With No Hopes for Public Gathering to Get Back to Normal, How are the Stage Artists Living the Pandemic

Art and Entertainment is not a survival need and cannot be a priority during a pandemic. Yet, what about those whose bread and butter has always been from stage and audience


“Pandemic has been really tough not just mentally but financially also. I had to come back from Chennai, to my hometown with the outbreak of Pandemic. Few productions stopped midway. And we don’t see any shows happening in the foreseeable future,” Says Gophalan, a theatre artist based out of Chennai. Gophalan has been a theatre facilitator and actor for the last two years. Based in Chennai, he has worked on well-known and has performed for Light and Blind productions The Little theatre and Thespian En to name some. Adding to his concerns, he mentioned that “Even after everything comes back to normal, I personally doubt whether people will risk it to come to a live show anytime soon.”

Art and cultures have never been paid much in India. Especially, an absolutely organic art form like theatre which has been in a difficult state already, ever since the introduction of films, and is not facing an even more difficult time. Talking about the other art form, like music, stand-up comedy, rap, poetry, storytelling, and the like, the problem is even big. Though poets and storytellers are generally dependent on what they make out of a ticketed show, musicians, rappers and stand-up comics are highly dependent on the gigs they get. Where we spoke to a lot of artists and found a common belief that is trying to work out something digitally yet they have remained unsuccessful till now.

Talking about the experience of people in the music industry, Ankit, who has been a highly experienced bassist said that a lot of people have tried to switch to digital events. “If we go to a digital event which we call a virtual live show, the biggest issue is internet latency. We are still not there to meet the kind of quality required even to conduct a good virtual call, doing a music show is certainly ironic. I played sessions for All India Permit with a band and faced the same problem. Then sound engineering is another thing, especially digitally.” Where Ankit has been somehow managing to earn by doing music and background scoring he says that stage was something that he will call his bread and butter. “The reaction from the audience is what gives him hope and drive to work and which is definitely missing here,” he concluded.

Read more: Here’s how work culture is changing globally amid pandemic

Adding to the failures of digital events for the music industry, Akshita, a rising cover singer tells about the ticketed shows that “the online events only disappointed me. I tried doing a lot of shows, where poor internet connectivity is a problem, asking people to buy tickets for a show that is not really serving them anything else than the lagging voice is terrible. And, why would they even buy for a show like that when OTT and Youtube are literally stuffed with content. And honestly, when even when I tried to practice it, with a minimum ticket charge of Rs. 50-100, there were hardly any people for whom I could think of performing.”

Though adding to an alternative view, Rajat, a stand-up comedian affirms that “there could hardly be anything that could replace the vibe of the stage. Yet, the online shows allowed me to think beyond the stage and create art with a different perspective. Where it is absolutely true that monetarily, a lot of artists are struggling, but the key here is to find out an alternative. Established artists don’t really face a lot of problems, in fact, are able to manage multiple shows in a day but for the semi-known full-time ones, there is definitely a problem.” Yet, considering that fulfilling the survival needs of all is the bigger objective right now he said, “entertainment needs will come at the end, hence, all artists are hitting and trying to find what is gonna work for them.”

Hence to conclude, the stage screen debate is endless and there could hardly be anything that could replace the audacity of the stage. As Gophalan puts it, “We have been trying to do improv online. The energy we give on stage and screen cannot be the same. On stage, we have had a different energy, different mood to express the character. Doing the same online, it is neither genuine nor gets well with the audience at all. Though I haven’t been able to decide, yet what I am going to do to sustain financially as the next few months are likely to be the same for us, I am trying to figure out a way of finding something or doing entirely something else from the scratch.

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