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Forum Theatre Project in Chennai, India

Forum Theatre Project in Chennai, India

STOP a show mid way, insist on changing the script and then dictate the ending—as the audience you can call the shots at The Forum Theatre Project. This interactive theatre that brings people together, where they exchange dialogues and bring about a change,is what theatre duo Roberto Prestigiacomo and Rick Frederick from San Antonio believe in. Theatre group AtticRep by Prestigiacomo and Frederick, and Crea-Shakti by Dushyanth IMG_1084Gunashekar, together bring The Forum Theatre Project to the city at Spaces, tomorrow.The Forum Theatre was created by theatre practitioner Augusto Boal as part of what he calls his “Theatre of the Oppressed.” In The Forum Theatre process, the audience is intensely involved. This is an attempt to undo the traditional actor partition and bring audience members into the performance, to have an input into the dramatic action they are watching.

DRAMA4The three stages
According to Gunashekar, Forum would add a lot of variety to the growing theatre scene in the city. “I think Chennai will become more flexible in terms of content being driven to stage,” he says. The AtticRep duo arrived in the city three weeks ago, and have been working with a group of 16 actors from different groups like Theatre Nisha, Asap Productions, Little Theatre and Koothupatri, in addition to independent actors. According to Murali Satagopan, artistic director of Crea-Shakthi, the process involves three stages. “First up is image theatre, then ideal theatre and finally improvised theatre. The first few weeks we had various trust and relationship building exercises. Then we picked up a subject— like skin tone—and decided to visit public spaces like a parlour, a sari shop and beach and start performing. We would pick up fights, grab audience attention and finally involve them in the act even without their knowledge,” he says.

Indian connection
According to Padma Divakurani, a theatre artiste, this is an experimentation process. “It is interesting that we are working with people from other theatre groups. The aim of the programme is to plant a seed in the mind of the audience,” adds Divakurani. Meanwhile, Prestigiacomo tells us about their experiences with The Forum Theatre back in San Antonio. “We started in 2006 and covered issues like immigration, marriage rights for transgenders and breast cancer, and the response was fantastic,” he says. According to Frederick, they are cultural ambassadors to the city, “We are planning to stage a play next year at San Antonio about Mahabharata. We work closely with the Indian community there and have always been fascinated by the country.” Though this is their first visit, they are already in love with the beach, Luz corner and the Shore temple in Mahabalipuram.

At Spaces, Besant Nagar, tomorrow, from 4 pm to 9 pm. Passes not ticketed, but on first come first serve basis only. Details: 9940138749,

— Mrinalini Sundar

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