Theatre comes alive in a new avatar with first open-air play at EZCC Kolkata since lockdown

Open air theatre
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Kolkata, 26 September 2020: In a first live and unique show since the onset of COVID lockdown, The Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre (EZCC) Kolkata, in association with The Bengal, celebrated open-air theatre performance to a packed house at its Rangamancha amphitheatre in Salt Lake, Kolkata, fully complying with the stringent social distancing norms and protocols and aided by specially trained volunteers in PPE gears with thermal guns and sanitizers. The theatre performance displayed innovative elements of social distancing like avoiding physical touch and maintaining distance.

Theatre group Purba Paschim broke the standstill in theatre activities in the city by staging their play “Jwarasurbadh Pala” directed by Saumitra Mitra following the state government’s announcement to start a theatre in open space from 21st September 2020.

EZCC Kolkata, Chairman, Gauri Basu said, “We are among the few to have an open-air theatre in Kolkata. The entire audience wore masks, even the microphones were sanitized after every speaker left.”

“EZCC provided the rehearsal facilities and other logistics. Alternate seats and rows were marked for guests who were ushered in in batches wearing masks; going through the sanitization drill and observing social distancing protocols,” said Abhijit Chowdhury, programme executive, EZCC Kolkata.

“Theatre is Kolkata’s heartbeat and has been at a standstill since March with the onset of the COVID pandemic. It is great to see the innovations of social distancing norms being factored into the art form while staging the play. It is a challenge to adapt aspects such as avoiding touch while performing. This form of experiment, in contrast to the traditional form of theatre, is a turning point and even kind of a sub-genre,” said Sundeep Bhutoria, Honorary Secretary General of The Bengal which is an NGO of eminent Kolkatans promoting social work, literature, art and culture.

“All theatre activities had come to a standstill in Kolkata since March. But theatre itself teaches us to be in motion and find out a new path or process to register presence in its own ever searching school of art. While our journey of relief activities for poor masses, full-time theatre workers who were in fix for joblessness due to continuous lockdown and for the victims of Amphan Super Cyclone one thing always haunted me how to be within theatre and the idea of a script based on the present pandemic of COVID 19 came in mind,” said Saumitra Mitra, director of the group.

“I shared my view with eminent playwright Ujjwal Chattopadhyay who penned such a beautiful script. Sukalyan Bhattacharya did the choreography, Abhijit Acharaya gave the music and the costumes were designed by Malabika Mitra. My team was determined to prepare the production following all norms and guidelines to fight against COVID19. Since the first day of the rehearsal, we followed a work-to-home safe journey, rehearsal room sanitization, personal sanitization at regular intervals and so on. We also arranged special mediclaim policy ‘Corona Kavach’ for all artists and technicians of the team. Now I feel proud for my team for completing the production,” Mr Mitra said.

Prerna Centre for Performing Arts team staged especially-designed choreography and solo performances informed Luna Poddar. Director of play “Tatha thoi thoi” Niladrishekhar Banerjee reiterated that some changes, deviating from the traditional style, had to be made to keep distancing protocols and personal hygiene of the performers.