Point of Q: Learning Theatre

Posted on 13 December, 2016 by Team Wishberry

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Recently someone came up to me and asked:

“Where can I learn about theatre?”

What she actually meant was:

“Where can I learn acting, because given the entertainment explosion currently, I am sure I can make a lot of money doing that?”


It’s not her fault.

Many people see acting as a lucrative profession and working in theatre as a stepping stone to that. Waman Kendre once told a story of how a parent brought his teenage son to him and said, “We’ve tried everything else. He’s failed. So we thought, might as well let him be an actor.” The assumption is that anyone can be an actor, maybe because it so closely replicates life. While I do believe that actors are made rather than born, and that everyone can play at least ONE role well, being a GOOD ACTOR is a much more difficult task. It calls for incredible dedication and hard work and very skilful training.


Until a few years ago, all the training available for actors was through observation and on-the-job experience. You joined a group as a youngster, and became a stage-hand observing senior actors work, and then you would work your way up from Spear Carrier Number 6 to a speaking part, to a supporting role, and if you were really lucky and talented, a major role.


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But Bombay is an entertainment city, where everybody wants something fast. And being an ‘entertainment’ city, naturally acting classes are now available on every street corner. Some are well intentioned, while some complete shams. Most of them peddle the ‘Bollywood’ carrot. Understandably, that attracts people. Unfortunately most of these short courses often don’t quite make the youngster any better, in spite of the high fees.


In the last few years, there have been dedicated attempts to impart formalised actor training. The Mumbai University Masters Programme in Theatre Studies is a very intense course, as is Drama School Mumbai’s One Year Diploma. These are full-time courses that demand extreme commitment. However for a city like Bombay, the part time courses are more attractive.


Therefore, when picking a course it’s important to know what you really want out of it. Some courses/workshops are activity based; aimed at the amateur as a weekend activity to learn a few skills but not much else. Others are more specific, either introductory courses for the beginner or about a particular aspect of acting/theatre for a mid career performer. These days there are also talks by members of the theatre fraternity that are free or inexpensive, that give the budding actor great perspective on the profession.


The youth theatre initiative Thespo has chosen a different yardstick for its workshop line up; namely, access to rare and unique workshop leaders. So this year, as the festival turns 18, the workshop line up is almost exclusively international. From the magic of Shakespeare by aficionado Paul Goodwin, to creating one person plays by Daniel Bye, the workshop leaders are all from the UK and Australia, except for Bombay’s very own, Timira Gupta who is doing a workshop on the specific therapeutic uses of drama. The workshop topics cover movement, using music in plays, direction, clowning, movement, etc. The idea behind this is to provide the young theatre enthusiast an affordable buffet where they can learn more about different aspects of theatre. If you attend them all, it’s similar to a weeklong intense programme. If you just attend a few, you gain an insight and perspective into a particular aspect of theatre.


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While the primary reason to attend a workshop is to enhance your skill, there is an ancillary benefit: networking. Workshop rooms are filled with eager actors waiting for their big break, some of whom are already Spear Carrier 6 in a theatre production. But being in a room of people from the community is an opportunity to learn about different projects happening. Also, one can get on the ‘word-of-mouth’ chain, which is the most effective tool to getting work. Someone tells their director about you, and suddenly you are in an audition room. Workshops are also an exhibition of some kind. It is an opportunity for actors to impress the workshop leader; to make an impact on them so there can be recall in future.  


So if you want to sign up for a workshop, be clear about what it is you want out of it. If you are still confused, just come to the Thespo ones, they’re only Rs. 600/-. Register on https://www.facebook.com/events/1556078304419231/


Quasar Thakore Padamsee

Artistic Director, QTP



About the writer:

Quasar Thakore Padamsee is the Artistic Director and Founder of QTP. He is also a founder of Thespo, an annual youth theatre festival. Quasar has directed and produced many a play since the late 1990s and has been on the forefront of bringing in something new and fresh to the theatre scene. 

Quasar Thakore Padamsee is also a theatre columnist for a variety of publications. For the Wishberry Blog, he writes a monthly column called 'Point of Q'. 

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