The last time I was supposed to be on stage was March 15, 2020. We’d rehearsed for the week leading up to it, sure we would be performing because HUH WHAT VIRUS. Then the night before the show, we were told it was cancelled and a week later we were locked and blocked like a good Indian girl married off into a joint family. At first I felt relief, “ooh yay some time off”. That feeling lasted all of two weeks. Then it was a long eight months before I got to see the inside of a theatre again. Eight months of cooking, cleaning, exercising, reading, doing play readings on Zoom, working through a screen, living the ‘new normal’.
Eight months is long enough to get used to something and also to forget many things. The thought of going into a theatre scared me. I was out of practice I thought. A part of me thought I’d forgotten acting; I’d forgotten how to be with people in a space. And after one unsuccessful, oh well, SEMI successful line run on Zoom, minus the ever-elusive Sahukar, it was time to step into the theatre.
Now full disclosure – as we all know, it’s a stellar cast, and I’m the smol of this entire troupe. I had just turned 23 when we started doing this play. I was fresh out of drama school, very bright eyed and bushy tailed and by some miracle had found myself in this production. It wasn’t easy preparing for this. I remember at one point during rehearsals I would just cry every day, because I felt frustrated about “not getting it right”. I even emailed Rajat about my MANY feelings and all he said was I should first focus on having fun, then everything else would fall into place.
In the five years of performing this play, I’ve grown up. It’s like Soso’s monologue about the world being a stage and us all playing various parts. Shakespeare’s text is gender specific only to men, but if we were to be inclusive, I feel like this play has seen me through the whining school “boy”, an ongoing lover and newfound hints of the soldier stages. And through these years, this play has been a constant. This troupe has been a constant. Some days I ask myself why I’m still doing the play. And this time, after eight months of living, learning, breathing and then meeting everyone and doing the play, I learnt it’s because of the troupe itself.
Theatre to me isn’t just about the final show. It’s the months, weeks, days and moments that lead up to it…the sneaky seconds in the wings and the bonds backstage. Stepping into Andrew’s auditorium to shoot the play mid-pandemic, I learnt that this play and everything about it is a lot like life. There are many feelings, many questions, many changes and many lessons. They’re seeping into me over time. So much of the play makes MORE sense to me after being locked up at home for eight months. Themes like country life versus city life, gender roles, forgiveness and the biggest one, LOVE…these were very much a part of my lived experiences of the lockdown. Amidst all the frustration and confusion, there was always love. That’s what is at the centre of this play. It’s what every person brings to the table, their own little concoction of love. That’s what I felt the day I walked back into the theatre to record IDLIAYLI. I’d finally learnt to love, to forgive, finally kinda grown into the play and its themes (I say kinda because there’s no end point to this learning and growing).
I hope you watch the play and feel the love too, and you question gender roles, and you fall in love with nature all over again. Ok too many thoughts and feelings now. I’m done. If you read till this point, thank you, you’re too kind. See you at the theatre.
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