Published: 02nd October 2019
The Theruvarangu Story: Why you need to check out Kerala's Street Theatre Festival
Here's how Theruvarangu takes street plays to a younger audience and why it is an art form that is intrinsically important
How do you bring the chaos of a street onto a stage? This is what Kshema Varghese asked herself when the street play festival, Theruvarangu was handed over to her in its fifth year. The coordinator explains, “The name translates to the idea of a street becoming a stage. It features plays that could use any space to perform. Street plays are about people performing on the streets where they do not require a huge stage and anyone can come and watch. We’re celebrating fluidity in these performances.”
Conducted by the PG Antony Foundation, the street drama festival has 12 groups performing this year, including 10 plays, one street magic and street music from October 26 to 29. Out of the 10, two performances are from Telangana and Kolkata. “We are not following a particular theme,” explains Kshema, before adding, “It is difficult to call for plays in a particular theme. The selection is based on a number of things and there is no set criteria. Some are very political plays with strong messages. the idea is conveyed entirely through the play and the performer's opinions are very clear through it. “
The people behind Theruvarangu have been doing it for years, but still, most people hadn’t heard about it before this year's edition when Kshema decided to debut the programme on social media. She says, "I think there's a gap of some sort, I don't want to call it a generation gap. We're all speaking the same language of art but there's some trouble bridging that distance."
Of the theatre industry not reaching enough young people, she says "They articulate art in a different way. It's not that they don't understand what we are saying. The reach for the event was what was really lacking in the first place. Over the last four years, they weren't able to find a younger person to get across to people. When I sit with these 55-year-old men, I've never felt offended, they make sure I have a space and they listen to what I say, I represent a lot of people my age."
Every play in Theruvarangu is different. Kshema swears that every play deserves to be watched and that they all have something to say. She says, "I think the concept lies in the fact that all of these plays have been worked out in a way that they can be performed anywhere. That's how the performer is and how the performance itself is choreographed. The venue is anticipated to be a space where any spontaneity could happen. They come here and figure out how the space is and do it in their own way."