Arrivals in the pandemic: The Tribune India

Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry

How far do I have to stay from others to build with them a sociability without alienation and a loneliness without exile?
Roland Barthes, How to live together

Democracy and theater were inextricably linked to Greece during the 5th century and it was considered mandatory for citizens to attend theater, share stories, and participate in socio-political issues. Citizens were expected to consider collectively, through metaphor, and, through storytelling, a way to understand their everyday problems. The theater was the space for collective thinking and for sharing collective problems, almost like a confessional, where they discussed, analyzed, and perhaps resolved issues.

March 2020 created a seismic change in the way we function and live. Suddenly, it seemed to us that a person’s life is not only unpredictable, but also insecure. Facing challenges never encountered before weighed heavily on our notion of ourselves in social space, creative space, domestic space, political space, and I dare say, our religious space. . Our humanity is being tested every day, as we hesitate to look for hope and affirmation, sitting on a pile of rubbish. Each of us struggles desperately to adapt to the liquid environment, with a fluid sense of change.

What makes us “alive” is the recognition and belief that each individual can make a difference. This art can make a difference. This art can humanize us, help us survive, no matter how adverse the situation. The blows and sounds of our existence are transformed into stories, as a testimony of the times, as well as a documentation of their history.

But who will support this rain of images waiting to be explained and shared? In this scenario, what is done? Gather everything you believe in, wrap it around your body and move on.

During the Covid-19, the theater has had an unprecedented impact. Theater, as we know, is an ensemble work, where the actors, in a rehearsal space, feel, respond, touch and share. Breathing, breathing and sweating, is an intimate space that questions time-tested assumptions and dilemmas, about life and humanity, the flows and flows of life.

The migration of theater from physical space to digital space changed something intrinsic and basic to the nature of this art form.

Need creates strange bedfellows. The available platform was digital. Either you jump into virtual reality or pears, it was anxiety.

Isolation, sanitation, and physical distance are not conducive to acting. This forced scrolling of the stage to the screen has disturbed the natural order in which performance and performance distribution are concerned. A live actor, a live audience and the connection between them is the basic ingredient that cooks the performance.

The actor waiting on the wings, the excitement of the first bell, the falling in love with the people sinking into an auditorium, the entrance, the exit, the adrenaline, were missing in this virtual reality. Try acting in an empty auditorium and you’ll get what I’m trying to say.

An Amritsar actor, who is rehearsing with a Pune co-actor, with the director based in Bombay, creates unusual dynamics. No smell, no touch, no touch, no taste. Through Zoom, a play is made, which is then digitized and displayed.

Theater for me is sweat and blood, savoring the tears and joys of the actor, a shared space in a segregated world. Where the unsaid is said and the invisible is made visible.

Theater is also about community, and seeing it transformed into a space of isolation, a space of sanitized security, contradicts the very nature of the performance. Rehearsing solo, going solo, has become the new norm, which increases the whole notion of a “live” theater with a “live” audience. This digital interface, which is the screen, is a distancing agent that separates what it seeks to unite. However, it is the only means of communication available during the pandemic. Ironic and contradictory.

Art is not technology. It is useful but not vital. I guess it’s a little crazy to be romantic and get into nostalgia, lamenting how things were, in the face of a rapidly changing reality.

This is in no way destroying what is happening. Exciting plays have appeared and I have also participated with my play “The Black Box”, which was not only performed “live” but was also broadcast via a digital platform. The result was a double existence, a double vision, a double way of being seen. I found that a play destined to be seen from the front, through the fourth invisible wall, once filmed, allowed for multiple points of view. Was it the play? Or did he take a life of his own, not exactly planned during the performance? Questions that attacked, but had to be set aside for convenience. Previously, a play was filmed to document it, but ‘Black Box’ was filmed as an intersection between theater and film, in an attempt not to lose the values ​​of being a theatrical production and not to be seen as documentation. pure.

It seems that the pandemic will determine future directions, in the choice of narratives and themes, based on the technological gaze.

Initially, digital space was welcomed as an alternative, a temporary space, an interruption in the natural order of things until the theaters open up and attract us back to their charming seducers. The way the virus spreads, I’m afraid it may be here to stay for longer than I imagined.

As a theater director, I know I have to de-define all of my conventional beliefs and habits and turn this new encounter with technology into an adventure. It frees my imagination from definitions that have accumulated over time. Still, do we have the methods, experience, and funds to enter the new world? Philosophical, pragmatic, creative and rhetorical questions.

Welcome to the new world. A world without shadows, a world without applause, a world without noise, a room without windows in which fear hides and resonates in a cacophonous silence.

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