Sunday, 3 February 2013

A sneak peek into the world of Theatre

'The stage is a magic circle where only the most real things happen, a neutral territory outside the jurisdiction of fate where stars may be crossed with impunity. A truer and more real place does not exist in all the universe" -P.S.Baber

The moment a discussion about theatre pops up, we are inevitably reminded of Shakespeare's great words 'All world's a stage' which reverberate in our minds till we accept that we are mere actors in this world playing different roles and eventually dedicating ourselves to daunting tasks which determine our existence. In simple words, theatre is a medium through which one expresses his emotions, his relationship with the contemporary world and most importantly, his artistic sense. Theatre provides a platform to the individuals to convey their sense of the world and society to the audience in a highly amusing manner since the individuals don a garb of different characters and innovate various strategies to convince the masses.

Time and again there have been playwrights and dramatists who had a staunch belief in portraying the existing world through drama. If we go back to its origin, theatre is believed to have emerged from myth, ritual and ceremony. People in the ancient world used to perform several rituals and ceremonies on festivals and other important ocassions to please their Gods. Processions were carried out and people actively participated in various events. The earliest example of ceremony and ritual evolving towards theatre comes from ancient Egypt. The most important Egyptian drama, the Abydos passion play which was concerned with the story of God Osiris is probably the first recorded example of theatre.

Since then theatre has evolved into a full fledged art. While speaking of theatre and drama, one cannot overlook the significant contribution of Greeks in this genre of literature. It was with the advent of Greek drama that the term 'tragedy' was first introduced. Sophocles, Euripedes and Aeschylus were three well known Greek tragedy playwrights. Infact, Greeks were responsible for the birth of drama in the western world.

Although English drama too had gained momentum, it suffered a setback in the years between 1642-1660 as the Puritans worked to drive out 'sinful theatre'. They viewed the theatre and its advocates with contempt and believed that it polluted the society. It was only after Charles ll returned to England from his exile that the theatre was restored. Gradually, theatre had acquired so much value and importance that it became an essential part of an individual's life. Since theatre is one form of aret which intensely focusses on the human being, it became an important symbol of individuality and offered immense freedom to the actors to experiment with different techniques that would elevate their performance.

It was with the idea of 'experimentation' that the modern theatre blossomed in the world of art. Playwrights now wanted to depict reality in their plays that would hold the attention of the audience. Entertainment was no more the sole purpose of plays and dramas. Rather, these played carried social messages far and wide that often struck a direct chord with the masses and so people held this form of art in high esteem. It became a pssage to purge their emotions which hitherto had remained buried deep in their hearts. People could actually relate to their immediate surroundings which often appeared strange.

G.B Shaw, a famous English playwright was a vocal writer on social problems. He wrote satiric plays such as Pygmalion, Arms and the Man and Candida. Bertolt Brecht was another important playwright who belonged to Germany and wrote plays with the goal of alienating the audience, a technique he successfullly employs in Mother Courage and her children. Then there was Henrik Ibsen, very well admired for his play 'A doll's House' and who is aptly known as the father of modern realism. One can go on with a list of such dramatists from around the world who earnestly worked to uphold the theatrical dimensions of life . In all the ages, the drama through its portrayal of the acting and suffering spirit of man, has been more closely allied than any other art to his deeper thoughts concerning his nature and destiny.

One can no longer deny the relevance of theatre in an individual's life. Since every human being is born with an artistic sense, it is but natural that he craves to express his creative ideas and finds the most direct and spontaneous expression in theatre which is a panacea for most wandering souls who wish to be heard, who wish to make a difference! Here one would find complete solace in recollecting the words of Alexander Pope: "Act well your part, there all the honour lies."

- Sadia Khan
B.A.(H) English 3rd yr
Jamia Millia Islamia

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