Monday, June 21, 2010

Final show done

A very enjoyable run of seven shows of Tughlaq has come to an end. After basking in praise from those who attended, and knowing that many more wanted to come but could not be accommodated, the cast and crew were elated and celebrated with a great party, with fun, dancing, drinks and great food. There was a sense of relief mixed with a little bit of sadness. All those days and weeks of relentless hard work and tough schedules are over and the life would be back on its old track. But what a ride it was!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Each performance is different..........

Three months of intense rehearsals - the whole goal is to get to a point where each of us can consistently deliver our character. But come performance time, you as an actor feel very different about every single show. 6 of 7 shows for TUGHLAQ are done and I have felt different after each show. So many things can affect it: Pre-show warm-up or last minute missing prop or a fumbled dialog or even a word or just that invisible / intangible something.

You tell yourself to block all the distractions out, get in the zone, don't let little (or even major) things affect you. The players psyche themselves - you see baseball pitchers talking to themselves on the mound, football (the World kind, not the American kind) getting in each other's face, Harbhajan Singh & Shoaib Akhtar throwing profanities at each other heard by the worldwide web audience.....all to get the adrenaline going, help excelling on the job, performing above and beyond any rehearsal, practice sessions they may have. That's what we do:  on the way to the performance in the car and while getting make-up done and in the pre-show warm-up and right before stepping on the stage.....then.....

.... then.... that invisible/intangible thing hits you making or breaking the performance - in YOUR mind. The audience loves them all but YOU as a performer can rank each of the performance from top to bottom. What is that thing?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sold Out !!!! The magical words a performer likes to hear

3 Shows of TUGHLAQ are coming up on Firday, Saturday and Sunday. I just got the news that we are all SOLD OUT!

Last week we had 4 shows - first 2 were sold out (Fri & Sat) but the other 2 were on Sunday and were only 75% full. It hurt to see those few empty seats. We all work so hard to put the production together - not just the actors on the stage but dozens of people behind the scenes: Sets, Props, Costumes, Make-up, Lights, Sound, Marketing, Spouses and Children whom we leave for long hours on the weekends to go to the rehearsals........all for passion, none for money.

Shouldn't every seat be filled? I think so.

So when I got the news few minutes back - I was a VERY HAPPY CAMPER! Looking forward to PERFORM!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

It's here - Opening Night!

Sentences cannot describe how I feel, so let's try a random smorgasword of words..

Excited. Nervous. Anxious. Eager. Petrified. Exhilirated. Adrenalin rush. Charged. Delirious. Energized. Giddy. Pumped. Prepped. Propped. ... good luck to cast and crew, actors and production, director and producer, lights and sound - break a leg!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

TUGHLAQ: the lights perspective

From the desk of Kamala Subramaniam
As Tughlaq embraces Giyasuddin, I am pretty sure I can see that glint in his eye which tells me he is up to something very Machiavellian. The next moment Tughlaq whirls him around to center stage where he maniacally thrusts his knife into him killing viciously. And then a few more thrusts on an already very dead Giyasuddin followed by a tilt of his head upward to depict one of India's most eccentric rulers. It is at this point that I sigh and rise up from my very comfortable position in the lights and sound booth in search of a ladder. To ensure that a slight tilt to the light above will enable every seat in the audience to witness what I just did: the cruelest cut of all which turned my blood cold causing the hair follicles to stand straight up.

Lighting also just seemed just perfect to witness the camaraderie of Aziz and Azam in the every well lit marketplace. The lightest moments of the play also turn out to be the best. Azam fooling around Aziz while Aziz throws his weight around is a must watch. And then there comes a point in a play where lights get challenging. With the same wash reduced in intensity, these two very innocous, jovial characters will make your stomach churn as they plot and execute murder. Did Azam really mean it when he asked Aziz not to kill? Why did he then run away only to come back out of the dark to hold the victim while Aziz drove the knife right in? While Azam walks into the lit stage after the kill, why is he panting in such a god-awful manner? As the lights shine on him, we will wonder if he just repenting or if he is playing us all?

From a lights perspective, Tabard is a very interesting theater. Tabard not being our home-ground like Cubberly was definitely challenging. Also, Tabard being a not-for-profit theater meant we had to hang our own lights and pretty much do everything from scratch. Tabard is also interesting in that the audience is seated in three sections across the stage leading to a lot of cross-lighting across many planes to ensure minimal shadowing in every section. With the help of Sujit and Abhishek, we confronted these challenges so that the audience will be able to witness Tughlaq's eccentricities, follies, weakness and his fears.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hindu, Muslims, Sikhs....... we all are ONE!

Looks are deceiving. Any of us can be anybody. Look at me! In 19 days, with the facial hair, certain kind of clothing and some accessories, I suddenly change from a Hindu "looking" guy to Muslim "looking guy". Add to that some learnt mannerisms, appropriate diction/pronunciations and you are a Muslim "sounding guy". One of the actors in TUGHLAQ is a Sardar - but cut his hair long time back.....he looks like me. I didnt know he was a sardar until he told me. Aren't Sardars supposed to be "different"? Aren't Muslims supposed to be completely opposite of Hindus? I just realized the answer - NO!

Different people at different times in our existence started drawing lines, created divisions - sometimes out of necessity and sometimes purely for power - and here we are. In different shades, different beliefs, different this and different that. It's all perception. The reality is .......

....... WE ALL ARE ONE!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Actor's Physical Transformation for a role - sort of

When the Tughlaq Makeup ladies Nitya Kansal and Jyoti Iyer asked me if I would be comfortable with getting my eyebrows reshaped into an older eyebrow style, I was quite excited. I play Tughlaq’s step-mom and we are going for a 14th century look. This meant actually changing a portion of my physical appearance. My fellow actors have been growing/shaving/shaping their facial hair for months and I was excited at the opportunity to do something new with my appearance.

Now I must admit I know nothing about makeup and eyebrows (hence I trust my Makeup Goddesses Nitya and Jyoti). Like most Indian women, I get my eyebrows threaded every 3 – 4 weeks, but I just plop myself in the salon chair, close my eyes and let the beautician do her thing. When she’s done, I scramble to find my phone to check missed calls or texts. When she asks “Okay?” I briefly glance up from my phone, nod, say Thank You, pay up and zoom off.

This time, it was different. I showed up with these pics, asked for a particular senior beautician and waited half an hour until she was ready. I carefully explained the look that was needed, she nodded and proceeded to do her thing. After asking me to stretch my skin in various directions, she threaded, she called over her peers to get their expert opinion, more threading, she called over her mom-in-law to get an opinion from “that zamaana”, more threading, then she was done. I looked up and noticed….no difference. Huh? Where was the magical transformation? Where was the 14th century look?

I met Nitya later that day and to my surprise, she said that I did look different. It was not exactly what she wanted but definitely less contemporary than before. She explained and re-explained using the Waheeda Rahman picture. Huh? By this point, the other (male) actors had gathered around the Waheeda Rahman picture and had started sighing longingly :)

Though my “physical transformation” was anti-climactic, I have learned that some things are left best up to the experts. If its good enough for the Tughlaq Makeup Goddess, its good enough for me. I'm sure it will be great for the audience - you can judge for yourself when you see the show!