Ray Rediscovered

Created by OnePlusYou
BUY ticketshttp://www.naatak.com/currentevent.html

Producer's Note: A sneak peak into the Production cycle...

When I was involved in my first Naatak play for backstage help, I never knew I would need to worry about details like - what's the dimension of that platform, will the lights work in that section, do we need a monitor backstage for sounds, etc. etc. - one day. As Producer (Production Manager), I'm expected to know not only what the sets will look like, but also other aspects of production - props, costumes, makeup, lights, sounds, publicity, ticketing, and the whole shebang.

When the Director shared her "vision" with me, the next step was to see how that could be achieved on stage in a practical, yet cost effective manner.

This play being different from earlier Naatak plays in its style - 4 short stories versus 1 entire play - comes with a list of challenges attached to it. Each play belongs to a different genre and of course has a different theme. Naatak being non-profit, our budgets are always limited and we cannot always go all out and buy the most expensive items for the play. Hence, we try and borrow/rent as much as we can or else make it ourselves.

Here's a sneak peak into the various production aspects that need to be taken care of.

Sets -- Designing the sets for this production is becoming one of the most challenging tasks. With each play having a different theme, the setup is different. To ensure fluidity through the plays allowing very little time for changes in between, a great deal of thought is being put to how set pieces can be moved in and out seamlessly in the least amount time, what minimal structure can get the message across and at the same time look good. We have already have multiple brainstorming sessions with multiple revisions before we can come to a final layout.

Props -- Any item that an actor uses on stage is a prop. If the scene demands a phone conversation, there needs to be a phone on stage. For this, the team sat together to read the scripts to identify props needed. With this list in place, team has been busy scouring stores and homes of friends for items that can be used.

Costumes -- What makes an actor look good and stand out is definitely his performance. But you've got to give a good amount of credit to his costume. A brilliant actor would not be able to do justice enough without a good costume. For this as well, the scripts were read to understand the theme and era the plays are set in, a detailed description of each character and his look. Once this was done, the team got busy to start procuring costumes that would fit the role.

Makeup -- A young 30 year old man can look like an old ailing 65 year old! That's the magic of makeup. What's a play without makeup?

Lights -- With sets, props, and costumes adding to the overall look of a play, lights give it the final icing on the cake. Every play and each and every scene has a different light setting - light cues are one of the most crucial elements of a play.

Sounds -- Adding sound effects is like adding that cherry to your cake. It adds a great deal of impact. In the past I've seen some Directors not use any sounds for the entire play, while some used it through out. With a play as this, the sounds are going to ideally enhance the theme of each story, keeping the audience engaged till the very end.

Publicity/Marketing/Ticketing --If getting the stage in order for a play is absolutely important, getting the word out and those tickets sold is far more important. After all the hard work put in, the joy of seeing a full audience is totally exhilarating. Postcards have been printed which are being distributed at various events, stores, restaurants, on cars, community centers; E-flyers are sent out to various forums, websites, association mailing lists; advertising options are being investigated to spread the word.

This was just a preview at the various aspects involved in the production. It has been less than a month since we started work on the production and the progress has been great! This being my debut venture as a Producer, I hope to learn a lot from the others as well as make this project as fun as possible for everyone. :)

Hoping this has intrigued you into seeing what the final product would be like. So, hurry and get those tickets before the early bird discounts end.

Poster is here!

Adding two shows in SF - Intersection for the arts

We will be performing in San Francisco as well!!! For about a month and a half we went through a whole bunch of spaces and performance venues in SF. Fall season is a busy one in the popular SF. This did not make things easy for us. The fundamental difference between a show in SF and the ones we put up in Palo Alto is of the space itself. While we enjoy the wide procenium , wing space, dressing rooms in our favorite Cubberley, in SF our choices for such grandeur are limited. Black box in their nature, most spaces in SF are about 1/4 of the Cubberley stage. Often this means, no stage, seating under 100 , limited lobby space, at most one dressing room, etc. These can be viewed as limitations if we choose to replicate what we do at Cubberley however, it is an opportunity to try something new, to view adjustments as artistic choices and adapt the show for an audience in an intimate setting.

We found NOH Space last year and that suited well to our needs. Even without a stage and less than 100 seats in the audience, we were able to make adjustments and they were able to accomodate us. It was working out perfectly for us till we found out ... that alas, they are not available for a show this November. This began a series of emails, phone calls, visits to the great city to find out where, when and which space will work for us. This is not an easy task. Renting a theater requires apart from a couple of grand, looking at dimensions, audience seating, lightboard plans, soundboard plans, working with the schedules of the people who are incharge and negotiating and negotiating and some more before you decide to put a deposit down. Reading the contract repeatedly to look for conditions, one place doesn't allow us to sell the tickets, they would like to sell the tickets through their box office or site, another doesn't allow any food or drink in the lobby, one charges extra for sound engineer to explain sound board and the list goes on. Take this process and multiply this by 6 or 7 and you get the idea of how much effort and time was spent so that this show could be enjoyed by the SF crowd.

Why SF? Although this is a no-brainer for many since SF is the hub for all things artistic, innovative, creative... for Naatak it is refreshing. We mainly perform in the south bay but every now and then a director or producer will feel it is worth doing the hardwork of hauling our set pieces and all our paraphernalia to the city and give the SF crowd the experience of Indian theater.

I believe for this production we felt especially drawn to presenting in SF. The main reason, I believe would be that Satyajit Ray's artistic presence transcends the Indian diaspora (our audiences mainly in south bay is indian and more diverse in SF) and the artistic atmosphere in SF is inviting for us to share our adaptation. We will be performing two shows on Nov 15 (2pm and 6pm) at the Intersection, and we cannot wait!

From the Director's desk: Rehearsals

A lack of post usually indicates a writer's block. Or it could be that there is just no time from rehearsals and production meetings.

We have rehearsals AT LEAST 4 times a week. Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 11 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 6 pm. Looks like the scheduling nightmare has been put to rest. It is especially difficult to get the scheduling right due to the nature of the plays - short plays with actors playing different characters.

I tend to keep rehearsals light, tension free and a brain storming session. After all, we are here to have fun while learning a lot from the process. Needless to say we seem to be having a lot of fun and at the same time we manage to cover the scenes outlined for the session.

The rehearsals have a process to them. This has helped me immensely in the past as an actor. I have often cherished directors who are methodical, have a process and implement it. It was so much easier for me as an actor to follow that. And I have done the same in my directorial venture.

The first rehearsal involved table reading followed by character interpretations. This exercise is immensely important because there can be so many dimensions and interpretations to a character. Each actor or a director could have a pre-conceived notion of a character and this exercise dissolves that notion and opens so many avenues to explore. I have observed that my actors have particularly cherished this. It gives them some control over their character, and they are allowed to experiment unless it completely jars with my vision. Since some of the plays involve intricate plots with heavy climaxes we have also spoken about backgrounds of each of these characters, concocted stories about them from the day they were born, their childhood, living conditions, their relationships and taken it one step ahead to see how they would be after the play. This process of character development is key to consistency on stage.

The second rehearsal involved sub-texting. This exercise is a fun exercise wherein the script is dropped and the actors based on context come up with their own lines. After this exercise actors know that it is important not only to read your lines but also the co-actors lines and even the ones in "italics". Reading a script word for word will have you understand the context much better and the actors will be much more in sync with the director. This is also an exercise which will be revisited later as it is important for an actor to pick up from where another actor dropped off - because he forget his lines, or was late in making an entry or a third actor spoke his lines too soon.

The third rehearsal involved some sense of blocking. Here the actors are told how the stage will look like and what furniture they will be given to play with and how best to use the stage so that it is not too static. Though blocking will change with every production need, a general sense will keep the actors rooted. The scenes here were followed in a chronological manner so the actors remember the context.

Looking ahead, I have so much more fun exercises for my actors. Role-reversals, starting the play from any scene and still taking it to completion, changing the climax etc. etc. Some will catch my actors by surprise, some they will hate and groan through the exercise, some will be painful, some will be hilarious - but we will all walk away having learned a lot and increased our potential as actors. My actors teach me something new everyday, I hope they benefit the same from me.