For a millennial growing up in Bengaluru, one of the earliest exposures to the creative arts was perhaps watching a play at Ranga Shankara, attending a concert at Chowdiah Memorial Hall or going for an exhibition at Chitrakala Parishath. These are some of the city’s most iconic cultural spaces.
Today, the city’s theatre culture has evolved substantially to include several smaller theatre groups that are thriving despite the many challenges and scant resources. Testimony to this are the multiple alternative spaces, like Jagriti Theatre, Shoonya - Centre for Art and Somatic Practices, Prayog theatre, Vyoma Art Space & Studio Theatre, Prabhath Kalapoornima, and Lahe Lahe, which have come up in the city over the past few years for performing arts — especially theatre — and are mostly booked on weekends. However, lack of affordable spaces and ambiguous criteria for government grants are some of the issues plaguing theatre professionals and artistes.
There has been an influx of alternative spaces since 2011 due to a rise in the number of small sketches, plays and ‘intimate performances’. Space curators saw this as a good business model since there was a major shift in performances at alternative spaces.
What does this say about the change in the audience’s taste? Many theatre practitioners feel that the audience has matured and is more concerned about storytelling than sophisticated sets or elaborate costumes.
Thirty five-year-old Abhishek Iyengar, co-founder of WeMove Theatre, says that when he started out, the major change he saw was the shift in audience attitude as they had matured. “When we started out, our aim was to perform on big stages. But getting a spot in Ranga Shankara was never easy as they received hundreds of applications and couldn’t accommodate us every time. We continued doing shows to stay connected with the audience and over time, we were ready to perform even in rooftop venues or garages. Audience response was good, which was encouraging.”
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