely understand this whole area of copyright.
The other reason we needed to understand was that we are also thinking of starting a script archive on the theatre forum web where we are hoping that over the next three years we will have a hundred scripts and then keep going from there. To make scripts accessible for people, a lot of the time people come and tell us, "We don't know of Indian plays or playwrights" and we thought it was necessary to bring in those plays. And now when we are putting some of these plays up on the website, accessible to the world, you need to put in certain safeguards to know that their rights are taken care of, they are being respected.
So, we have come up with one solution, which is a set of licenses which are based on the Creative Commons model but completely reworked with Lawrence Liang in Bangalore of the Alternative Law forum. So preceding that we had a small forum for playwrights, where we talked to playwrights, talked to them about their situation, what their experience was. We did a written survey with theatre directors, theatre practitioners, theatre playwrights on what was happening? What communication problems were there? Were there any communication channels at all? Was there remuneration involved when you actually took a playwright's work and started working with it?
And we realised that actually there were no real points of communication. So at the end of that...the survey and the playwrights forum and several discussions with Lawrence Liang and my colleague, an actor from Chennai- Devika, who is also a lawyer, we brought out this book which is called The Guidelines of Best Practices. It’s been published in English and we are also republishing in 5 Indian languages. The idea is to have this book out among all new practitioners so you have something of a reference book when you come up with a copyright problem and what we are advocating is obviously that we are in conversation with each other, we are respectful of each other’s work but we are not rigid about the rules. But the book itself explains all the rules both, national as well as international. That's what has happened with the Best practices.
The Best practices was actually really exciting, because it brought together so many different people to contribute to the final coming out of the book. The book, it's published, but it's also a book very much in process. So it is available as a PDF on our website. The translations of the five languages, we hope the translations won't stop there and if people are interested into translating into other languages, we’ll be very happy to let you because we would like it to be available in as many languages as possible.
The Script archive is something we have talking about for a very long time and - Sudhanva would you come talk about that?
Hi, I'm Sudhanva and as part of the ITF website, one of the things we want to do is set up a Script Archive. The Script Archive will seem more like an archive rather than a script bank. So of course the idea is to make scripts available for people for reading, for performance and so on and there would be multiple kinds of licenses that people who would be uploading their scripts or somebody else’s can choose. We would like to have historical scripts from long ago from on which there is no copyright, we would like to have works in progress, new work etc... whatever.
The idea really is to try and build a web around each script so that, for instance, each script would have one or more authors, if the script has been performed; then there are performance histories, there are directors,there are designers, actors, music directors and so on. And then we start linking up each one of these biographies to the script itself. There's also a whole lot of critical material around each play, especially if it has been performed, then there might be reviews, there might be interviews, there might be diaries of the actors, directors, playwrights whatever. There might be photographs, audio recordings, video recordings etc. So the idea really, at the end of the day, is to create an archive of the Indian theatre.
Now this is something we have talked about for a long time and it has gone through various sort of iterations. But now I think we have arrived at an overall idea that seems exciting to us and seems like it might work. We also know that there are many people, including some in this room, who would like to have similar sortS of things, you know, working on archives, recording the history of theatre in India and of performance in India is something close to many of our hearts and this is really an invitation to all of us to come together and try and pool resources. If there's somebody else who is trying to set up an archive or somebody who has access to an archive or is able to link up an existing archive, a hard copy archive, a soft version of the archive and so on... let's work together, let's not try and... let's not necessarily duplicate work and I'm sure that we can link up in very, very interesting ways. Over yesterday and today I have spoken to Ajay Joshi and Shanta tai, Shanta Gokhale, and the three of us would like to run a small discussion on this idea at one of the open forums...open discussions which Jehan will talk about later as a part of this session.
The idea is to try and pull together as many of us who would be interested in creating, helping create this kind of an archive. In the end, this archive is something that has to be user generated so that we must feel like "I have something that I'd like to upload to the archive" but for that to happen I think there has to be a substantial amount of stuff that is already up on the website and that is something that all of us who are interested in this would need to volunteer to do, so that's the idea.
The other thing that's been run from the website is the E-Rang, which is the fortnightly newsletter that we put up which I hope all of you are getting. Vikram, would you come and talk about the E-Rang?
Hi I'm Vikram and I'm co-editor of E-Rang with Joyoti who is unfortunately not with us at the seminar and we work supervised by Sudhanva to bring about the fortnightly newsletter. Now, E-rang, as Sameera said I hope all of you get it. If not, we will have displays, we'll have a list put up somewhere where you can just write down your emails and we will put them up or if you are web savvy, but we have to be web savvy, not savvy you need to be savvy to see E-Rang, but if you are web-enabled in this setup, then you can go directly and put in your email and suscribe.
E-rang happened for a few reasons. One was the fact that the ITF thought that there was a lot of theatre activity happening around the country which was not necessarily hearing about each other, so it becomes a forum to share, not just the activity but the thoughts and ideas and concerns of theatre people, theatre-related events, happenings around the country and also elsewhere. So it's really grown into a place where a lot of different articles, different pieces have happened and gone out.
We began with the idea of having a bank of people that we call upon to contribute, we called them Contributing Editors and Writers but very soon they seemed to fall by the wayside and we got people from the theatre community who began writing to us saying "Oh I'd like to contribute, how do I contribute...etc." So we have had people whom we don’t know personally, who have volunteered, not volunteered - because you do get a tiny amount of payment for any article that we publish, but people that we do not know personally and have written to us and said here is something I would like to write on and so we agree on an issue, agree on a time frame and that comes out.
So that's what I'd like all of you also to consider - there are many people here, I'm sure, who write, who would like to write, would like to respond to issues that they have access to or think about where they are in the country and E-rang is definitely an open forum for you to send in ideas, send in articles for us to consider for publishing. Thank you.
So I'll just talk very quickly about the website. We actually put the idea for the website forward in 2006 and what's been really interesting is that between that time when we were concerned if enough people from the theatre community would be on the web to now; social media happened; Facebook happened. With Facebook happening, a certain generation of theatre people just automatically got on to the web, which is wonderful for us because we have taken our time to get the site up. But it's been important that we took the time, we've been working with CAMP who is here in force and they have created the website for us and what’s wonderful about working with them that they are people who are not only aware of what’s happening at the new edge of technology but also people who are very aware of the politics of technology.
And help us keep... bring on their ideas as well as their programming to help us keep the ITF site a space which is an enabling space, where people can come, contribute and share and discuss. Right now, what we have done just to get the site living is that the site runs E-rang. The whole mechanism for E-rang is on the site and the Best practices are up. We have been collecting articles from various forums or what people have given as interests and we have put that up as a small bibliography. We have a few sections that we...uh...all the ITF activities are up, so you can go see them; I think a lot of you would have registered online on the site so I hope you have had little bit of time to browse it. There are still sections of the site that we are still working on, we want to have a section on Office and needs.
Office and needs could be very tangible things -"Hey I'm coming to the city, my light operator is ill, can somebody help me operate lights for my show?" to "I'm having troubles figuring this out, can someone ideate with me on this", just somebody with a solution to anything. It's following the logic of Craigslist which is a site that was originally set up in San Francisco where people would just have an apartment free for two months...if you wanted to sublet it. I mean it's following the same logic but for theatre.
The very large part of the site which we are still working on, which we haven't got up yet. Jehan will talk to us later in the morning or in the afternoon about the Open Spaces where we are allowing for people to break up into small discussions of their own choice, but the large part of the website still needs to become a user-generated site so a large part of the site will be profiles of all of us that we made for ourselves and put up information about our own work and the web looks to link that information. We really want the web to become an archive in itself. So for instance if I work and I have worked with somebody else here and both of us put our profiles up and we mention the other person, then we get linked automatically.
Then there are lots of other ideas that we are coming up with which I won't talk about because Sanjay would do it, Sanjay Bhangar from CAMP who's coding the site is here and he would do it a lot better so if people are interested in the possibilities of what the web can do for theatre then please do go to the Open Space section for CAMP and have that conversation with them.
For us, the web is also just practical; it's a one-time investment and it's not a very expensive medium to run after that and people can get information really easily. We would love to have lists of theatre publications up, we would love to have every kind of information so that we become a one-stop space for theatre scholars, community etc. to access user information about theatre in India. One other aspect of the site is also the active aspect. If you are a practitioner, you put up your events - there is a calendar on the site so if you are going to a certain city you can look up what's happening on that day. We would offer online booking, so that online you could actually connect to the online booking provider and get your tickets online if that is something that makes sense in the space that you are in.
We are also working at creating internal calendars, schedules, we know that a lot of people in theatre groups sit and send, atleast in Bombay, that sit and send SMSes about timings to everybody, can the computer take over that job? So that you press one button and it gets done, can it make your life a little easier? So, we are looking at these various aspects, from the archival, research, the data collection aspect to the actual, practical running of a theatre group and hoping the site can enable or help a lot of those activities.
I would like to call upon Akshara to talk to us about the Social Security Scheme, which is another scheme we have been working with, which Akshara has been heading.
Hello, I'm, Akshara. We, as theatre practitioners, we all know friends who have had some serious illness or had an accident but didn't have the money to cope with that. So the project that I tried to design is a response to this need. It's that it should be a social security scheme, let it begin as an accident and health benefit scheme, atleast in the beginning, and then it could expand into a scheme which will also give pension and other benefits, the family benefits etc. etc.
So we started by studying various such schemes, the information about various such schemes available in various parts of the world through the web, we did a lot of research on that and then we tried to develop our own set of criteria of how our social security model should work. Then we had this problem of how to define artists if we are planning it for artists, there are models for farmers. In Karnataka there is a social security scheme for farmers which is called Yashaswini, the government if Karnataka is running which is working, not although working very satisfactorily, but at least catering to the needs of some of the farmers.
So we studied the Yashaswini scheme in detail and we also tried to see and we also tried to see what has wrong with Yashaswini model and can we develop something parallel to the Yashaswini model, I mean we are also tried to understand the economics of the Yashaswini model. Then we also came up with some criteria through which we can begin to distinguish between artists and non-artists. We have developed a few more criteria for that.
In one of the open sessions we will probably be able to discuss more about this, the plans that we have already made. And finally we looked at various possibilities of, you know, who could actually administer the scheme. Whether if it's a private insurance which has its own benefits and drawbacks, if it is a government scheme, and if it is a government scheme whether it should be run by the department of Culture or it should be run by the LIC or some other, the other four insurance companies. Who should actually administer this scheme? Which administration would probably help us more? We finally realised that it is probably that LIC will be the best option and we had meetings with people from LIC, several meetings with people from LIC, and LIC people have told us that they would develop a model, push it on the political level and when it comes to us, we will develop your model.
So we have at the moment made a 6-8 page document, you know, putting on paper the outline of what we want to have as a social security model and we have called it as Kalakalyan, LIC can name it differently if they want. And surprisingly based on the economics of Yashaswini, we calculated that the Government of India has to give something like only 500 crores for the scheme per year. If they give 500 crores...you know, they can do it. It's not the question of money, it's the question of somebody does not have a plan. We have got the basics of the scheme but what we need a lot of work to make it really happen at the government level. That's what Kalakalyan is about.
Sameera: So we'll just to tell you about the other project that we have sort of started. It's a project that we need desperately; it's the one area that we tend to miss out on in all the work that we do in theatre and that's the area of, what we are very hesitantly calling, the Arts management. Because every time we say the word 'management', we get a lot of shoes thrown at us. But the point is that it would actually, the point is that we are resource-starved, we have a small number of people, small amount of resources, how do we effectively mobilise all of that to actually get to do what we would like to do. So, I'll ask Sanjna to come and talk a little bit about that.
Sanjna: Well that's what I do, I manage. I'm trying to manage and I have learnt on my feet, by luck, by chance what it means to manage in this situation. And it has been incredibly difficult and incredibly frustrating and I was incredibly lucky. About three-and-a-half or four years ago I met Milena at a seminar that I went to in Bangalore and we were thrown into one of these open sessions where you could choose where you wanted to go and I thought I wanted to go and choose that and another one and another session which I wanted to learn from and we were thrown into being a part of where I actually had to talk about management and I said "What the hell would I talk about management? I want to go and learn something". So in fact my friend from Hivos said "We can sneak out of here, get out of here. We don't go there." And then he came to me and said, "We can't". The big boss was chairing it and it was Milena. So we had to go and it was fantastic and it was really for me in many ways life-changing.
My greatest sadness and frustration is ...that nothing has come out of it yet. So we have managed to get Milena here two years ago and when she came here for a two week tour, she went across the country, met institutions, visited institutions, met people, spent 3 days in Bombay where about 20 of us came together to really just brainstorm on what does it mean to think of management in theatre and are we ready for it? Do we need it? Do we want it? Is it only my own personal desire or are there other people out there who wish to understand how we can develop a training programme or a facilitation program to enable our ways of working.
And I think it was a very tough process it is a very, very…it’s a huge need but there are lots of problems. And as Vijay would also know and many people here already know that we cannot adapt the Western processes, we cannot adapt what systems have been placed there because our realities are different and we also cannot adapt the language or the jargon of the corporate world because that really alienates us and makes us think - god, what is this?
So it’s about really finding a way in which we can develop a system in which the idea of managing either a theatre group, a theatre institution or a performing institution and there can be processes of different levels of management and whether we are ready for it? And how we can design it? So really right now it is still in its nascent stage and I feel hugely, hugely ashamed to be saying that nothing much has happened in developing this program and hopefully one day, maybe, it will come alive, the idea needs to come alive in different parts of the country in different ways with a very clear framework of how we actually engage with it and how we develop our own faculty to run it.
So I know there are some other people here, like Toral, and other people, Jehan, who are also interested in this area. So there will also be an open space session where anybody interested in ideating through what it can mean for us to set up something like this and that would be extremely worthwhile.
So, we have done all this, Some of it done, some of it in process and we are here now and we have been feeling, coming up to this seminar, perhaps we also need to pull together our focus a little more and while keeping in mind that we continue putting in place mechanisms and processes that help us come together to contribute and what should we work around and it seems to us that this seminar is actually a perfect excuse in some sense. If we are going to be spending such a lot of time dealing with the idea of space then should we, over the next 3 years, actually create more and more forums of interaction, resource building, understanding etc. in relation to space?
That is one of the idea the forum is, the ITF core team is coming into this gathering with. We also, the one area that we feel we hugely failed and I think maybe we just needed a little bit of time to settle down actually, because a lot of the functioning and the growth of the ITF has been purposely organic. We didn't want to impose a structure, we wanted to find out where we wanted to go and so what we haven't been very good at is actually building space for collaboration and contribution on a large scale.
It has happened through the projects. I mean the Best practices project was a delightful coming together. E-Rang, it's happened organically and we need to find ways to make that happen more. And we would love a situation where there are lot of articles in the bank or perhaps we have to create another page on the website where there are articles which don't come in E-Rang but there are articles there which we can list and link to. I mean, there are certainly people who want to write about theatre in this country and can we not make space for that?
So, we would very much like, I mean this is really an open call, if you have ideas that you think fit into what the ITF does, if you have spaces, would it not be a good idea for us to perhaps create local forums over the next three years in the various wonderful spaces that people across this country have built and are building and have those spaces be the excuse for meeting where you understand why this space came to be, what that space is trying to do, what are that space's challenges etc. etc. Can all of those local forums perhaps become documented and archived so that people who couldn't go there, can actually access that information on the web.
This is, you know, the way we are we are thinking of building things, we really would love brainstorming on it and then we would love people to work with us and make these things happen. And we hope over this course of this seminar, we start moving in those directions. So people, if you have spaces and would like to host these beautiful? forums which we hope you really...uh...you should get in touch with us on that as well because we now we need to collaborate on all those fronts - if the ITF is actually going to become an organisation that can make a substantial difference. There is a base here but we have to lead to the next level.
We‘ve been very lucky with the ITF for the first few years of its existence till 2010 actually because we’ve had funding. Ashish Rajadhyaksha has been working with the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and he was very excited with the possibility of this network and he helped us get decent funding from SRTT which really helped us through the initial years and helped us do a lot of the work that we have done. Hivos was another partner who was wonderful, who came on board and who also contributed. This seminar itself, we have been very lucky because the number of players...uh... who have come on board and contributed in cash or kind to help make it happen. But we also need to find financial solutions; we also need to find funding solutions to keeping something like this alive.
You know, in the ideal world, can we create a system where the theatre community says yes, can we become important enough in a theatre community and I don't mean important you know in 'that way', I mean as making contribution...that we as a community feel that yes, we want to contribute to keep E-Rang alive, yes we want to contribute to making the ITF happen and that contribution can be kind, it can be money, it can be whatever. These are questions being thrown out there, because I think in this country the more we can rely on ourselves and get things done, you are probably in a better position to make sure things have a long-term life which is not dependent on somebody else's budget or inclination at that point. So, that's what we wanted to tell you about the ITF. Thank you for listening to this long discussion.
I'd like to invite Jehan, when we told him about what was happening at the Spaces Seminar, he jumped up and down and said, "But you have to have a space where people also come and bring their own ideas on board and where they can vote with their feet and come and have other discussions." And he was incredibly, incredibly insistent, in a way that Jehan is very good being which we are thankful for and we said - Yes, great idea but you have to the work, which he is doing, so Jehan can you please come and tell us about the Open Spaces idea and how it would run?
Jehan: Hi, I thought we were doing this after lunch so I wouldn't have had the computer but I do now because I just need notes to go through. I think Sameera has pretty much said exactly what I feel. I came to the last ITF and some of the most interesting conversations for me, there were lots of interesting conversations that happened in this room, (Shush) Yes, this is going to happen lots during this 15 minutes today. But some of the most interesting conversations that I had were in the corridors, in the hallways, around tea and coffee.
And what Open space, the methodology, and that's all I'm here to do is to set up a methodology for you guys to populate with your ideas, with your passions, with your interests. So, I'm just going to briefly explain that and this is just a methodology that maximises the chance for those discussions to happen, for you to find more stakeholders than you thought you knew existed. So for example, you might know a few people, birds of a feather, in your area, something that you are interested in discussing. If you put up a topic and say this is what I want to discuss, you might suddenly be surprised that some of those weren't so interested in that and there is a whole set of new people who were very interested.
So I'm just going to briefly sort of, talk you through the process and the structure of this. Did every one of you receive a little pamphlet? If anyone hasn't received a pamphlet just...Choiti? Is she here? Who hasn't received one of these pamphlets? Okay, just...so they are at the registration desk, down in the front, you can pick it up. It is basically a series of simple guidelines, for now just share it with somebody next to you, simple guidelines of what you can do. Okay?
The idea is in the front at the main entrance, you just saw us put a big thing that said 'Open Space area 1-15' and then there's a table below that which basically has Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. Now basically, Day 1 is tomorrow, day 2 is day after and Day 3 is obviously the next day. And there's also a form here Tasneem and Sheena, can you just hand it over...That's Tasneem and Sheena and they are carrying the forms, stand up... people need to see your face and there is Yatish and Dhananjay who are the volunteers who are helping me facilitate this. So just recognise them over there. Basically if you have, from after the introduction by Sudu, Akshara, some of the discussions today, you may actually have things that you want to talk about. And if you want to convene a session, just fill in this form and say I would like to convene the following session, write down a clear topic, a sentence that maybe describes it so it gives people a better idea, and then just go and literally put it up on the board over there. We'll help you do that.
And you can just, you basically choose an area where you are going to have that discussion, so there's.. like for example there are these 'Open Space Area' signs that Area 1, 2, 3, 4 are in this room, the Seminar Hall. We'll just right now tell you where those areas are. It will be written down but it's all sequential so 1, 2, 3, 4 areas are here in this room, 5 and 6 is outside the library over here just facing this area. 7 and 8 is inside the main entrance between the name displays, you go through and left and right is are 7 and 8. 9, 10, 11, 12 is the new dining hall which is down, just as you come down the steps and then 13, 14, 15 are in that office block where the registration happened. Okay so those are where the areas are, they just go sequentially from here to down there, But you can always ask Yatish or Dhananjay or Sheena or Tasneem, where these places are.
Okay and just basically there's a couple of very simple rules, self-organising principles that make the open space work and so these are just suggestions, my favourite is nothing is required but a good head and a good heart. For discussion, you may want to take a pen and paper along with you. So just remember this when you are convening a session or when you are attending a session okay, whoever shows up at the session, these are the right people, they are the ones who interested, go with it. Whatever happens at the session you are a part of, is the only thing that could have happened okay, whenever it actually starts is the right time to start.
Throw all these issues of "Oh no one is showing up lalala..." it just goes out of the window because 'Jab hona hai toh, ho jaayega'. And when it's over, it's over. And the key organising principle behind is the law of two feet. If you are participating in a session and you feel like any point that you have nothing more you can contribute or it's not something that is particularly what you thought it was going to be, you have every right to move to another session where you feel your participation would be more useful or however you want to work it.
So these are the sessions, if anyone is interested in convening a session there's a form that says 'I would like to convene a session, please put the topic of your session and your name and your mobile number, that way it will be easy for me to possibly track you down if, because once in a while what does come up is that sometimes you'll see that there are 2 or 3 sessions that sound kind of similar, so what will happen at that point of time is that I will just ask you to look at the board, see the other sessions, if you find your session is kind of similar to somebody else's session as a convener, please do discuss with the other convener whether it is worth merging the sessions or no.
If it's not, it's entirely your decision, okay? And the other thing is that you might find out that there's a session you want to convene but then there's a session somebody else wants to attend, so just move your session schedule up and down, there are plenty of time slots, 15 multiplied by 3.. um... 45 possible places and times you can have this session convened, okay. Was I clear? Ya? Okay, so anyone who wants to pick these up, these forms are lying currently with Dhananjay and Yatish and Sheena and Tasneem, just put your hand up or just find me or any of them, has everyone recognized who they are? Okay, great. Hands up, hands up, hands up! Okay, great. Ya and really it's an experiment, just participate and have fun and I hope everybody contributes something valuable to the conference. Thank you.
-(Sanjana) Jehan, what's the time slot?
(Jehan) Ah sorry, you got a very good question. So today is just about listening, hearing, absorbing. Tomorrow, the time slots are basically that wonderful hour, oh that's right, I have a request. This has to be pretty much the most challenging hour in the world to have a proper, fruitful discussion, but you guys will persevere, you've done your afternoon rehearsals straight after lunch, you can do this. Coffee, coffee, Akshara will be supplied in plentiful abundance. Yes, yes? There's a yes! Okay we have coffee, we possibly have paan, I don't know, whatever else, let's see. So the sessions our Day 1 sessions are tomorrow - 15th of March from 2:30 to 3:30, Day 2 it's 16th of March 2:30 to 3:30 and Day 3 - 17th of March from 2:30 to 3:30. Obviously if your discussions are interesting, engaging you guys might want to continue somewhere else, that's entirely, how it organises after that is entirely in your hands as a convener and as participants of that session, okay?
Thank you Jehan. We have a little time in hand, so is there any question.
Rustom: Sorry I don't want to sound like I'm providing a dissenting note but why does this all have to be so managerial? I mean, why do we need an Open space when this (gestures around the space) can be your Open Space?
Sameera: I'll tell you what happened last time Rustom and I'll tell you where it's coming out of. What happens is some of us know a lot of people already and there are a lot of people who are new, who don't. And what happens is they struggle a lot more to find the discussions. So this is just a way for people to not have to wait for having to get to know people and to go to a topic that if not of interest, you don't have to go. This is just really to help, because what's lovely about actually the seminar last time and this time is that we have got a whole range of people here. I mean it's, in fact Sud and I were talking this morning that is what we actually look around and see so many people you don't actually know necessarily which is lovely. Ya and...
Rustom: Sorry, I find it very constraining. I just feel that you should have more faith in people to develop their own connections within any space, you know. Why does it have it to be monitored in this manner that you got to go this space, you got to go to here... you know like kids and we have to have a convener...you're following all the politically correct, democratic rules here and I think theatre is not about politically correct, democratic rules. It's about breaking those rules and finding your own rules in the process. You know, I find it constraining because it actually stops a discussion from happening when you are just going to block, block, block, you know, instead of allowing a flow to take place. That's my feeling.
Sameera: Does anyone else want to answer that? I mean I know from my own personal point of view, I have been in a position where when I first started working in theatre, I was out of the country for a long time, I came back, knew nobody and it took me a very long time to actually get into discussions. So I know personally, I feel, I find value in that and really we are always very happy to have feedback that would change the whole structure, that's not a problem. But if anyone else has any views, Deepa you want to say something?
Deepa: Just as a suggestion Sameera, instead of having this thing happening over 45 different slots, I think what we should we do is, since everybody is here, ...a few broad subject lines, right here, right now. And then have people, you know, okay say we are interested in this subject or this issue and do that. Instead of having 45 diffused things, let's have 8 or10 concentrated things.
Jehan: I just want to say, the existence of 45 slots, (move to the mike na Jehan).. the existence of 45 slots are just to make the possibility there for you. It's not about, we have to populate all 45, it's just that you may have particular topics that you may want to discuss. So you just have to put them up, that's all it is.
Deepa: But why don't we just have discussions, suggestions come up now.
Sameera: You want to do them right now?
Deepa: And let's break them into say manageable groups, rather than have everybody all over the place.
- But what if new topics come up?
- I have a corollary point, can I just make one corollary point to what he said. If there are going to be not 45, maybe 25 or whatever suggestions, it's just going to be a bunch of that group just talking to each other or is there some kind of feedback to the theatre forum so as to what was discussed in that group.
Jehan: One of the things we will be requesting the conveners to do or that group to do is to just keep, we will be giving you materials to sort of pen down whatever thoughts and ideas are and on the opposite side or right next to that wall we will just post up you know whatever...uh... that came up from that discussion.
-That will probably be more useful than just talking.
Jehan: Ya and the idea is that it's just a place to get things flowing and it's a place to make sure that you know people who maybe, if you have something you would like to talk about, put it up, if people who want to join in, they come... they come, they don't...they don't. It's completely free, it's actually supposed to be liberated, not constraining. And it's worked in the past....
Vikram: Just to add on to what Jehan already said, the seminar, the Open Space seminar in Bangalore last year and there are a few things that also happened which I think, Rustom, may sort of help quell what your concerns are. One is there is of course you put your whoever wants to put up their topic of discussion, people come and people are welcome to be, that's one thing. Secondly, people are welcome to start their own unofficial things wherever, whenever they want. It's not that the 45 or less topics which are on the board are the only topics that are going to be discussed. I remember we had all these sessions and there was one point where two, three of us were not interested in any of them. And we just decided - we found the matter of interest that we had, had a conversation in the corridor which is perfectly allowable and that will happen and that should happen.
It's not something that should, (Is this mike working or...) It's not something that is regimented. It's just one of the many ways in which a discussion can happen. it's not the only way that the seminar is going to allow how discussions are going to happen. There are discussions that happen and do not get reported on the wall, that's also perfectly fine, I feel. That's what happened in the seminar I was at. So some things get fed back into the larger community and some things don't. That was my experience of the seminar.
May I say something? I mean I take the point that Mr. Rustom makes that it can be... it sort of organises what would have been a spontaneous way of talking maybe but it is quite difficult to talk spontaneously about some things. I mean I have certain questions that I would like to ask about/ for collaboration but I feel shy about actually opening up about specialist, particular things. And actually this kind of frees me to, if I wish to... I would like to try this out is what I mean, you know, because it's not been done before for me and it's a liberating idea for me.
Sameera: We have half an hour. We are actually running ahead of time so...we don’t know what to do in this hour actually? So, ...
Rustom: Sameera, can we respond to what you have just said? I mean you have laid down ideas...
Sameera: Please please, that's what...That's exactly what I mean Rustom ...
Rustom: ...Other people, I mean that's what ITF is doing, it's so bureaucratic, like you are doing everything but the practice of theatre it seems to me. All that you are doing, the website which is very nice, the archive which is a sort of solemn kind of endeavour much needed but is this what an Indian theatre forum should be doing? It's a question I really want to put straight out. Where's the practice? What are you doing, you know?
Sameera: We are not about practice.
Rustom: You're not about practice, then come out and say, what the hell are you about?
Rustom: About what else, I mean that's so peripheral if you're saying it's not about practice then what the hell are you doing?
Sanjna interjects: About everything that we just said...
Sanjna: We are here about bringing people together to talk about spaces...
Rustom: But okay, to talk about spaces, fine, but you know if you've already put this grid for us, you know like these are the priorities for ITF and you know you go into what I think an important but perhaps peripheral from my point of view... things like...the first things was about...the copyright issues or archiving issues and things like that... I'm not saying these are not some things that should happen but I think if you bring people together who are doing theatre, I think there has to be a greater kind of upfront address and immediacy relating to what you doing in the theatre, you know. The rest seems very peripheral, I mean what's the ? say about this but in terms of the managerial kind of quality, the entire language that you are giving us is the language of the NGO world, the language of the management. It's not the language of theatre as I understand it.
Sameera: Sanjna, you want to respond?
Rustom: It's just that I'm spontaneous.
Sameera: No please, thank you. In fact we would... actually I was just in fact about to say we have half an hour, so we would like responses...
Sadanand: What I'd to say is that while Rustom's point is important, everybody should discuss that. I just think that the work of the Theatre Forum in the last 5 years, that I have seen personally - very closely, has been so incredibly purposeful in bringing together a whole lot of diverse practitioners together. I have not seen this happening in the national context of India for a long, long time. It might have happened in the 50's strictly due to the IPTA but it has not happened since then.
It's a moment, this movement at the moment is working on some of these mechanics which seem very crucial to the practice of theatre. If I'm in theatre and I'm making a play and I have a copyright issue, the that is working with them. Copyright issue is not peripheral, neither is data bank, nor is a script bank etc. whatever that may be. It's a small group, it's a small effort, it's a very, very individually driven many many small/ each one's concerns, but I don’t think that what they have achieved... this room is an incredible, let's say, proof of what has happened in 5 years that such a large number of diverse practitioners from theatre and other art forms can come together here and sit together as if there is one issue, and actually there is not, in the Indian theatre context... the diversity is so, you know, diverse. Rural theatre, urban theatre don't speak to each other, traditional theatre , modern theatre don't speak to each other and the fact that we are all coming together and thinking that there is a commonality of issues, I think it's an important thing. We need to begin developing a framework. Now, the languages can be problematic, there can be a managerial structure somewhere, there can be a bureaucratic structure somewhere but this will move and change as and when more people come into the group. There’s a very small handful of people here who are at it for quite a while and it's not been easy at all. And I think one needs to help them develop a different model, if there is a different model and let's see how that goes. I mean, I would personally support the activity, the little game that Jehan has set up is a problematic game. I know that one has been in the last 2 years, 4 different, not just theatre, but different seminars, symposiums and it all begins with this kind of game. And the net result is 0 because the plenary becomes very weak, you know, so many different topics and whether to put them together and make 45 different subjects or 5 different subjects and bring them together in a plenary and you know, it ? seems a little not organised?
So if the focus of this 2 day symposium is Spaces, stick to it. Even in the open spaces, stick to that course instead of going all over the place. I completely agree with Jehan that this is a way where, a method by which people who don't speak, who are very shy or don't speak in public said, people who don't know want to articulate in public or you know the leaders don't hijack things because small spaces and corners are there where everybody has a chance to speak up. .... is to create more such spaces. Ya, that's all I want to say.
- (Sameera) Vijay wanted to say something.
- (Vijay)There are actually two separate points that, although are interconnected and I'd like to respond to the two points. One is about open spaces and that honestly in itself ? and one is about the style of functioning of ITF. Let me take the second one first, it's an extremely, well established principle in organisation that sound healthy, robust organisations succeed in striking a balance between two apparently opposed false but are actually complementary, one is flexibility, innovation, creativity, going off a new path and the other is conformance. Any organisation that has too much of one and less of the other calls for problems. Too much of flexibility without conformance and you disintegrate, too much of conformance without flexibility and you disintegrate. So it's very, very important as an organisation principle, for any organisation including the ITF, to arrive at that balance. Conformance is not something to be ashamed of. Discipline is not something to be ashamed of, But if it is, if they? express flexibility and creativity, yes you should be careful. I don't see that danger. When I see in the short association I have had with the ITF is that getting at that balance, so hats off to you guys. It's related to the second point which is Open Space. Somebody who has tried this Open Space, that's launching a number of seminars, conferences and workshops, other than that the no difficult in the kind expressed here, or should I say imagined here because ironically the very points that you are seeking is actually aided by the Open Spaces, you are making very good use of time, providing a lot of flexibility for poor people to meet up with more other people. So all I would say is first, give it a chance and I'm pretty sure you'll change your mind by the end of the fourth day.
I'd just like to add one thing (Can everyone just say their names first?) ? Arora. I would just like to add one little point as some of us who were here at the last ITF session, I remember discovering in the late evening that I have missed out on some conversations that happened casually, informally in the corridors in the afternoon. It's not just a case of my not knowing people, of course I knew the people who had the conversation, I was just not there with them at that time. And therefore it's not the case of whether you are shy or not shy or not speaking or finding the opportunity or not fnding the opportunity to speak. I think it is also case of organising and streamlining the listening and the sharing. So as far as I am concerned, if I can see a wall where things are put up on the board and I say that alright someone wants to be talking about this and someone else is going to be discussing this, I would be very gratified that that kind of structure happens, as to whether something can come out of it, let's put it this way, maybe nothing can come out of even the organised sessions. So let's not imagine that this is a privilege or defect only of Open Spaces, that things have to come out of there.
I'm Arush. I think what is being proposed, I think it doesn't displace the conversations in the corridors or the lunch table. I think this is just an extension of what we have, the kind of lives we are living these days on the social media. That there are constantly status updates and the status updates sometimes lead to some very fruitful discussions. I think let's treat the wall as that kind of status this is what I'm thinking, and if we are thinking alike, then please let's have a conversation.
I'm not involved in theatre (Your name , your name) My name is Romi Khosla. I'm not a direct...uh... I'm not involved in theatre directly. I have been extensively involved in bringing structure to this?. I think that the problem in what you doing actually is what’s done everywhere, in every meeting and then break-up sessions and then we meet again. I think the problem about discussion is that there is one kind of discussion and... there's only certain things. Then there are other kinds of discussions around the lunch taking where there are fewer people discuss. Then there are discussions that take place in the evening, before dinner, at drinks etc. The essential problem is that the venue determines the nature of the discussion. You are offering one venue but that will give you one type of discussion. You can't replace that with this hall and how you can as ITF capture what happens in the different discussions is a problem, I mean, short of reporting hints by and by? And you have to allow the nature of the events to change and allow for that discussion because sometimes three people are talking, sometimes ten people are talking and things and things get very ? It's a difficult problem but I think you should bear in mind that you are offering one of the five potential kinds of discussion because what I noticed is that different people speak in their different? sessions? Somebody who is quiet and shy will speak at lunch and won't speak in this session although ....very thoughtful... about it. and that's the problem because, I don't mean the problem is to listen to the people or I think who have confidence that comes in the way. You are really trying to capture a much quieter voice of a thinking person but who has... is much more shy. And I'm not...uh... I'm not ?... but I really think that you could think of breaking this up into different types of ? and accepting that there are different levels of discussions, different people take part in discussions.
(Jehaan) So basically I agree with pretty much everything you have said. I think that all that we are trying to do here is in 3 hours in total of the entire 5 day conference we are trying to create just one more vehicle, one more possible way in which discussions can happen. Certain people would come up, certain people won't, the drink sessions will still continue, the lunch conversations will still continue, the quick, fast conversations around coffee and tea before coming to the next session will still continue, okay. So all we are trying to do over here is try in this limited period of time, one new methodology and hopefully be completely surprised by some incredible results which what I'm hoping and praying for. That's all.
- (Sameera) You know I think...uh... in a sense that it's really interesting to have this thrown up actually. I didn't think that we would have such a long discussion about the Open Spaces sessions so that's good. But it would actually be really good at the end, let's try it, and let's at the end of it come back with our feedback and say for a forum like this, we don't think we should have had it this way or perhaps we can come you with some other idea and let's pull it. You know, let's just do it and let's see what happens because a lot of our work has been in that sense an experiment; we have tried some things, if it works we keep it, if it doesn’t then we drop it or we try, you know, going in some other way or something like that. Do we have more time Sudhanva? Ya? Are there any other…
-Can I raise one point? There is uh.., in your introductory...(Your name) My name is Naresh Narsimha. I'm an architect, I'm not ...in acting or directing but I design theatres for ? The opening address that you made, you said this can't go on. You made a statement saying the state of affairs as in theatre today, cannot go on. And after you...uh.. Sanjana, you made a statement "the moment I get this kind of language, I just throw up" And there seems to be some conflicting, I'm just raising a third point here from what and I'm assuming that this seminar, that this 3 hours are just ? But Why are you so scared? Why are theatre people so scared of borrowing terminology or structures from other fields of human experience? If you do not have your own way of expressing and this is a fear, why is that a NGO way of doing things is bad or good? I'm sure there are bad things about every way of, or for that matter the big bad way of corporate world, the big bad way of doing things... there are certain positive things that come out of that too. There may be ways in which theatre can be better managed if you are actually able to take the positives from other field and learn how to organise yourself, structure yourself in better ways than defensive attitudes also. (Laughter)
- Just to sort answer to the question posing for the next 4 days or 5 days, imagine everything that has been spoken here from stage or elsewhere in the language of the army speaks in. Let's see where we go with it. Each language, each world has its own, you know, universal epistemology where it comes from and what ? say I think we are very clear we don't want to step into those kind of traps and pitfalls... I would not want to follow language that is of the managerial, corporate world, that's not my world, that's not the world of theatre, that's not the world of change, that's the world of conservatism, of just profit making and one ? So I think, I don't see why would we should follow that. The task here is can we create new worlds and...
-But I must say, is there a ...
-Also I would just like to respond to (Your name), Anubha. What Rustam said about what the ITF is doing is peripheral, why I feel it's not really peripheral, being a theatre practitioner or an actor or a director of any such thing... in the practice directly, tomorrow if I want to do a play very simply if I am faced with a copyright problem, it's a very direct problem to me, it's not peripheral. And I need to address it otherwise it's a hindrance to my practice. And similarly with any such other issues where if I am looking for a script and I need all the information, I could be wasting 2 months trying to get that information, and if it's up there, I can just get it in a click. So that expedites my practice. So I think it can become very direct to people and so yes it's important to do these peripheral activities so that you know it directly helps someone in their practice.
(Sanjana) Just to clarify Rustam, when I said ITF is not about practice. We are not about doing productions, that's what I meant. but we are everything about contributing to the culture in which we work in and the environment in which we work in but we are not about doing a production, that's what I meant when I said that.
-(Rustam) I just actually... I think I should inflect? what I said earlier, contrary to what my friend Sadanand talked about bringing people together in a space, of course it's a hugely important thing in the divisive times in which we live, sectarian times in which we live, there are different kinds of diversity, for me this is not diverse enough and that's what is irritating and angering me as I speak because this is not the world I inhabit, the kind of world I grew, and I'm talking to other people like ? sitting up here about the theatre festival... my work with broom makers in Rajasthan I'm talking about, traditional sectors... I don't see those people being represented here and that for me is something I find unacceptable. (But Rustam...) Wait a second, that when you say you uphold a pluralist model or an inclusive model, I'm trying to say that the constituents of this so called inclusivity are not diverse enough and when you use the word theatre and you piggy back on that, you're making valid concerns related to copyright and the click by which you know retrieving information, you're really talking about very, very small, still a very small segment of the theatre population. I don't see in this forum valid representatives of let's say traditional theatres, folk theatres, tribal theatre companies... I'm not, it's particularly angering to me, Akshara, and I'm looking at you directly, given the fact that we are in a rural area okay, so where is for example, where is the representative....; speaking in English fine, I'm not against that but I just want us to be a little more alert that when we use words like diversity and plurality, we have to push our base a little bit and not just work within our comfort zones. I feel that what is happening is perfectly valid, perhaps the peripheral also has great value for certain constituency and I acknowledge that. But I feel, perhaps because of my own history with this institution which goes back to 1986...it's hard to fully remove that, I don't see for example, to use one of it, the rural being adequately represented, you know. And I don't see the activists working adequately represented. I don't see the Dalit world being adequately represented. It's not that they are not here in the theatre world etc. but I just want to, you know, stress that this discomfort, you know,and that's all I want to say.
- (Sameera) I think you know I think there's one articulation I'd like to make on...uh... for the ITF which is something that we haven't yet fully articulated ourselves, that's something we were talking about yesterday. Rustam, we are not representatives, we are not representatives at all, we are not closed either, right. One of the things we do when we send out e-mails to people, we say if you think somebody should be here please ask them to come. And I was very thrilled when Toral told me she got 10 e-mails or some large number that everybody was asking, we don't know everybody. We cannot from our position, we are not even taking the ? people who would be very new I think Sada is referring to that kind of opening out. Over time we have to open out, it will happen organically but we are not representative, it's not even in the sense that we are not even I don't think that's the main aim of what we are trying to do, I don't think we will ever take that on. That's a huge responsibility, I don't think that's something that we could claim to, just this small group that we are working in, over time it would happen because of the what we do... I don't know. One thing that we have not said when introducing the ITF, which is really important, is that kind of values that, and I'm going to take a shot at articulating it a little bit... of course we will work on it later, is the kind of values underlie what we do and I think everything single one of us who's being associated, you know, we go to Creative Commons for a reason. We want discussions to be as open and as problematic, we are very happy when that happens because it has to be, it has to be in that sense an open space and we do a test to make it happen and we ask everyone to try and help make that happen with us and I do remember we were thrilled at the last seminar when Shomit? and Anmol? decided to be extremely frank and open in one of the sessions and it was actually wonderful to sit here as a theatre community and to have that air, it was extremely important to have that air. And when we say... part of it is to bring people together to contribute but a very big part of it is to bring people together, together being a...uh, you know it's not that I want to become your best friend necessarily, but we need to be together in working through or towards anything that we do and that I think is what drives the way we run our projects, the way we run our makings, I mean that's it and we are making it up as we go along and we are very happy for feedback and that's why when Jehan gives us this we will make the spaces for him and we want the feedback and Jehan will come up more than adjust it because there's a purpose behind all this, there's no value to these systems if we don't actually serve the purpose that we actually want to happen and that is the way we have always worked and I hope that is the way we will continue working as we grow and as, you know, as we grow in constituency.
- (Praveen?) Can I just...(Sameera- please don't say I'm all wrong) Sameera's all wrong. I'd like to make a little clarification Rustam on that topic of copyright. I don't think we are doing ourselves any favour by saying that traditional theatre does not require copyright. In fact, while I was doing research, Kasi Tamran? of the ? whose daughter actually is here representing a new generation coming through which are interested in the larger theatre practices. Well, he was one of the people who actually came up and said "Look I have problems. People have been video graphing my works and they are using it. They are making money out of it, we don't get anything out of it." So that's, you know, definitely a concern for the traditional theatre practice and also what we have actually done is, one of the stories we talk about is the Yashigana? and what happened to their nomenclature and that kind of problems. So, I think... why we did it was not because I thought it was a great idea Let's take copyright! you know, but it was a felt need at the last seminar. Lot of people talked about it which is why we maybe piggy-backing on the larger term of theatre but it's hold on, we can't avoid that.
(Sadanand?) Because you made a point, looked at me (laughter) just to make 2 points. I just feel that ITF is still a possibility. It's still not taken a... a concrete shape. We also don't know what ITF is going to be after 3-4 years. We are trying to really figure out what it is. Even amongst us... you know ourselves, we have these long discussions about you know whom...uh... you know do we represent some people? But as you know too well that representing people also has its own problematics. So, one has a political location, one has a... in a way born through a location and one is also trying to cross the boundaries and you know it too well what I mean, in the context of Ninasam and also in the context of ITF. We are in a specific caste, class, category situation. You know we either belong to amateur theatre, professional theatre, folk theatre... you know these are categories that somebody else has made for us but we have somehow internalised it. And then there are various others social categories in which we live. But ITF is a place we are trying to cross those boundaries and we are not ... we know too well that we are not successful. We are only trying to expand the notion of the community. But just for the sake of, you know, representing something, you know that becomes another problem. You know, just to have 4 performers, 4 people from ? natak and 4 people from activist groups is another kind of injustice which we don't want to do. We want to be truthful to what we are but at the same time honestly trying to cross the boundaries. That's what we are trying to do.
I'll only like to say that I fully endorse Akshara's point that ITF is a work in making, it's a process. It cannot be something that is already formed ever, you know, it will change, it has already changed and it will continue to change and while of course I'm deeply grateful, I say this in all sincerity and humility, I am deeply grateful for Rustam, to Rustam for being irritatingly challenging. At the same time I would also like to sort of return the favour and say that you know I don’t think it's enough for us, I think, to only challenge. I think it's enough for ... I think it's important for us to say that yes I challenge and then I follow up. And this is not a comment directed necessarily only towards Rustam, but I think there is a tremendous space that is already opened up in this discussion, thanks to Rustam. But not limited to him. I think it's invitation to all of us, to challenge ourselves and say Okay, these are all the things that we haven't succeeded in doing but what can I think/ bring? that changes this. Akshara and I were just talking about the last seminar and if you see the participants of the last seminar, actually we had much more variety than we have this time in some senses. We had more people from the North-east, we had many more people who were representing various kinds of Activists theatre, we had more people who represented... I don't know... what term to use because I'm not happy with the term Dalit or Adivasi theatre or any of that but... So you know one has had variety and if this time there is less variety, it's not because of one's own choosing. That's all I can say but I do want to push this point and I want to say that it's for us to make ITF what it might become tomorrow. So far what it has done has been limited by our abilities but also not just our abilities, by the circumstances in which we work and I think this is a larger problem of Indian theatre. It is a larger problem, Sada said, like you know there are these different theatre worlds that don't talk... that actually don't converse with each other. It is a larger problem and it's a problem that one tries as well as one can to address but one is not able to crack it every single time. But I think that people who are working in those fields have the responsibility of not just, in challenging on this forum, which is of course very easy right? But to actually bring some... to such endeavours as and when they take place.
Just a quick thought in relation to the question of peripherality (Your name Ashok!) Sorry, Ashok. We are caught in relation to the question of peripherality, in relation to practice which I think is very important question... See the problem is that Capitalism in general has a... has you know answers for it selves as (its) ?questions. For example, so Reliance industries will call this backward integration. Right, they start talking to textiles, they go to polyester, to petroleum products to petroleum manufacturing to gas exploration, right. They are moving up the production chain and that seems natural to capitalist ..? to do. So now in our case, if we look at creation of Common resources or whatever, what are the names that by which we call them? and how we describe them in relation to practice? I think it's an interesting question if you ask/ to ask?. The question of moving backwards, up the common production chains in order to create common resources.
My name is Prakash, I'm a theatre person from Bangalore. I really have a short point to make but you know, actually this illustrates to me in a way that you know this problem actually unravels in front of us every time we come up with this. A couple of years ago in Rangashankara there was a seminar on what is folk, what is traditional, what is desi, what is ?, what is classical and so on, you know. And Sadanand, Dr. Hannah de Bruin who's actually working with folk artists in Kanchipuram, she came and made this point which actually quite stunned everybody. She said "Look, you talk about mainstream theatre and all but we are the mainstream theatre, you are the sleep stream?" she said. It was completely a shocker, I mean you know that you must make that acknowledgement, you know. But having said that I would say we are in the exactly the same danger of political correctness that you know that Mr. Varuja? Ahuja?pointed out earlier, we will be committing the same sin by giving them artificial representative thing. We are this, we are us, we hope we can be better and bigger than this but this is what we are now and without apology but with sensitivity we should carry forward, we can't do anything else.
(Rustam) Just a little point I had... (Mike!) You are absolutely correct that there was a recent meeting that Hannah organised at Kalakshetra of all the places, Kalakshetra of course being the premier institution for Bharatnatyam and she represents Kattaikkuttu which is a very different kind of forum, and she was basically saying that we still feel the marginalisation, we still don't feel the respect and as the discussion grew, it was really interesting because here you had Leela? Samson? who is the director of that institute and a very very prestigious dancer, and we got down to money, you know, "So how much do you get per performance?" Kattaikkuttu is getting more money from rural audiences for its commission shows than what urban Bharatnatyam dancers are getting from their sponsors. It was quite a shocker to us as well that the rural audience was more respectful of supporting not just by good words but in kind, and in money and hard cash ? all night Kattaikuttu performances. So in the sense, you are quite right you know, Who is peripheral here?, Who is, you know, we claim in some ways we assume our mainstream position? What is the mainstream, you know? We are really very marginal maybe at some level, you know, I just wanted to put that out.
-I don't think we are at all mainstream (not at all) like the Terrakuttu? people, they actually do 125- 150 performances a year (absolutely) whereas we do 20... a good year (You're right.)
-Some of the ...? shows are booked till 2026. -I know.. - What? - 26!?
- (Rustam)Those are exciting things to take on. That's when the crossing of the boundaries which is very necessary, you know...
- (Sanjana) But Rustam... We don't ...down ? what we've done, we're just discovering a lot of what we've been doing and we had a Microfinance meeting which had a huge range of people in Chennai. For us the whole facet of discovery was 3-4?, to understand firstly what is microfinance? because it started out by me going into sponsors' offices with Akshara saying "We need money and he needs money and we are in two different parts of the country and give us money!" And he said " Have you ever looked at microfinance?" and we said "What!? Wow, we can't earn money and ....? money and it doesn't work that way." But then we started the conversation and it was extraordinary and we also got to know all the economics of rural traditional performing arts and urban performance and it's completely, I mean completely different from each other but it was coming together. It was coming together in a way I have never experienced in my life and coming together where we were on the same platform having a conversation, with translators roaming? ? different languages but I think that's what... I mean nothing came out of that forum and that really one of the first forums we had and it was an experience, an incredible opening of a dialog and I think if that can happen, that's very, very valued. You know now.. it happens and results in something...
-Important to note that nothing came out because the traditional performers were much sharper about microfinance than we were.
-(Sanjana) They're bankers actually.
-Actually something happened, microfinance is not meant for performers, I mean, from I think the Chennai forum I think it's not true that nothing happened, it was clear that it's not same for, it was not maybe good to go for microfinance.
-I'm not sure. i still think they are very political... how it works and it's a very, it's a whole different world to study because the irony, the most awkward person in that room was the banker who just couldn't talk our language... poor fellow, he was thrown into the deep end and he made such an ass of himself. It was very unfortunate.
I have... I'm feeling a bit concerned about the discussion... My name is Ramani? I live in Chennai and I'm a film maker. The discussion that's happening here, a bit concerned actually, in the sense that the definition of what is a mainstream theatre and what peripheral and all... so what I would say is that, you know... for me it's very important and invigorating and very challenging and it's to deal with our work and because what is important today is how much we think, question, push the notion of theatre and what you practice and obviously you know these words are used like commonly push the boundaries? You know, I think a forum like this is what actually does it and I know when we talk about Yakshagana or Terrakuttu, they are great, they are great performers but I don't know how much active questioning is happening in terms of you know how things are happening you know and how the platform is?, how everything is becoming you know, so I think the theatre language is pushing questioning all these areas because of performance, space? you know I think that important and everything is becoming you know, the main platform.
My name is George and it's... listening to this discussion, I was thinking to myself...Why am I here and What is ..? (Laughter...- Go for it, Just go for it!) What I expect from these four days that I will be here and just responding to what Sada was saying about language I think you know my own training one is particularly sensitive to what is language and we all know that there are many major languages that are going around all the time and Sada very rightfully pointed out to what my team ? in what we are saying or not saying and what I think is important is, having recognised that, is how do we continue to speak fearlessly, using languages that we probably know are limited, that we might end up saying things that are trite, we might end up saying things that are really really wrong, quote unquote, but how do we continue to speak fearlessly and concurrently listen fearlessly because what we are also recognising as the discussion moves is that many a times there are labels attached to things that might be premature, that might be provocative, that might be both! Or there might be ways in which we'd suddenly have a new insight about. So I think there are two things that I feel, I'm thinking about at this point of time is how do we continue to speak even when we are sensitive to the many potential minefields that is the language, languages around us and know how do we continue to remain responsible to what is this particular movement as Ramani was saying and I thought Sameera wonderfully sketched out for us a certain journey which is a journey in time, you know, it's an unfolding from 2002 to 2006 to 2012. Well it's also March 14th and there is March 18th and how does one try to understand all of this and the fact that this the opening session of a particular four day journey and obviously how does one continue to remain sensitive to all of this and continue to do quite ironically, I quote Rustam, is having a wonderful flow you know before we go into all the threads that are here and present and I want to commend Rustam for really really opening that and therefore in many ways kind of making it one of the most thoughtful you know opening sessions. Thank you.
One point that probably Sameera missed out on in the rambling opening which is very good, I love rambles, is the fact that whatever these scene was for the initiation of the ITF and eventually becoming the ITF, the opening several years of batting around was definitely perceived sense of crisis in theatre practice and it was that I think triggered off all these activities. This sense of crisis did not extend to traditional, rural performance atleast that was not in the periphery, because traditional, rural performance does not suffer from that kind of crisis, the Yakshagana performance that Akshara was talking about that is booked till 2026, is booked till then because it's an unchanging tradition and it will remain like that, it's meant like a certain kind of offering to the temple, the deities are fixed, the worship is fixed, the ? is fixed and there's nothing much expected to change, the artists might change, certainly, might become better or worse, but the point is that does not really come within the purview of theatre practice unless somebody who wants to charge his or her new work with some sort of more definitive conventional practice goes in that direction and brings it up and works with it and so on. And then all these issues will come, like the ?, plagiarism, copyright issues and stuff like that and so the beginnings were therefore important, that this was a definite response to a sense of crisis in several theatres people were practicing in, like there was String theatre? there was the so called theatre of the roots?, whether it was regular urban theatre, whether it was experimental theatre, there was a sense of something not actually working out and it was not just limited to economics, it was extended to many other issues of content and engagement and how to you know amplify the nature of the work and so on. So I think that focus somehow has remained, I don't think that it has changed, so it will depend upon how much more one is able to ? and stay critical and my fear, let me say that also frankly, my fear is... I had seen the idea that within two years becoming an establishment, organisation and becoming the kind of forum that we want to run away from, not because you are also not established but you know there exudes this kind of language and power and the language of power with which we are/ it is? difficult to handle. So how to be free of that, how to remain in that sense the rambling sort of agency that one is... that's very important and obviously that's what the forum would have to go to some because the moment one speaks in definitive terms, one is already beginning to enter a suspect? area, it's a trap that is very seductive but it's also closes lot of doors. So my feeling is the critique of theatre practice is what needs to ? from what were...uh.. it's not productional theatre but actually it's the production of the critique of theatre .
Hi I'm Ankita. I have a question between about what Sameera said about we... the fact that we shouldn't have to struggle constantly to be heard or to be recognised as important contributors and what Sanjana said about a certain kind of terminology, making a..? ...uh... I mean I want to know the way out between the two because we... the kind of people who talk more or that are heard more, go on using like the existing terminology or the media which exist already and so a lot of that is already taken up. So what are we left with? Are we to constantly create new worlds and new media and then make people understand them. For years I have been trying to look for some cuss words or abuses which are not problematic and I'm not able to find anything because when I went to call someone and ? what exactly I need but what do I do with it? I mean, first I call him something and then I space...? What do I do?
- (Rustam) It's a creative struggle. (Laughter) I value struggle you know I think if we don't struggle, there's no creativity and ? And I don't want to romanticise that point, you know, because there are different kinds of struggle; you're talking with Raina?, you're talking about what happens when you do theatre in Kashmir and let's say a militant enters the audience and threatens to shoot people, that's a real threat and that's a struggle but that doesn't mean that you can't cope with that struggle, I hope Raina will share how he coped with that struggle, how he coped with that crisis very creatively that's all one can do. One can only come up with creative strategies so what you are feeling, I think it's great you know it's a wonderful, wonderful moment for an artist when you don't quite know what word to use, you know that real terror is when you know the words you have to use, when the words are already written for you, before you're even speaking it instead of finding the word, you know. So what you are going through... that I see as... I'd like to say creative struggle is something to put on the agenda, maybe a positive failure is another thing that comes up from a lot of good NGO activity where you know we can't always be driven by flawless success you know because success also comes with debilitating depression sometimes you know. It's nice to have success but you know what, if we have success all the time, it will be very boring I feel...
-Fortunately we don't suffer from it. (laughter)
- (Rustam) Good thing. That shows you're alive
- (Sameera) I also don't think it's about being ? about success... strive .. you anything then you have... sometimes the conditions can be so difficult that it only allows the genius to come through and I don't...uh... I don't subscribe to that. I think if you believe in something you try and help conditions be such that the person who wishes to, who has something to contribute, wants to work for it, who has creative ideas can also contribute. You need that... you need to have anything tried, you need to have a large amount of possible activity, it's too much to ...I mean there are levels of struggle, I mean it's like saying you know you have to work for your food or should you have no food on your plate? So it isn't about being important to somebody else. I think the question of language that has been brought up is... in the journey to make yourself matter to those who you are? and I think that's all what Sadanand is warning us about, that you know, if it's the values that we haven't quite, I feel quite ashamed to be talking about this?, when we are... you know... when you are saying theatre practice you know, we are not standing for every kind of theatre practice. There's lot of us who have a huge problem here with the kind of feudal practice within theatre groups that happens across this country. So do we ? on that because that gives you more power, I mean those are very important self questions to ask and those are things you will keep bringing to the table and you know there is a certain like mindedness in this room no matter what the diversity of the backgrounds is and that's a self-selected like mindedness that happens. I don't know if that answers your questions but for now break...
- (Romi Khosla?) I'll just take up Sadanand's? very real problem. He has a fear that association petrified of the institution? is ? and generally that happens in India because when you find regular source of finance and other... requirement? I'd like to make a distinction between two functions that you can break? and this is an overall distinction you make for a lot of institutions. Either the theatre... people involved in theatre are regarded as patients who require to be cured or they are regarded as agents of change. Now if you regard them as patients, you are constantly searching for solutions to hand them which is how the government of India works, which is how development works. If on the other hand and that's how you come in instituition, if on the other hand you are regarding everybody in theatre that you come in contact with, regardless of whether it's folk that I would ...communicate...?because everybody is in that struggle of trying to leave the line ahead? If you treat them as agents of change which means that it's a very, very different relationship because what you're telling them is what is your capability, what is your potential? Can we bring them out rather than what's your illness, try this... it's a very different relationship and if you remain as agents of change... as sponsors of agents of change, you can never get institutionalised because you move your arm too much and your values are ?
Thank you for that. I'd like to thank you all for this because it’s been ? We can take a break now and go for lunch and be back at 2:30 for... the real conferences (Laughter) Thank you so much everyone, this has been fantastic.