Published: 21st November 2020
Hyderabad Children's Theatre Festival has gone virtual this time. Here's what you can expect
Children, gather around your screens. Because HCTF is going online and it will not disappoint. There are plays, Q&As and even a roundtable. Are you up for the various plays that it has in store?
It's been a decade since the Hyderabad Children's Theatre Festival (HCTF) has been going strong. And in its eleventh year, thanks to the pandemic, it has gone virtual. And with that, the way they delivered theatre had to change too. "Because of the challenges of the online medium, we had to craft everything carefully. It's not just about recording a live play and playing it. We have to recognise the medium we have right now, use it more effectively and make it lively and engaging instead of generic and passive," says Artistic Director and Co-founder of this festival Vaishali Bisht. And that's how the festival starts today, that is, November 21 and will go live every weekend till December 20.
Going Vocal for Local
For HCTF, they have always managed to bring on board acclaimed theatre groups and so is the case this time as well. Noted theatre personality Dhanendra Kawade, who founded the group Swangvale, will present Murgi ya Anda while Art Apart from Kolkata is going to present the play Once Upon A Tide. To bring on local flavour, they applied for a grant to British Council Wales and partnered with Welsh theatre group Theatr Iolo who are training three Hyderabadis theatre aspirants Surabhi Santosh, Shayontoni Ghosh and Pallavi Verma to develop their own plays. Though two of the plays are past the script stage, we might have to wait until they go on floors, but with the onset of their eleventh year, HCTF has taken a major step in promoting theatre in the City of Nawabs. "Since April, these three have been training online with Theatr Iolo," informs Vaishali.
Team HCTF conducted a survey before deciding to take the fest online to find out if parents are open to coming to the fest. Vaishali, who is an actor, playwright, and director herself, says that she too was hesitant of the online medium. "The community experience of watching theatre, the spontaneity, that's not something you can recreate easily," she explains. Hence, their longed play is of 32 minutes. They have three pre-recorded plays, which are followed by a Q&A with the creator, and one live-streamed. Another aspect of their festival that has taken a hard hit is how they aren't able to engage with government school kids and those from various NGOs. They used to be invited to the fest, but now, with problems like access to the internet and devices, their hands are tied. "We are going to pass around YouTube links so that they can try and watch it on their parents' phone," she says.
All that's in line
Vaishali introduces us to the very first play, The Seed Savers, inspired by the eponymous book by Bijal Vachharajani. It is a shadow play which promises crazy effects while telling the story of a seed bank in Odisha which was started by a group of women. Then there is Once Upon A Tide by Art Apart, wherein, on the occasion of a turtle turning 100, his children from across the world make their way to meet him. "These turtles have all kinds of accents, from Gujarati to French," she laughs as she shares. The next play she mentions is Same Same Same Same (yes, that’s the name) and it's all about being different. There is even a roundtable discussion on the agenda.
Talking about if the theatre, which has already weathered many storms, will survive the pandemic, Vaishali says, "Theatre artist Atul Kumar had once said that people have been forecasting the death of theatre since it was born and yet it has gone nowhere. So I feel that as long as people crave connections and communities, the theatre will remain," she says and concludes.
For more on them, check out hctfestival.com