Thespo 23 Digital Youth Festival

Parul Rana

The pandemic has prodded theatre to emerge online and explore the digital space. The digital medium has allowed the possibility of an increase in reach and exposure through global collaborations for practitioners, academicians, and theatre lovers. Thespo provides a similar opportunity for artists all over the world to come together, participate, learn and explore through their 23rd edition of the digital youth theatre festival.

Started in 1999 Thespo is a platform for any and every young person under 25 who is interested in theatre. 'In 1999, Christopher Samuel and I had a hare-brained idea to do something for young people interested in theatre. But Thespo, as we know it, was actually formed by the coming together of veterans Theatre Group Bombay and us newbies QTP. Together we established a platform for theatre enthusiasts under the age of 25. What once started out as an evening of plays has grown into a movement with year-round activities, workshops, and weeklong flagship festivals. While Thespo keeps changing forms and responding to the needs of the theatre community, the goal of enabling young artists and making theatre accessible still remains the same, says Quasar Thakore Padamsee.

To kick start with its 23rd edition of the annual festival, Thespo is inviting artists to submit flagship performances. These performances are for a minimum duration of 45 minutes and can be created for any digital medium, as long as they are performed live and tell a compelling story.

Sarah Minz, a team member describes how the digital festival is going to be different from when it was held in person, 'The Digital Edition of the festival doesn't aim to replicate what was once on the ground, but rather is an exploration and celebration of a whole new medium. With the emphasis being placed on creating live performances with a minimum duration of 45 minutes, participants are encouraged to innovate with the digital platforms available to them. The format is thus completely different from when the festival was held in person. Given the array of exciting work that we have witnessed online over the last two years, the possibilities of how digital performances may influence the traditional live performing arts in the future are endless. A hybrid version incorporating digital and in-person elements might not be out of bounds either.'

Another team member Nishika Mehta, shares the highlights for Thespo 23, 'With a better understanding of how to execute for the digital medium, our focus this year has been to curate intensive workshops that prioritize one-on-one mentoring. Apart from showcasing innovative flagship performances by the youth, the plan for Thespo 23 includes collaboration with organizations from Australia, Indonesia, UK, among others, along with programming across various digital platforms.'

Through the year, Thespo also conducts a range of workshops either as a partnership or at the festival, facilitated by theatre professionals from across the globe. It is a mix of introductory workshops and advanced workshops within the wide spectrum of theatre. 'I never imagined that Zoom windows could open up a whole new world of community, friendships, and learning. Thespo workshops have given me many learnings about the craft itself. But for me, perhaps the biggest takeaway is that with Thespo, you get a theatre tribe that has your back like no other,' says Laya Kumar, a workshop participant from Thespo 22.

Ritika Shrotri, who was awarded for outstanding performance for the play THE LIGHT CATCHER and Outstanding Director for THE NIGHTMARE in Thespo 22, recalls her experience 'The Flagship Performances had us experimenting for days, with different cameras and editing software. The digital medium is so new that there are no rules, you can do anything you want with such a malleable medium. It truly was an exhilarating experience.'

*Parul Rana is a theatre enthusiast and movie buff.

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