Do we need theatre?

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Do we need theatre?Dr. MrinalChatterjee

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On the occasion of World Theatre Day, 27 March


World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on the 27th of March across the world. It was in 1961 that International Theatre Institute (ITI), an international non-governmental organization, founded in 1948 by UNESCO celebrated it first. Subsequently other organisations and theatre groups started celebrating the day. Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark the occasion and to draw attention to theatre and international harmony. World theatre Day is celebrated in India too by several theatre groups and cultural organisations.



On the occasion of World Theatre Day, each year ITI invites an outstanding theatre personality or a person outstanding in heart and spirit from another field to share his or her reflections on theatre and international harmony. This message is then translated into more than 20 languages, read for tens of thousands of spectators before performances in theatres throughout the world. It is also printed in hundreds of daily newspapers and broadcast in several radio and television stations across the continents.



The 2016 World Theatre Day Message Author is AnatoliVassiliev, an internationally acclaimed theatre director and professor of Russian Theatre. He is the founder of the Moscow Theatre School of Dramatic Arts. Here is an excerpt of his message:

“Do we need theatre?

That is the question thousands of professionals disappointed in theatre and millions of people who are tired of it are asking themselves.


What do we need it for?

In those years when the scene is so insignificant in comparison with the city squares and state lands, where the authentic tragedies of real life are being played.


What is it to us?

Gold-plated galleries and balconies in the theatre halls, velvet armchairs, dirty stage wings, well-polished actors' voices, - or vice versa, something that might look apparently different: black boxes, stained with mud and blood, with a bunch of rabid naked bodies inside.


What is it able to tell us?


Theatre can tell us everything.

How the gods dwell in heaven, and how prisoners languish in forgotten caves underground, and how passion can elevate us, and how love can ruin, and how no-one needs a good person in this world, and how deception reigns, and how people live in apartments, while children wither in refugee camps, and how they all have to return back to the desert, and how day after day we are forced to part with our beloveds, - theatre can tell everything.


The theatre has always been and it will remain forever.

And now, in those last fifty or seventy years, it is particularly necessary. Because if you take a look at all the public arts, you can immediately see that only theatre is giving us - a word from mouth to mouth, a glance from eye to eye, a gesture from hand to hand, and from body to body. It does not need any intermediary to work among human beings - it constitutes the most transparent side of light, it does not belong to either south, or north, or east, or west - oh no, it is the essence of light itself, shining from all four corners of the world, immediately recognizable by any person, whether hostile or friendly towards it.


And we need theatre that always remains different, we need theatre of many different kinds.


Still, I think that among all possible forms and shapes of theatre its archaic forms will now prove to be mostly in demand. Theatre of ritual forms should not be artificially opposed to that of “civilized” nations. Secular culture is now being more and more emasculated, so-called "cultural information" gradually replaces and pushes out simple entities, as well as our hope of eventually meeting them one day.


But I can see it clearly now: theatre is opening its doors widely. Free admission for all and everybody.

To hell with gadgets and computers - just go to the theatre, occupy whole rows in the stalls and in the galleries, listen to the word and look at living images! - it is theatre in front of you, do not neglect it and do not miss a chance to participate in it - perhaps the most precious chance we share in our vain and hurried lives.


We need every kind of theatre.

There is only one theatre which is surely not needed by anyone - I mean a theatre of political games, a theatre of a political "mousetraps", a theatre of politicians, a futile theatre of politics. What we certainly do not need is a theatre of daily terror - whether individual or collective, what we do not need is the theatre of corpses and blood on the streets and squares, in the capitals or in the provinces, a phony theatre of clashes between religions or ethnic groups...”


On this day I entirely agree with AnatoliVassiliev: we need theatre, all kinds of theatre. As the macabre theatre of terrorism, extremism, economic and cultural imperialism, intolerance, ultra-nationalism and ethnocentricity is sweeping the world, what we need is the sane old school theatre, which connects people, which provides that much needed cathartic effect on us, and which shows us the right path- subtly, very subtly. Yes, we need theatre now more than ever before.


Journalist turned media academician Dr.MrinalChatterjee also writes plays for stage and radio.

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2018-02-22 18:06