Interview With Krishna Kumar by Glory Sasikala
How did interest in theatre develop? When did it all start for you?
I have always been interested in reading and telling stories. Theatre is a perfect place for a story teller. Well, it started in the year 1987. I started writing theatre criticism (in Chennai’s parlance, theatre reviews) for a local evening daily, reporting about amateur tamil theatre in Chennai. My active theatrical foray, as a performing artist, began in 1992.
You have worked with various drama troupes?
Yes. Virtually with almost all city-based English theatre groups, with some travelling and itinerant national as well as international groups and solo performers.
Tell us more about Masquerade?
Masquerade was begun in 1993. Six of us started it on the lawns of Max Mueller Bhavan. The seeds were sown in the Express Estates MMB campus, the birth was at the Khader Nawaz Khan campus. We have the mainstream Masquerade – the performance group that produces theatre for all audiences, Masquerade Youth Theater that engages and produces theatre of, by and for youth and teen audience, and The Bear and Beanbag Children’s Theater that trains children between 8 and 12 at our own facility as well as outsourced workshops through our several community partners who run after-school, play-school and such facilities in Chennai. Actor training workshops are big essential part of Masquerade’s work.
The best thing that has happened so far? Any particular incident that you recall?
There are several incidents to recall, all of them having to do with some of the lives we have touched in their youth, through our theatre. At Masquerade, we believe that Theater Must (change lives). But Community First. Towards this end, we try not to be elitist. We try not to price ourselves high whether at our shows or in our workshops. While money does matter, it is not the raison d’etre at Masquerade. We do not consciously try to raise huge amounts of money for shows, we consciously try not to design budget heavy productions and choose scripts that challenge the actor in us and enhance the quality of our human experience rather than pot-boiler entertainers – be it outright comedy or other genres. At Masquerade, we have realised, through the many vicissitudes some of us who have stuck through thick and thin, that we are habitual theatre makers, not professionals in a materialistic sense.
Do you think theatre will survive amidst the other forms of entertainment and hold its own unique position? Do you think it will continue to draw an audience?
This is a very generic and routine question at least we at Chennai regularly keep asking and going through. The answer is that it has survived. In fact, theatre has never struggled for survival. That is the beauty of amateur theatre. It lives as long as the passion for live performance exists.
The theatre scene in Chennai compared to other places?
Nothing very different. We all do theatre. In fact, Chennai’s strength is its amateur theatre. Occasional attempts to professionalise goes on. There is always enough room in the pond for one more fish, one more frog and one more turtle!
Chennai as a cultural hub?
Do we ask the Rain if it is Water? CHENNAI IS A SYNONYM FOR ART AND CULTURE. It is a very redundant question to even think of in a context such as Chennai. Do we even need to measure ourselves in terms of Xenophobic culture, western art, oriental cuisine, European writing, Russian Ballet, Spanish tomato festival or Hollywood Oscars? WE ARE!
Your future plans and dreams?
To continue what I am doing. To establish, shortly, a School for Theatre and Drama Studies in Chennai... of course, absolutely for amateur lovers of theatre art!
About Glory Sasikala:
Where breathing, writing, living and loving lose their personal identity and present as one, I come from that land... sometimes letting my pen lead me, sometimes leading my pen…...it’s a Pied Piper’s tune all the way!