Year Ender 2016: Break a legWith the five theatre houses in the Capital continually staging plays throughout the year, 2016 continued to remain a busy year for theatre in Kathmandu.
With the five theatre houses in the Capital continually staging plays throughout the year, 2016 continued to remain a busy year for theatre in Kathmandu. Theatre in Nepal, which has seen a modern renaissance in the past decade, continues to draw in the throngs, regularly selling out its shows, and continues to evolve and grow as a new generation of actors and directors pick up the baton for this much-loved art form.
Currently, there seem to be two schools of plays being staged in Kathmandu. One that is pushing the boundaries of the traditional mores—bringing new motifs and consciousness to stage, giving voice to the traditionally voiceless; the other tugging at Nepal’s rich religious and mythological history and making them relevant to the present day and age. Shilpee Theatre in Battisputali, a bustling hub for theatre in Kathmandu, is at the vanguard when it comes to reinterpreting mythical and religious texts for the modern sensibilities. Two notable plays, the reimagining of Bhisam Sahni’s Madhavi and Abhi Subedi’s Chiriyeka Sanjh Haru, were brought to life on stage this year at the theatre. In doing so, the plays juxtaposed the present context to a time when art drew heavily from religious motifs, giving fresh interpretations and perspectives to a largely younger audience.
This year, Kathmandu’s theatre circuit also saw a host of remarkable plays that brought forth issues of gender equity—with the staging of powerful Vagina Monolgues, Yuma and Milk Tea. With a disruptive sets like the Vagina Monologues—Yoni ka Katha haru—an episodic play written by Eve Ensler and interpreted and directed in Nepal by Akanchhya Karki, finding their way into the mainstream, theatre continued to remain at the forefront of social activism. Karki, regarding the play and the changing discourse, said, “Vagina Monologues is not just a play or a compilation of stories. It is a celebration of sexuality, identity, life, pleasure and love. It is a celebration of women. It is a beautiful, liberating experience to stage it for sold out audiences.”
Similarly, Yuma examined the role gender plays in a society mired in deep-seated patriarchy, taking into account one of the burning issue of present times, foreign employment. “There are glimmers of hope all around,” says Srijana Subba, who directed and acted in the play. “Women’s active participation in theatre has also been on the rise. This year, a host of woman artists, including myself, tried our hands at directing.”
This year was also noteworthy if you take into account the plays completely helmed by the young directors. Rajan Khatiwada, artistic director of Mandala Theatre—which has been feted for giving breaks for up-and-coming talent— has been the a vocal advocate for handing over the theatrical baton to young artists. “The year has been remarkable because of the upcoming of young theatre artists coming into the forefront,” says Khatiwada. “With what we saw, the future looks promising as young artists are already seizing the initiative and leading the charge. It is a great omen for the years ahead.”
Having directed his first play, Ra Mailo, Somnath Khanal, a promising young director, reflects, “It was challenging but also fruitful. We have great potential. One of the many problems we are grappling with is that we don’t have a school for theatre in the country. While efforts have been made to adapt foreign plays, without resources they haven’t been satisfactory. Also, the tradition of criticism and debate needs to develop. In the year to come we hope to work on that.”
For all its gains, 2016 unfortunately also saw curtains fall on the Theatre Village, an iconic venue for plays for the past decade. But with ambitious plans to relocate in the city and host an international theatre fest in 2017 already afoot, Bimal Subedi, one of the co-founders, already is looking at the light at the end of the tunnel. “Our last inning had much to teach us about management and strategies and planning. Now, as we are gearing up to start back, we will come up with a concrete vision, and aim to develop the new theatre as a cultural hotspot. We aim to turn it into a veritable cultural transit of Asia,” said Subedi, speaking not just for Theatre Village, but for the soaring present-day theatre community.