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On a rainy evening in Hyderabad...

Posted by Dramanon Theatre Company on 20 June, 2014 at 2:25 Comments comments (217)

9th May | LaMakaan, Hyderabad 

Friday. The 9th of May. 5pm. Hyderabad. We’d just finished two shows of a customised performance at Microsoft Hyderabad and were on our way to LaMakaan for a long overdue public show with the Dramanon Hyderabad team. All of 4 us stuffed into a spacious Innova, shielded from the blistering heat by a talkative driver who loved his AC set to -16. A small mercy given how totally drained we were. A whole days workshop and 2 shows the day before had definitely left its mark on us.

After a reasonably lengthy drive which included nearly running over 2 motorcyclists and muted abuses, we finally reached LaMakaan. The old house-turned-theatre brought a smile to my tired face. Many a greeting were exchanged with the extended Dramanon family many of whom we hadn’t seen in many a moon. T’was a joyous gathering filled with lime juice, tea and smoke… from the nearby garbage being burned. Really.

Slowly we inched our way to the stage and began the tech setup. The lamakaan stage area is something out of a fairytale… about theatre. It’s a small outdoor stage open to the sky with a backdrop of rocks and palm fronds. Seating is covered by one rather healthy tree and plastic chairs laid out in rows provide… seating… for patron’s glutes. The sounds of birds, squirrels and other tree dwelling creatures fill the air along with the sounds of car horns and passing vehicles. We began our setup focussing their wide array of 9 lights with precision and once LaMakaan’s quota of lights had exploded on us, we were ready to go!

At about 7pm the audience started to trickle in. We were all huddled in the green room getting ready to go up on stage and we could hear the murmur of the crowd outside getting louder and louder. From the window we could only see feet and it looked like Mance Rayder’s army had come to storm Castle Black! At 7:30pm the show began to a packed audience of about 100 people all seated under the tree with the faint sound of rustling leaves providing the background score.

The first play started and ended and the audience was fantastic! I watched the second play from the audience while trying to silence a wildling woman north of the (boundary) wall who had THE most annoying reversing tune for her giant (SUV).

The third play went on without a hitch and all of us were feeling pretty good about how things were going! After the the third play I returned into the audience to watch the fourth and final play of the evening. Rahul and Aditi were on stage performing “Meet Cute”. The audience was completely engrossed by their performances and where the story was going. And then, half way through the play… A drop of water. And another… A light drizzle. The moment was almost dreamlike. Two actors performing in the rain. The rain drops being lit up by the stage lights. The audience too involved to care. Brilliant! And then, in a matter of seconds, the moment was destroyed.

The rain came crashing down like a waterfall on steroids! The actors held on for a while in the torrential downpour but the noise of the rain and the audience running for cover left them with no choice but to run back to the green room as fast as they could. There we waited. Do we wait for the rain to subside or do we move the show indoors into the café area? A few more minutes of mad rain and we knew we had no choice. Chairs were shifted into the café area – a small room, probably the former living room of the old house, large enough to squeeze in 50 people or so. Even moving the chairs was a pain! The indoor area was packed with people from the first show as well as the crowd for the second show which had started coming in! It was like a Mumbai local train during rush hour! Insane!

Finally we managed to pack all the people from the first show into the café area and Rahul and Aditi finished the second half of the play to thunderous applause which put the real thunder to shame.

That was pretty eventful but the evening wasn’t done with us yet! We still had the second show to get through. We’d sold tickets for the outdoor area and were running short on seats… so we stuffed in more seats into the café! The ushers tried to convince people that there wasn’t any more space and offered refunds as well but the audience would have none of it! “We’ll stand at the back! We’ll sit on the floor! Just let us watch the show!” Slowly even the aisle was filled with chairs… Then the carpeted area at the end of the room (which was supposed to be our stage) was given up for floor seating and eventually… we were pushed out onto the balcony! A tarpaulin sheet thrown from the top floor ensured that we’d be sort of dry. Abhishek was reduced from the otherwise basic light setup to one halogen lamp and he sat next to the wall socket ready to switch the light on and off.

We were huddled on the extreme ends of the balcony, trying to keep out of sight of the audience. Balconies aren’t really designed with stage performance in mind. Sridhar, Ruthwik and the other production members were literally on the other side of the balcony railing, standing on the chajja!! The first play began and as I stepped on “stage” it was the most beautiful sight I’ve seen. A room for 50 people packed beyond capacity with 80-90 people. People standing in the back stuffed together, some drenched by the rain. Through the proscenium-forming French windows, a group of 15 people sat so close that I could literally pat them on the head! The moment I looked down I’d see people staring back in awe with a ridiculous I-am-so-entertained smile on their faces. A glance to my right and beyond Swetanshu, playing his character, revealed Sridhar and Ruthwik clinging on for dear life on the wrong side of the railing and to my left, the rest of the cast huddled up trying their best to remain quiet! The rest of the shows went up. All had been reduced to minimal sets and one light, but the audience saw through it all. With every play, the audience got more and more engrossed. From a side window I peeped in and saw 90 pairs of wide eyes, just riveted to the “stage”. A cool after-rain breeze was blowing which was fine for us but we could see the audience was getting stuffy and hot inside. And still… They held on. Still they watched. What an audience it was! The laughter of happiness, the silence of sorrow, the awe of love, it was all packed up into that little room!

The show concluded with applause the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a long time. There was a certain genuinity to the applause. They knew they had been a part of a very special evening. And we applauded back. We knew we had been part of something special too. This was one performance that shall be etched in our memories for a long time to come! A big thank you to everyone who made it happen!


When the presidents convene...

Posted by Dramanon Theatre Company on 16 June, 2014 at 2:55 Comments comments (141)

ITC Gardenia, Bangalore.

65 world presidents in one room can be quite a party. We can testify.

Dramanon was at ITC Gardenia on June 7th for a supper theatre performance for WPO (World President’s Organization). WPO is a global leadership organization of more than 8,000 business leaders that was established in 1970 with an aim to create a platform to exchange ideas among its members.

But this was a supper theatre performance with a ‘twist’. Three enthusiastic WPO organizers wanted to be part of the actual stage performance itself so Dramanon scripted what we call ‘preambles’ to each of the plays we performed. We wrote short pieces that fit into the original storyline of the actual plays that were to be performed on the evening.

Lakshmi Eshwar played Pam in Fate’s Steady Hands where she comes in to warn Richard of Sam’s insanity. Lakshmi had the audience in splits with her advice to use a paper weight as a weapon of self defense in case things get out of hand.

Sudhir Kant played a disastrous blind date in ‘Sure Thing’. Armed with an afro and a ‘Dating for Dummies’ handbook he played a crazed Bengali man named Anjon Lahari – who is incidentally a member of the WPO fraternity. The crowd collectively chocked on their drinks when Sudhir introduced himself as ‘Anjooon’ and unleashed his bad behavior with great enjoyment, while the real Anjon sat red faced in a roaring crowd.

Sameer Inamdar played a senior dentist in ‘Surgery’, frustrated with his new ‘rehabilitated’ intern. With a 30 year career of dealing with a lot of dimwits, Sameer was a natural as he stomped the stage, yelling at his intern. Sameer’s stellar performance came to an end with the intern knocking him out cold with an inflatable hammer.

This truly fabulous, collaborative idea of involving the WPO members and weaving their characters into the existing scripts was a first for us. And what a great response it got. Everyone from the audience to the performers were witness to the ‘other side’ of their CEO avatars. The performers got a chance to moonlight as ‘professional’ actors, get involved in the process of making a play – rehearsals, learning lines, chai sessions and the first rush of being on stage.

Thank you Lakshmi, Sudhir and Sameer for your time, enthusiasm, wonderful hospitality, and above all your support for theatre. We shall keep you posted on our next call for auditions ;)