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Street Theatre Taking It To The Streets With Tatsama Arts

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“The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.” -Stela Adler

And that has remained the essence of the beautiful art of theatre, where an idea is culminated through the efforts of a combined group of people and performed in front of an audience. This has made it a very effective tool for communication for generations, one that has been well adopted in this part of the world as well.

Part of the success that theatre enjoys is because it allows viewers to think and use their imagination, which
helps ingrain the concept that the performance is trying to portray.

Street theatre has long been a practiced form of theatre in Nepal, and keeping the art alive is Tatsama Arts; a group of lively young performers taking new steps in the field. Performances are done in front of live audiences,
but not in theatres. Street theatres are conducted in outdoor public spaces and not to specific paying audiences. We had a chance to catch up with the group and learn more about street theatre and Tatsama’s involvement in this slightly less popular style of theatre.

“It is a somewhat disregarded form of
the art,” agreed Deepesh Poudel, “it’s performed under broad day light with no lights or sound support which makes it seem less glamorous.”

The strengths of street theatre lie in
its ability to connect strongly with the audience. Because the viewers are in such close proximity, street theatre blurs boundaries between performers and audiences making the experience more intimate. As a result, this form of art has been widely used as a means of broadcasting messages to the masses.

Ashesh Malla, founder and Artistic Director of Sarwanam Theatre Group, is mostly attributable for introducing the concept of street theatre into Nepal. It has proved to be a method of conveying social issues to the masses in an understandable and interesting manner so that the message is carried along with clarity.

“The government of Nepal endorsed street theatre to help with the massive promotion and awareness campaign during the drafting of the constitution; and it was incredibly effective.” Added Shishir Siwakoti.

Tatsama Arts are passionate about their work, and it seems like it is an inherent job requirement. Invisible theatre, a sub segment of street theatre, pushes the limits for the motives of encroaching sensitive social issues.

Deepesh spoke further to elucidate the concept, “Social experiments on YouTube are very much similar to what we perform as invisible theatre, it pushes onlookers to the brink of judgment regarding the controversial matters in context. However, unlike the social experiments invisible theatre does not reveal that it was all an act. It takes away from the impact that the performance intends to have.”

Even if matters escalate to the point where authorities get involved, something that might happen when dealing with sensitive issues like eve teasing, it is usually resolved through proper paperwork and without breaking character; all so that the motif of the message retains its integrity.

DRAMA AND THEATRE ARE GREAT FORMS OF EXPRESSION, AND FOR YOUNG CHILDREN OR YOUNG ADULTS THIS CAN BE AN INVALUABLE ASSET.”

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More often than not, street theatre
is better received in rural and less developed areas. This might be attributable to the receptive nature of the people there in comparison to the people in urban areas who don’t seem to have the time for it and rather condescending the idea and art form instead.

But you need to remember, people in the city and urban areas
have plenty of ways to
get information. That is why street theatre is more important in less developed areas, solely for the reason of awareness,” explained Shyam Khadka.

“And there is also the matter of context and situation. Go to the mountains and perform on the topic of traffic congestion in the city and they won’t be able to relate.” He added.

With this in mind Tatsama Arts are involving themselves, through street theatre, to relay the importance of proper reconstruction after the earthquake. Their act, called Naya Ghar, aims to inform people about the importance
of constructing homes that don’t create the same problems if another earthquake
was to happen. Their main focus areas are Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha and Melamchi since these were some of the most affected areas by the earthquakes and reconstruction is also taking place. Another project in the same areas are also aimed towards spreading awareness about effects of reconstruction on the environment.

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Tatsama Arts, initiated by seven artists
formerly part of the Sarwanam Theatre Group, came together with a different set of values and passion. Their works mostly involve a collaborative form
of art and storytelling including theatre, short movies, street theatre, related training etc. It
is a creative platform for all artists. And they have been adamantly advocating the inclusion of theatre amongst the young.

While many schools
have integrated theatre and acting into their curriculum, it is mostly a one off event. “Drama and theatre are great forms of expression, and for young children or young adults this can be an invaluable asset.” Advises Sadhana. “And that helps improve the effectiveness of learning processes as well.”

Continuing the facilities post the tenth grade in educational institutions has not been a priority, but that is what Tatsama Arts has set out to change. It helps young people open up and express themselves better, which is often an undermined aspect in schools where books and texts seem to dominate everything else. Although properly integrating theatre and acting might not be immediately effective, it is gaining positive ground and it has been included as a noncredit course in the A Level syllabus of Ace Institute of Management.

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