Digital age theatre: US, India cast rehearse via Skype

August 8th, 2011 - 10:41 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) Call it a cross-cultural play of the digital world. A US-based theatre group is using internet telephony software Skype to rehearse and communicate with its Indian cast in the capital for a play. The crew said its rigorous use of Skype was a reflection of the changing tools of theatre across the globe.

The play, “Success, Next Exit”, was scripted by noted stage actor John Kishline 20 years ago and staged across the US by Theatre MXT. The production from Milawkee in Wisconsin has modified its script for its Indian run to include independent actor Kriti Pant, who works out of the national capital.

The troupe wanted to relate to Indian sensitivities and bring out the layers in the changing role of women in Indian society by introducing a young Indian woman as a character in the play, director Edward Morgan said.

The four-member troupe, which arrived here from US Saturday morning, met Pant for the first time in flesh at the American Centre for a rigorous three-day stage rehearsal after practising for months on Skype.

“The comfort level was definitely much better because I had befriended Pant on Skype after auditioning her for the part. We exchanged messages, wrote to each other and discussed the play at length before she began to rehearse her part with John. It would have been impossible in the pre-Skype days,” Morgan told IANS.

Morgan and his team auditioned seven Indian actors for the part on Skype, he said. The company mailed the scripts to the actors vying for the part — and heard each of them over the internet.

Describing the cyber rehearsals, Kishline’s wife Deborah, who is also an actor in the play, said she would stand in a corner with Morgan as John rehearsed with Kriti on Skype.

“We did not want Kriti to see us. The two developed an intimacy over the web which helped Kriti overcome her fear when we met her today on stage,” Deborah Kishline told IANS.

The 70-minute play titled “Success, Next Exit” is about the life of high-powered advertising executive Rick Sterling, who has to plan a win-win election campaign for a presidential candidate in Egypt. Sterling’s life has run into a rough patch both in business and at home.

The play explores the choices Sterling makes for success.

The producer to whom Rick assigns the campaign is a young Indian woman — a budding talent in his agency.

“The play was supposed to be part of a cultural exchange with India though it takes place in America. We wanted to translate the play for the Indian audience,” Morgan said.

In the age of Internet, cross-cultural theatre is becoming a genre in itself in theatre capitals of the world like New York and London, the crew said.

“Acting is fundamentally human and is about communication and not about money. The prospect of collaborating with different cultures is exciting,” Kishline told IANS.

What the Internet has made available to actors are archives, reviews, brochures and youtube videos, Kriti Pant said.

“One can share information electronically and communicate with fellow actors continents away. Several Indian theatre repertories are using the Internet and communication tools to reach out to the world and expand creative scope,” Pant told IANS.

The play will be staged in the capital Wednesday.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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