Raell Padamsee Interview
Raell Padamsee is an Indian theatre personality and CEO and Managing Director of ACE Productions and Numero Uno Productions. The theatre veteran has produced several acclaimed plays and spectacular mega-musicals over 20 years-- such as Shakespeare's MACBETH, Girish Karnad's, BROKEN IMAGES and the iconic musical SOUND OF MUSIC, to name a few.

 By Parul Rana

Ace Productions is returning back to the theatre with two shows- BROKEN IMAGES and UNFAITHFULLY YOURS. Both the plays have been running for quite some years now, have there been any changes made to the script or any other elements of the play for the upcoming shows?
It's so nice to finally be back on stage with two of our plays that have travelled the world and enjoyed multiple standing ovations. We have done more than 100 shows of both plays and have audiences coming back to see them for the 2nd and 3rd time.

BROKEN IMAGES is an extremely technical show with Shabana Azmi in live time exchanging dialogues with a pre-recorded character played by Shabana who looks exactly like the one on stage. And so, we have had to re-record the video to get that exact match, once a good chunk of time had passed. The story of UNFAITHFULLY YOURS is over a span of 25 years and so we had to update the script to incorporate the last two years of the pandemic. We also have a brilliant comedy that is premiering at the NCPA this March called CYRUS UNMASKED with the crazy fun duo Cyrus Broacha and Kunal Vijaykar – which is a fun take on the pandemic and life during the lockdown.

Please share your experience conducting children's drama workshops online. What has the experience been like interacting with children through the digital medium?
Initially, we were quite reluctant to go online. We could not imagine doing a speech and drama programme, which is so physical and expressive, online! But once we realised the pandemic was not going to go overnight, we embraced technology, and then there was no stopping us! We redesigned and curated our programs for an online platform and kept tweaking and improving until it became almost as good, if not better than offline. We invented new techniques for the digital space and curated new courses. We used video as an interactive immersive experience. The response was phenomenal. And we had to open new batches daily. We had to design new programs immediately as kids wanted more. We trained our instructors to teach with headsets, used videos for a better experience. For our summer program, we traveled the world…. virtually of course and the kids had a blast! And the parents demanded more and so we designed part two of our Summer Cruise with Drama and visited new places and the response was just phenomenal!! We had children joining from all over the world! Singapore, Dubai, London, Port Blair to just name a few and we even had a special batch for children from America.

After more than 500 virtual performances, 100,000 hours of online teaching over 10,000 kids over the last two years this Summer we have designed something extremely unique, along the same lines but with so much more input now that we have been online for two years, it's called Come Fly with Me– This Summer with Drama where the kids will get to virtually splash around in the sparkling blue waters of Greece, go Skydiving across the Alps of Switzerland, enjoy the sights from New York's famous Sunset Cruise, experience the Northern Lights in Iceland, fly across Turkey in a hot air balloon. These are both online and offline courses. Besides our very popular The Harry Potter workshop, Be a broadway star, Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory, Amazing Australia and celebrating India- with drama, we have a brand-new course called Excellence in English which is public speaking, debate and elocution course. The Excellence in English Course provides children with the tools they need to improve their spoken English skills, gives them confidence and capabilities in presentation, diction, and pronunciation. And we have a great ACE Etiquette course which we are currently designing and curating.

Apart from this, we are also working with over 400 children and young adults from marginalized backgrounds and providing them life skills training through drama and the creative arts. They have had an absolute creative blast these past two years and performed various plays both offline and online.

Apart from conducting workshops, did you indulge in creating theatre for the digital medium? If yes, please share your experience of the same. If not, was there a particular reason for not doing theatre online?
The beauty of digital shows is that they can be streamed from anywhere. The director and artiste don't even have to be in the same place to get the show going. We did one mega show online with the world's best mentalist – Lior Suchard and his is a very technical show. He was in Israel with his team, coordinating with us here and somehow it all pulled together and it was a huge success!! He not only read people's minds but also interacted with them and kept them engaged throughout the entire show. We even managed a small tete a tete with our VIP guests by using Zoom break-out rooms!! A few of the challenges we faced were varying internet speeds, getting the audience to log in on time, finding the right link, password and keeping them on mute so you don't hear all the ambient sounds from 100 houses!!!!

What are the shows that the audience can look forward to in the coming times? If there's anything you are currently working on and would like to share.
Our upcoming shows include CYRUS UNMASKED, Lior Suchard - THE NEW EXPERIENCE, SIMPLY THE BEST - the best songs of the '70s 80's and '90s, The ELVIS REVIVAL, TWO TO TANGO. We also have a few new plays in the pipeline which are still in their nascent stages of casting. Theatre and Live Entertainment are in our DNA ..may they reign supreme!

*Parul Rana is a theatre enthusiast and movie buff.

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