Stage Manager’s Nightmare
Tonight I attended the performance of Khwab Pather Mein which was being presented on our campus. This is a classical Urdu play written by Yusaf Safi. They way I understand it, the play was a reenactment of the story behind how the Taj Mahal was created.
Shah Jahan was the Prince of the Mughal empire. He fell in love with Mumtaz Mahal and they were married. Though Shah Jahan had other wives also, Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite and accompanied him everywhere. However, when Mumtaz was giving birth to their 14th child, she died. In devastation, Shah Jahan promised that he would never remarry and that he would build the richest mausoleum over her grave.
Of course, the actual play was in Urdu so I really didn’t understand all of the action, but the basic plot line could be followed 🙂
But what was more interesting was observing the technical side of the show.
First of all, like all Indian events, the 6:00pm performance did not begin until after 6:30.
The stage was made up of a backdrop with a few pieces of furniture. On each side of the stage was a frame covered in cloth. These were moved to center stage to cover up the scene changes. Which leads me to my next point, the scene changes. Oh my goodness- I am not kidding when I say that there were 5 minutes between every scene to move a share or add a plant. That is the quickest way to lose the audience in my opinion (or in U.S standards) but this seemed to be normal for all of the other spectators.
And then there were the props….in the 3 scenes we were able to stay for there were various malfunctions.
- One actor almost knocked over a portrait
- When the replica of the Taj Mahal was brought in, it barely fit through the doorway, and then the pillars teetered back and forth humorously
- A column wrapped in vines was knocked over
- And a platform slide to the floor
Plus there were huge microphone issues: bad feedback, volume issues, and whispering of actors backstage!
If I was the stage manager of the show, I would be fired! I was cringing in my seat, wanting to fix all of these technical issues, ignoring the mediocre acting. But then I had to remind myself of where I was. I would like to attend more theatre performances, if possible, to decipher what the standards are for Indian theatre.
It also makes me excited to return to the NWU theatre department and put together a show! I may be on theatre withdrawal….:)