In the process of finding new paths, old ones must be left behind. That’s perhaps the only and most important lesson theatre critic and academic Keval Arora, who has short-listed plays for the The Old World Collegiate Theatre Festival this year, has to share with aspirants. When they are still in college, he asks young artistes to not just understand what they have done well, but also keep pushing themselves to abandon the familiar in search of new directions. As some of these enthusiasts assemble to perform at the theatre festival, Arora finds repeating himself.
The thing that makes the event special is that it provides a stage to youngsters. They showcase their work in a manner that is considerably more enabling and congenial when compared to the ill-equipped environments in which they customarily perform, says the critic. That it’s organised as a festival, not a competition, is a novel aspect too. “Each group gets an opportunity to present two back-to-back plays, allowing them to tweak the second one on the basis of the first. This procedure, common in the amateur theatre circuit, is a learning experience that is totally unavailable to college groups in the university circuit,” says Arora, who is additionally happy that every group is given a good amount of control of the performance environment. The best part, he adds, is the mentorship process that complements the performances.
Colleges such as St. Stephens, Shaheed Bhagat Singh (Evening), Ramjas, Shivaji, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies and others have listed themselves. Plays such as Run For Your Wife, The Dog of Tithwal, Art, Syaahi, Veronica’s Room, Uncivilised Daughters and more will be staged. “Passion and a willingness to mean what they say, and show it, is a characteristic inherent to young theatre artists. Most collegiate theatre is driven by an aura of conviction, and that is their strength. The old-fashioned idea of theatre as a mode of communication and critique gets a fresh lease of life in such work,” says Arora, adding, “And, with the abundant energy that resides in things which are done of, by and for oneself, it is common to find every cast member pitching in to do everything. The solidarity and excitation one sees in young theatre people is honestly one of the nicest features of the collegiate theatre, and I am so glad to be a part of it,” he says.