Dramatic solutionsIt’s time for the state to gear up its responsibility in developing and leading the theatre industry
Published at : November 4, 2018
Updated at : November 4, 2018 07:43
The transcendental development of Nepali theatre over the last decade has undeniably contributed in enriching the holistic art scenario. The evolution in terms of contents’ range, audience reach, integration of state-of-the-art technologies and stagecraft and global exposure has certainly attributed to the exponential growth of theatre. Besides, the incremental inclination of young audiences and participants towards theatre also emits an assuring direction for the days to come. However, when it comes to sustainability, the industry foresees shaky circumstances. The reasons behind the dismantling of several theatre institutions over the past few years serve as evidence to the alarming condition.
In the context of a theatre scene, the industry is basically formed based on the tripartite dynamics between theatre practitioners, audiences and the government. The commitment, transaction and support displayed by these stakeholders determine the quality and progressiveness of the art scenario. Observing the prevailing scenario in Nepal, it is evident that much effort has been coming from the theatre practitioners and audiences. Despite financial viability and unguaranteed return, artists are still passionately indulged in producing plays. On the other hand, given the size of theatre literacy in Nepal, the considerable presence of audiences in the prosceniums somewhat justifies the efforts put in by the artists. With two out of the three primary stakeholders playing their parts, it’s high time for the state to gear up its responsibility in developing and leading the theatre industry of Nepal.
Nepal Academy of Music and Drama (NAMUDA) is the concerned body that is primarily responsible to promote various sorts of theatre culture in Nepal, ensuring conservation of arts and artists. But to our dismay, NAMUDA’s functioning and role in doing so has been dismal. The Academy has been leaderless since September 8, 2018, and based on what the foregoing chancellor had to say, things do not look bright. On September 29, an open letter written by Saru Bhakta, the former chancellor or NAMUDA, addressing the Prime Minister of Nepal, was published in the Annapurna Post, which disclosed The former chancellor’s experience in leading NAMUDA for four years and the imminent future of the same institution. Saru Bhakta, in the article, has straight forwardly condemned the political intrusion that has been happening in electing the succeeding chancellor to lead the academy. He argues that the government is in a baseless and biased pursuit trying to select Ganga Prasad Uprety as the chancellor of the academy. According to Saru Bhakta, appointing Uprety as the chancellor would be a blow to the prestigious designation, which was once held by literary stalwarts like Lain Singh Bangdel, Madhav Ghimire, Balkrishna Sama and many more. Bhakta is absolutely correct in spotting and pointing out such prejudiced behaviour of the government. However, the stakeholder’s lack of understanding while devising the process and criteria to assess probable leaders is problematic. Why is the government still considering literary and artistic stature in gauging one’s potential to lead an institution as such? The job description of a chancellor revolves around tasks like mobilising financial budgets, strategic planning and scheduling of programs optimising resources, incentivising workforces within and beyond the organisation and constant monitoring of work-in-progress. It seems obvious that candidates holding managerial prowess and tact proficiency in leading an organisation would be more apt for the position than people inheriting literary dexterity. The appointment of Kulman Ghising, an MBA graduate, as the Managing Director of NEA who has brought unprecedented results in a quick succession is a fitting example.
The institution, after deciding on a leader, needs to clearly outline its strategies that are meaningful and relevant in order to enrich the Nepali theatre industry. The foremost step that NAMUDA should take is to create a module that can bring independent and professional theatre groups on board. Since independent theatre groups like Mandala, Shilpee, Katha Ghera, Sarwanam, to name a few, are the ones who’ve been consistently producing plays of all sorts, their input regarding the market dynamics, production feasibility and content’s structure would be a valuable input to the academy. The academy can then workout on plans of inter-institutions discourses and production, establishing weeklong festivals and investing in programmess to bring out artistic talents upfront. This way the budget allocated for NAMUDA can find a better utilisation compared to what’s been happening now. So far, NAMUDA’s arrangement of a single festival in a year hasn’t been able to make firm impressions despite it being a nationwide festival. The collaboration with independent theatre institutions can also contribute in uplifting the quality of productions in the festival.
Another crucial task that the state controlled institution needs to focus on ensuring proper documentation of write-ups and reading materials related to the development of the Nepali theatre industry. The absence of certified academic courses of theatre in Nepal also makes archiving important as it can serve as literatures and frameworks for learners to explore the chronological development of Nepali theatre. Moreover, NAMUDA should also consider creating a liaison between global theatre institutions and practitioners. Be it through organising festivals and discourses or initiating artist exchange, the institution can tap into a new avenue in order to promote Nepali theatre in the global arena.
Every year, students and artists from countries like US, Netherlands and Germany visit Nepal in order to volunteer in theatre tasks as well as share their expertise with local artists. Here, NAMUDA can actively facilitate such environment by providing space and resources for such endeavours. Finally, NAMUDA can channel its efforts to collaborate more with entities in the hospitality sectors like hotels, operators and the Nepal Tourism Board in order to gradually inject theatre as a positioning tool for Nepal’s tourism sector. Revitalising Nepal’s long-lived positioning of nature, culture and adventure by adding facets of art will not only aid in projecting a novel outlook of the country, but it’ll also stimulate the commerce of the theatre industry and address issues related to its sustainability to an extent.
Paudel is a theatre practitioner and a founding director of Tatsama Arts.