World Theatre Day: How has the pandemic affected theatre, made it take the digital route

As the entertainment industry continues to reel under the pressures of the pandemic, digital has been a preferred route even for the theatre industry. In the last one year, the theatre industry has pivoted and many plays have been showcase online on different platforms. On World Theatre Day, we talk to actors who have been a part of this digital revolution in the theatre business. We ask them about the affect of pandemic as well as the way forward for theatre industry.

Actor-director Lillete Dubey has directed digital plays Adhe Adhure and Womanly Voices.

Lillete Dubey

I feel the very essence of theatre is human interaction. That shared experience that we are in the same space and having a live interaction is terribly important to me. It is the very essence of theatre and that is what I miss the most. For those who earn their livelihood from theatre, this phase is going to be very difficult. We just have to find a way to survive, make money and if the way forward is online productions, there is no harm in it. But yes, these are temporary stop-gap arrangements and this is not how theatre is supposed to exist or to thrive, either now or in the future. I am very confident that theatre will bounce back and people will once again come and watch it live.

Shreyas Talpade

The pandemic has definitely affected the industry in a bad way. Theatres got shut and there were lot of actors and technicians who were dependent on theatres. A lot of people tried to do something digitally working from home and things like that. Digital was the way forward and some people accepted that. There has to be a balance a mix of old and new. Technology is here to serve us so might as well use it. The way forward for theatre industry is of course we should keep doing live shows but somehwre I feel that it is time that we embrace technology. It is high time Indian theatre reaches global audiences, why should it be limited to only India. It is important that we reach out.

Sonali Kulkarni

The new normal has taken a huge toll on socialising and creative collaborations so theatre has been affected in a big way. Because theatres shut down, tours and performances got canceled, the entire theatre fraternity is suffering financially. At this time, the digital path seems to be the only available way forward to reach out to audiences effectively and safely and I am happy that it is available to us. I think online and digital platforms are the options that will be an important conduit of communication for artists and will also entertain the audiences. Today, no matter which language you want to watch a play in, there are options available. Most actors are also now familiar with the digital format. So even though there are constraints, there are open doors through which you can reach the audience in a safe way during the pandemic.

Actor Aahana Kumra has been a part of digital play Sir Sir Sarla
Actor Aahana Kumra has been a part of digital play Sir Sir Sarla

Aahana Kumra

I think the digital route for theatre was unfolding even before the pandemic if I am not mistaken. A lot of plays were already being digitised like my teleplay Sir Sir Sarla which we shot before the pandemic. This is the space where the millennials are and the world is moving towards. We are doing plays right now with 50 percent capacity in most theatres but even in the future, we should digitise plays to keep a record of what they represent and archive them for the next generation because we just don’t know what the future holds. I feel reassured that regardless of what happens, theatre will survive and live on because there always will be an audience eager to watch a play and we just need to reach them one way or another.

Actor Rajeev Khandelwal has been part of the digital play Court Martial
Actor Rajeev Khandelwal has been part of the digital play Court Martial

Rajeev Khandelwal, who has been part of the digital play Court Martial

It was absolutely wonderful to do a digital play. What happens is that theatrical production is that people have to go out and see the theatre production but because of the pandemic unfortunately people were not able to go out and see the plays because of the shutdown of theatres. So for me the online plays are such a wonderful way to preserve the essence of theatres. For me to pull off this was a huge high for me in life. The whole concept of a digital play is why I took it up in the first place.

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