BANGALORE: Shadow Liberation, a theatre group from Bangalore, offered a brilliant artistic dialogue on gender violence between the audience and the artistes at Counterculture recently. Students from Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology under the direction of Evan Hastings, performed the interactive theatre experience.
Hastings, a theatre artist and drama therapist from the US, is known for producing and directing pieces that grapple with issues while using innovative aesthetics to invite audience engagement. City Express talks to Evan Hastings to find more about the nuances of theatre and where it is headed to in India.
Tell us about your group.
Shadow liberation is a theatre group that made us realise that it is time to act and liberate the shadows of grief and oppression within our spirit. We are a participatory shadow theatre group that condemns gender violence.
Shadow Liberation uses creatively crafted visual stories to captivate one’s imagination and invite audiences to ‘interrupt’ the injustice of gender violence.
In the tradition of Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre, audience members are invited on stage to offer improvisational interventions into scenes depicting oppression.
This artistic dialogue offers no quick fix solution but rather places faith in the emerging ethics of the community to creatively address the problem.
Through this dialogue with the society, we invite people to face their issues through remarkable works of participatory theatre.
Where do you think gender oppression has reached today?
We, as human beings, are programmed as gender machines. No matter how much we try to bring people under one groove, we notice that there’s still a gap that we never acknowledge which is far worse than the more obvious oppression. We segregate ourselves on the basis of our gender and sexual orientation, which triggers injustice.
In this way, gender oppression has made us sit under the frames of segregation.
How important is art in our existence today?
Art is a language of expression. We as artists make choices in our life and express it as an art form. It is the viewer’s choice to escape from the situation or stand up and look forward towards a new hope for his life and the lives of people around him. Hence, art is a form of expression which instills an urgency to take the desired action towards an issue, which is a hope to humankind.
The importance of art is immense. It instills an urgency to take rightful action towards ourselves and the society as a whole. Thus, helping us to see a more sturdy foundation of mankind. We as Shadow Liberation hope for a mankind without gender violence where there is no segregation against gender, sexual orientation and every individual has to make their own choices without the fear of being judged.
Where do you think India stands today with respect to theatre in the global scenario?
I think Indian art is mesmerising in its own way and form. Hence, we don’t need to compare ourselves to anybody else. But, what I see is that, Indian theatre is yet to be explored in new forms and ways. Hence, there is a potential to look forward and move further in exploring and challenging new aspects of theatre.
What is it about theatre that intrigues you the most?
Theatre and performance arts are one of the greatest media today. They are the most powerful methods of communication to the common public. What I find the most beautiful about theatre is how it mixes with other art forms so easily. Now we see theatre mixing with something unexpected like pop music, electronic, rock music, fashion as well as literature and films and many other art forms.
But at the same time, it is the mother of all art forms, as it connects with feelings and experiences of human beings.
What is the greatest threat to theatre?
The greatest threat to theatre is the idea of it being a philosophy or an educative tool. Theatre is an art form which is entertaining and connects to the core human thoughts at the same time. Hence, it is sad that people regard it as philosophical branch.