Sabha, the Multilingual Theatre Society of St. Stephen’s College was founded in 1930. The Society seeks to incorporate the diverse languages and cultures of India in its productions. Sabha also believes in actively promoting theatre across various platforms – street plays, traditional on-stage theatre as well as experimental open-air theatre. Over the years, it has produced a number of prominent theatre personalities like Konkona Sen Sharma, Benjamin Gilani, Suneet Tandon, Kabir Bedi and Roshan Seth, among many others.
The Society Blog- Rang Munch
The blog (first started as Rangmanch) aimed to act as a platform for people from all walks of life to share their experiences, opinions and thoughts on theatre and art. The year 2021 brings back the blog— revamped and in full swing— with its essence remaining the same as Rang Munch. Rang Munch is a place for people to hear and be heard. It offers snack-sized theatre bites and food for thought.
The Monthly Newsletter- Curtain Call
Curtain Call, launched in 2021, is a networking-cum-updates forum for all members of Sabha to reminisce about their old Sabha days. The newsletter acts as a bridge between the past and the present, containing periodic updates, trivia and alumni features and interviews.
Curtain Call - Issue 1(Aug’21)
The Street Play Vertical- Aadibhav
Aadibhav is the street play vertical of the Society. Aadibhav comprises three broad verticals that are fluid and flexible. As a street play team, we are always on the go, switching roles and responsibilities, learning from each other and improvising constantly. Aadibhav’s three verticals are:
- 1. Acting
- 2. Script writing
- 3. Music
- 1. ‘Quboolnama’- Even after the repulsion of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the LGBTQ cause remains as pressing as ever because of the prevalent wave of unacceptability in Indian society which still treats people from the community as aliens. The street play is a medium to expose the audience to the adversities faced by these so-called ‘abnormal’ members of society. The entire play is a conscious effort to call out the existing stereotypes that are discriminatory and exclusionary in nature. We begin with a celebration of pride with the depiction of a parade and continue by establishing a reverse society where straight people are treated as the “abnormal” and are discriminated against. This is a deliberate attempt to help the majority in the audience realize their unfair treatment towards the minority. The plot develops by enacting instances of true events that actually take place in society and we aspire to leave an impact on members by invoking emotions on this persistent cause with minimal use of instruments.
- 2. ‘Shikayat’: The play deals with the issue of public apathy and hypocrisy in matters of general concern like governance and climate change. It targets the tendency in people to indulge in blame games and follow the herd mentality turning democracy into a circus. While the topic may seem very broad, our focus is primarily on the lack of informed discussion and inaction on the part of the general public. We challenge those sections of the society who always look for external entities to meet their demands without taking an active role themselves as responsible citizens. Our attempt is not to incriminate the society at large (of which we ourselves are a part) but to initiate self-introspection, self-criticism and a call for action. We aim to end our play with an appeal to shun the 'culture of noise' and embrace the 'culture of voice'.
Activities and Workshops/Webinars
Sabha sends teams to participate in proscenium theatre competitions across the country. The street play team, Aadibhav, also performs at different colleges nationwide. Workshops are held throughout the session for students to improve their skills in various aspects of theatre, which are conducted by both in-house as well as professional theatre personnels from renowned drama houses. These include improvisation sessions, street play workshops, facial expression and gesture activities, script reading sessions as well as vertical-specific workshops. The pandemic led to a drastic shift for Sabha as offline interactions and practices took to the virtual world. Despite all these difficulties, Sabha has taken social media by a storm and continues to spread awareness on its handles. Aadibhav has been actively creating, exploring and growing every day. Recently, the street play team collaborated with the College’s NCC to produce a play on Kargil Vijay Diwas. The Society in collaboration with Bazm-e-Adab, The Urdu Literary Society of the college organised a 3 day Urdu workshop hosted by Deepak Yadav on Urdu language and its importance in daily life.
Sabha has put up adaptations of plays such as Khel Khel Mein (Mohan Rakesh), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Godaan, Ismat – Ek Boshida sa Alfaz, among others. In the recent past, it staged Vadh (an adaptation of a story by Roald Dahl), Khamosh! Adalat Jari Hai (Vijay Tendulkar), Maya (an adaptation of the Greek tragedy ‘Medea’ by Euripedes), Post Mortem ( Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist), Moy Mati Rondhiyon (Master Harold and The Boys) and Mahesh Elkunchwer’s Pratibimb. Sabha’s play, Ibn Batuta, which featured seven regional languages received appreciation and was performed several times. Phobic and Maya were original productions that moved one and all. Previously, Sabha also organized a two-day long conference in collaboration with the English Literary Society and Urdu Society to celebrate the centenary of Sa’adat Hassan Manto. Sabha continues to collaborate with language-specific Societies in keeping with our multilingual culture. The Annual Festival brings with itself a chance to enjoy diverse baskets of plays and performances. The Society therefore, had the opportunity to host guest performances by Srishti NGO ( a street play), Chilsag Chillies and the very brilliant Asmita Theatre group. From recent productions, Tamaashaa ya Tamaashayee (an adaptation of Mohammad Hassan's Mirza Ghalib: Tamaasha aur Tamaashayee), Charandas Chor (an adaptation of Habib Tanvir's legendary play) and Kauua Chala Hans ki Chaal (an adaptation of The Bourgeois Gentleman) were all very well received.
Dastaan One of the primary features of theatre is that it relates people to stories and vice-versa. Theatre embraces story-telling. It interprets and presents it. Sabha eagerly looks forward to celebrating this facet of theatre by organising Dastaan, Sabha’s annual theatre festival. As part of Dastaan, Sabha organises various events including:
- Bhaasha – The One-act Play Competition
- Anhad – The Street Play Competition
- Soliloquy- The Monologue Competition
- Colloquy- The Slam Poetry Competition
- Playhouse- The Production Competition
Bhaasha is an annual, pan-India, multilingual, inter-college one-act play competition organised by Sabha. Bhaasha is the Society’s attempt to promote and learn from India’s diverse forms of languages and performative theatrical arts. The Society believes that language, while being an important tool of theatre, is not the be-all and end-all of the art form. Theatre along with its portrayal of human emotions and situations transcends linguistic barriers and appeals to our inner-selves, to our conscience. Our firm belief in the fact that theatre has no one language has repeatedly been vindicated with the success of Bhaasha.
Anhad is an annual inter-college street play competition organised by Sabha. Engaging with audiences in proximity and intimately has been proved extremely impactful in theatre, and one such form that allows this to take place is Street Play. Through our street play team, Aadibhav, we attempt to spread awareness via our voices, body language and story-telling across a myriad of pressing issues. Aadibhav aims to be a conscious endeavour in developing a more responsible and accountable society.
Drama is a form of performative literature, so in the spirit of encouraging the multiplicity of interpretations of every work, Sabha, in collaboration with the Poetry Society of St. Stephen’s College, organizes Colloquy during Dastaan. Colloquy is a slam poetry competition open to students of all colleges, as well as students of XI and XII grades across schools in India. Registrants are required to submit the title of their original piece which can be in any language of their choice. Following this, 15 chosen participants are required to perform their dramatic reading in a live event. The participants are judged based on originality, dramatisation, and acting. Three participants are announced as winners and are rewarded with prizes.
Honoring the traditions of theatre, Sabha holds Soliloquy- a monologue competition inviting artists to share their complex inner thoughts with the audience. It is open to students of all colleges, and students of XI and XII grades across schools in India. The competition is divided into 2 rounds - Prelims and Finals. In the preliminary round, the top 5 entries are shortlisted. In the finals, the selected entries are performed live. The nine emotions included in Navarasa are Shringara (love/beauty), Hasya (laughter), Karuna (sorrow), Raudra (anger), Veera (heroism/courage), Bhayanaka (terror/fear), Bibhatsya (disgust), Adbutha (surprise/wonder), and Shantha (peace or tranquility). At least 2 distinct emotions have to be evident in the monologue. Top three teams stand to win exciting prizes.
Playhouse is an event that focuses on the production wing of a stage play. In this, each team is required to conceive a thorough production plan of a scene for a collegiate performance. Teams must commit to realistic budget constraints and practical concerns, while optimising for creative depiction. This event puts one’s directorial vision, sense of aesthetics, interpretive creativity and managerial skills to test, in the context of collegiate stage theatre. This event is open to students of all colleges, and students of grades XI and XII across schools in India. Sabha provides single-scene excerpts from 5 stage plays and a template for the production plan. Teams are expected to choose a single script and then descriptively mention details like their interpretation of the play, color palette of preference, symbolism of the production equipment used (if applicable) and the like in the provided template. These production plans are judged for their creative prowess and practical feasibility. In the final round, qualifying teams are required to make a live incubation-style pitch of their production plan to a judging panel. Pitches may be followed by a question and answer round with the judges. Three participating teams are announced as winners and are rewarded with prizes.