Theatretime's Blog

I am a playwright and theatre director from New Delhi, India and I have a question for anyone who can answer it. Why is it that governments talk about promoting theatre arts, but actually do very little about it? Why can’t they put their money where their mouth is?

I know that countries like England and Canada do subsidise theatre, but even there, I have heard colleagues grumble that it is not enough. Of course, someone will come up with the suggestion that theatre must feed itself and not expect any dole from the government…..but then where are the corporates who would fund it? Government and business houses are happy pumping money into films, rock concerts, sports events and mega star shows, but when it comes to plays, they back off as though stung by a particularly venomous bee.

Is it because theatre people lack the skills or talent? It’s the reverse, in fact. Today, some of the world’s most popular celluloid stars have come from a theatre background. Is it the lack of engaging entertainment that makes theatre less popular? Not a tenable argument, because nothing could be more engaging than the intimacy that is established between the actor and the audience in a performance space, and the fact that viewers are watching events unfolding in real rather than reel time, with the performers as flesh and blood characters, rather than virtual images. What is it then, that warrants this step-sisterly treatment?

One of the culprits is certainly the market forces operating in this realm. What’s so new about that, they operate everywhere, one can arge. True, but the coping mechanism here is a little rusted, unlike in the other visual arts like movies, dance, music or even painting. Very few theatre artistes are market savvy; it is simply not part of their training. Perhaps the next generation will be different. But till now, at least in India, if you declare your intention to become a full fledged theatre artiste, you will be told in no uncertain terms that you’ll face starvation in the next few years, which is not far from the truth. Any comments?

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