Is there life after “Hello, Am I audible”? Often yes, but sometimes, the answer is no.
On one such day, after conferencing software and WiFi took turns in driving everybody up the wall with slowness, and ghostly appearances and disappearances, this editor gave up, and decided to enlist the most reliable aspect of MS-Teams: the chat window. Instructions were given, and a slew of stories materialised in no time, and the rest of that slow morning picked up and did jogging speed as story after story came up, as did hearts, laughs, and thumbs-up signs.
Twenty five students of Theatre recollect memories of their first performances in a new form we call the Teams Essay.
- The first time I acted in a play was probably when I was in 5th standard. It was a “musical” but not really. It was for our annual day, it was a story about hunters and poachers and I was a parrot along with my friend. It was a Hindi play and we were chosen solely because we were the only two 5th- graders who spoke Hindi well, (I’m sorry I had to brag). I remember flapping my “wings”, which were just a green shawl tied around my hand, and jumping onto a bench to deliver my dialogue. I remember mostly the practice sessions because, well… because I couldn’t be a part of the actual play. Five days before the play, one of my relatives passed away. It was a distant relative, so even though I’m a bit guilty to admit it, I was sadder about leaving the play I had been a part of for weeks than the person’s demise. But luckily for my guilty conscience (though not for my ego), mine was a small role and I was easily replaceable. Gayathri. B. Prachod.
- The first play I ever took part in was for a school production of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. But considering I took part in the dance, I wouldn’t really count it as my first ‘play’. That would be when I took part in ‘By The Book’ for Metonym in SJC. It was definitely new for me but somehow didn’t feel that way. It all just naturally happened. There was a lot of goofing around and fun times while practice and I made new friends as well. We even won second place for it and it made me feel very good and confident about my skills. Geethanjali Ganesh Kanate.
- I think the first time I watched an actual play was when I was around 12-13 years old. I was in Jaipur visiting my aunt, and one day my father decided that let’s go watch this play happening today. He might have seen the poster on the way. I was very excited because I had only read or heard about plays and I always wanted to do and see theatre. And I remember, the ambiance, the setting, everything was all according to my imagination; there were those dim yellow lights, those wooden benches on the stairs, that good kind of silence and the little murmur of the audience before the play. I didn’t understand that act though. It was more of a monologue. I think it was on “inquilab zindabad” or something. But when I came out of that theatre, I felt that I was one step closer to the things I wanted to see, and believe me, it was so satisfying. More than anything. Manya Mehra.
- We were all animals. The ones found on a farm. I was a duck. It seemed easier in practice. I was told to dress up. My parents loved to dress up. They made me a duck suit. A romper made completely out of yellow faux fur with some feathers. They took one of those hats that weren’t hats, the ones with no tops. Visors. They glued on ping-pong balls for eyes. I wanted to cry as my nursery teachers spread the worst purple lipstick on my face, generously, the best jam. And then dabbed the red lipstick on my lips. This angered me. I am afraid now. Fear equals worst enemy. But then you fear fear. “Mother ducks say?” Good luck. I repeat till it’s all I can remember. What is your name? Mother duck, I say good luck. Too many parents. Why do they have that look in their eyes? Oh, there’s mine! Why do they look so happy to see me? I hate this! I want to run out and run far, far away. No. No. No! I’m pushed on stage. Shoved. Made to stand last in line. Everyone goes through their lines. Some forget. But I, mother duck, am to say good luck. So, I peer down in character till I see the girl in a flower dress speak. I wonder which animal is by nature blessed with a floral printed coat. Perhaps something small in a Hilton’s purse. Good Luck! I give it my best shot. Applause! They like me, they really like me! Let’s make it a moment I tell myself and I that fateful moment I blow frantically dramatic kisses at my parents and to all parents. I now want to burn all photographic evidence. Isabel.
- I woke up on the day of the performance with excitement, I couldn’t wait for my loved ones to watch my performance even though the thought of performing in front of strangers was scaring me. I joined the meeting and seeing random names made me nervous until I saw a notification on the screen “Anika wants to join the meeting” yes, my lil 10-year-old cousin was joining the meeting with her name and that made me smile, I felt happy that there are my loved ones excited to watch me. We started performing, everything was going well until my worst nightmare came true, I saw my teammates exiting the meeting and I was the only one left behind, I did not know what to do, should I wait, should I say it’s the network, should I scream, should I cry, I somehow came up with a dialogue to handle the situation, if I hadn’t acted quickly, the flow would have been ruined and the pressure was scaring me. Then, I saw my teammates join back, they went along with my dialogues and it felt okay. I constantly had thought that the jury was adding hurdles to the performance by removing us because after all it is an exam but I realised that this isn’t true when it repeatedly happened and I also saw people unmuting and creating a nuisance. The performance ended, everything was confusing, I had multiple emotions and later when I heard the professors talk, it was better, I felt good. I went up to my family, they appreciated me and I received calls from my loved ones, everybody congratulated me but I received a call from my Lil cousin Anika, said, “enikyu onnum manasil aayila pakshe Bhavyedthiye kaanan nallu bhangi indarnu, pedi onnum aayilya, bhangi aarnu.” translating to “I didn’t understand the play but you looked beautiful.” That hyped me up and I was extremely happy. Bhavya Kavitha Subramanian.
- I was six years old when I took part in my first play. It was a school play which was open to the public. I do not remember anything, except for the fact that it was for World Environment Day and had the regular messages about not cutting trees, recycling and the pain that animals go through when they lose their habitats. I remember these things because of the large posters we had to make and my memory offered to distinctly remember them. I also remember how I went out of the auditorium after the play and a parent asked me where the play was being held, to which I replied, “the play is over.” I do not remember any of the contents of the play or what role I played. Harshadha.
- The first time I watched a play was during the Christmas season in Hosur. If my memory is right I was either in 7th or 8th grade and the script of the play was the incident of Jesus Christ talking to the blind and blessing him with sight. That day they didn’t have a stage. The Christmas programme was happening in a huge hall and they used the entire hall as their stage. They used the way between the crowd for Jesus, his disciples and his followers to walk and the blind man was sitting with the crowd and half of the play was performed in the midst of the crowd and not on a stage or the space they had kept as a stage. When this happened the reactions of the audience made it look as if everyone in the hall were part of the play. There were no properties but yet it looked like it was actually happening on a way. They used the way between the crowd as and the blind man sat among them. I don’t know if this is a form of theatre to use the entire place as the stage and I don’t know the name of this if it’s an actual form of theatre. Subin John Mathew
- I was a part of a play called A Sunny Morn, I was Petra the Maid of Dona Laura. I had a fun time performing in front of my classmates but I was very nervous and anxious about where I would mess up the lines and cause trouble to others. There were no properties as the play’s plot was in the garden bench we just sat in our benches and performed it. It was a great experience and I did not mess up thankfully. S. Shreya.
- Honestly, I had never acted in a play before. I was once chosen in school for a play but it got cancelled. So, this is officially my first performance, also digitally. During the performance, we had a problem due to which we couldn’t do it online and had to play the recorded version of the play. One of our teammates had a network issue since she was in her native. But the whole time, I was so scared of how it’ll be out there and almost felt the stage fear inside the four walls of my room. We texted each other and made sure we’re going to do it well. I did have little difficulty getting into the character because I was a little shy and took some time to get out of my comfort zone. But I did resonate with Ayush for all his stupidity. Githanjali Pratap.
- The first time I watched a play was when I was in 9th grade and our school decided to take all the 9th and 10th grade kids to Rangashankara. It was very spontaneous and we watched the play, “Gomma bantu gomma”. It was surreal- we all had to maintain absolute silence, unlike the movie theaters here, we were not allowed to talk before/while in our seats. We had to keep the excitement to ourselves, as we didn’t want the actors to get distracted. A couple of adult-actors portrayed the characters of little children and it was as if I could feel their excitement. The play revolved around how real the imaginations of children are to them and how adults respond to that. I thought it was great that the actors were able to stay in character for over 2 hours. It was magical! Sunidhi.
- The first time I was part of a play was in the 8th grade for an Independence Day Celebration in school. We performed the whole freedom movement from the revolt of 1857 right to the moment of independence. Funny part is that I actually didn’t have a defined role to play because there weren’t too many people and I was also organizing the event. Essentially meaning that I was a part of the “masses”. I was a protestor, one of the dead people as a consequence of the violent attacks, and so many other random such roles. I don’t completely remember it all but I think I was also part of a dance sequence as it was a musical. Not in the literal sense but there was a lot of music for each scene. The best part was that we got to use the auditorium that was newly built and the stage felt very real. A whole class performing this grand event was honestly more exciting than anything. Frankly, I didn’t even look at the performance as acting because of how naïve I probably was. But the feeling of being on stage, showcasing something to an audience is a very lovely experience. Niharika Giridhar.
- In sixth grade, we had ‘hobby club’ classes that took place every Wednesday just before school closed for the day. One of these clubs was theatre, and I took it. We were taught by Rajesh PI, who had worked with the school on multiple occasions and was a known artist. But he knew how to talk to eleven year olds and make them excited to act and be loud and not self-conscious. We had a play that was set in a village, and most of the cast was the chorus and there were very few ‘main’ characters that had lines. I was chosen to play one of these ‘main’ characters after he did some standard acting exercises. The play had no script, just some lines and cues that he gave us spontaneously. It was only about 15 minutes long but we rehearsed every week, making additions and changes as we liked. Towards the end of the year, we had something called a ‘hobby day’ where all the clubs presented what they had learnt and we performed our play. I don’t remember much of the actual performance but I remember liking it so much that I went back to it when we had these clubs again in eighth. Apoorva.
- I was really tensed about my performance. It was my first ever fully scripted online performance. We practiced a few times. And finally the day came. We all sat for the recording. We started the play. It went well until a few minutes to the end of the play. My laptop got stuck and Igot logged out. I tried logging in several times but I couldn’t. I started sending apology messages through WhatsApp. But then I got a response saying “No bro. It ended well since you got logged out”. I was like whatt???. Then I could log in and all were so happy that the play ended well. I was so confused. But then I realized that as I got logged out, our play got an amazing climax. But unfortunately, we couldn’t do it live.Then we played our recording for the public performance. I was really nervous thinking about the response from teachers. After the performance, I was really surprised, at the same time extremely happy hearing all the responses. And the most interesting part was that the most appreciated part of our play was our “accidental climax”. Every teacher mentioned that and we were so happy. Lena
- The first time I ever performed in an actual play was in school when I was in the 7th standard and we were supposed to put forward a play by William Shakespeare. There was a lot of confusion amongst my teammates about which play we should pick, everyone had their favourites, which led to quite a chaos, but soon our drama teacher came along and ignoring each one of us came up with a play neither of us even heard of, “The taming of the Shrew”. My teammates and I were not very thrilled with the choice but we had no other option, so we started reading and learning about the play. During rehearsals, we had a lot of fun, we practiced our lines, we forgot our lines, we fought as no one wanted to be Katherine, so in the end I was the ‘Shrew of the show’ and I am not going to lie, but I enjoyed it to the fullest. The entire play was something which was difficult to perform with the dialogues and the costumes, but it was a great experience and I had fun preparing for it and performing it. It was an elaborate performance with a lot of people, props, backstage drama, music but my favorite part was our costume, which gave off a very vintage vibe and I was just twirling and dancing after I put it on. It was a wholesome experience. Ananya.
- I had been a part of a play conducted in my previous college. We were a group of 7 members who were involved .We had wonderful memories and an excellent experience as well. Bunking classes in the name of practice was the first thing which we enjoyed. Forgetting the dialogues and rehearsing it again was a tough job but an exciting one though .Our group consisted of amazing actors who were brilliant in their acting level. Interesting part of this play was learning some importance of languages. It was an on stage act and another interesting and new thing was developing the dialogues on spot which gave a comic touch to the play which was a bit serious. Gracy.
- The first time I watched a play was when I was in 8th grade. I was in school, when one of my friends came up to me and said that his father was acting in a play that was happening that evening, at Kalagrama, and he said that he had got an extra ticket for me and asked if we could go together, and I agreed. I didn’t think much about it because I lived close to Kallagrama, and I didn’t even ask him what the play was about, or what it was called, any of that general information. I was just happy that I would get to spend my evening having fun with a friend.We went to Kallagrama, and I remember the play started and I’m sitting there thinking, “I know this story”, and I did, because that morning, in class, my English teacher had started a new lesson, which was written by Shakespeare, and I was there watching the play of that same lesson that evening. It was an amazing coincidence. And I loved the entire experience watching the play. But unfortunately, at the moment, I am not able to recall the name of the play.The play was in Kannada, but I still could understand the story of it, and I loved the ambiance of the theatre, and the chatter of the people, and us, sitting at the back, and watching the play in silence, it was all new and very exciting for me. Adithyan.
- The first time I acted in a play was quite a while ago. It was in the fifth grade, during our school’s annual day. We were doing a puppet show in Hindi, and I was playing the character of Jhansi Ki Rani. I remember being extremely scared, because not only did we have to remember lines and cues, we had to pretend to be puppets. It was an interesting experience, as the puppet show was not a conventional thing. As I got on stage, I saw how big the audience was. Everybody’s families had come to watch our annual day, and they were all looking at us, waiting for our play to begin. Then, I was given the cue to start my dialogue. A wave of nerves kicked in, I said my first line, and from then on, everything went by extremely quickly. Nothing compares to the rush of adrenaline one feels when they get on stage. Thus, the play went on, I acted for the first time and hopefully, everyone enjoyed it. Gauri Bedekar.
- ‘Vali Vadhe’ is the first play I watched live. I didn’t have any idea what I signed up for, it was a suggestion from my friend and I just desperately wanted to watch a play at that point. So, without putting any second thought I left my PG and reached Ranga Shankra, the poster says, it’s a piece of the story from Ramayana, where Bali fights with his brother. I did know the story but today in the language it was being performed was unknown to me. But as I sat to watch the play, it blew my mind, the costumes detailing, the props, the way they delivered the dialogues you could actually feel the vibration of each sentence in you, and their movements were so amazing. Like it didn’t require any verbal language to be understood, it was their movement and great acting skills. It seemed like a 3D show where you are actually involved in the play. Their motion with the music beat, each step with its beauty, it was a play to be experienced. Alka Mary.
- The first time I acted in a proper play was for the theatre viva that we had for our second semester. The process of writing and directing it was smooth and fun of course, but what excited us the most was rehearsing and acting. We had countless rehearsal sessions for weeks and several improvisations were made till the end minute, in fact, even our final play had improvs that were made on screen while performing. While as actors we were expecting last minute problems, either technical or something else, we were also hoping that we wouldn’t have to face any. But we ended up having minor problems with sound and internet, something that wouldn’t have happened if we were performing offline. But after our whole play, it didn’t matter, because the problems felt like they were too small when compared to the joy and the rush of excitement that we were feeling. Nirupama.
- I was in seventh grade, when I first went on stage to perform. I played the character of a responsible mother who had taught her children to survive a worst-case scenario like an Earthquake. It was a 20-minute skit. I was a timid adolescent, scared inside, because I was sure I would mess it up in every possible way. The adrenaline rush is what triggered that experience. I still have the script of that performance in my memory box. I was dressed in this white salwar, and I looked so pretty, like a teacher, with a pinch of lipstick that tangled on my lips. It felt very energetic to play a positive role. To be vouched for by the audience. To be the heroine. I vaguely remember, that one of them who had repeatedly messed up their lines during the practice sessions, successfully managed to repeat that same mistake while we were performing it for the last time on stage. I remember laughing in my head, because we had all put a wager on it. Those after school practices were so much fun because the teacher in-charge was a darling. She would buy us snacks after 4 o’clock so that we wouldn’t whine for pushing us to tirelessly practice without a break. I cannot recall much, but I remember feeling very rewarded after the whole skit competition was over. And I know that this skit has played a major role in laying the foundation to my love for acting. Miriam Tom.
- When I was six years old I took part in my first performance. It was during Christmas and our school had a tradition to do a play every year. I was selected to be one of the three wise men in the play. This role didn’t exactly thrill me and according to my mother it took a lot of convincing to finally get me on stage. As a six year old seeing all your friends dress up in puffy white frocks and have fairy wings while you’re being dressed like a man with a moustache is not something anyone would want. So I was furious! Since we were very small we had a teacher promoting us from the side in case we missed any lines so that gave us some confidence. After getting over the fact that I wasn’t an angel in the play I was quite excited when we had to choose our costumes. This whole process excited me a great deal and I even remember getting dressed up at home and walking around in the costume. I had jewels and a crown and felt very important. On the day of the performance I remember walking in and feeling like everyone was looking at me but after the initial anxiety I completely enjoyed myself. Looking back since my first experience in a play was actually quite enjoyable rather than it being traumatising I found myself auditioning for more plays and performing more when I was older Antara.
- This was eight years ago, it was our annual day occasion, we had a small play to perform. In that play I and two of my friends were supposed to be a coconut tree. Been staged in the front corner of the podium. I had my legs trembling with nervousness and I was holding a branch full of leaves which somehow looked as though the wind whistled through the leaves of the coconut tree so there wasn’t any issue spotted. One of our play’s motives was to bring in a message about deforestation and soil erosion. My part was to recite a small poem and then talk about the benefits of coconut trees. I had at most 10 sentences to talk about and we were assigned a very strict teacher who held a stick in her hand, and whenever we forgot or suttered in between and if she lost patience she would give one…aiming our booty. So, I was damn scared of her, Damnnnn…while performing my part I forgot a line in between but still continued to perform in a flow…then i let out a slow hufffffff! The performance ended and automatically my eyes were searching for that one strict teacher but couldn’t spot her, one glare of her could choke me to death you know…that was how I felt about her. Then we got down from the stage and soon that teacher approached us with a bright smile…hahahaha! I was stunned when she hugged each one of us and patted our backs, applauded us and gave us a bunch of chocolates. After all this, I was in a full chillax mood, with pride and a smile on my face. Later I realized that ma’am wasn’t that mean to us, right? She’s actually a sweetheart indeed, who knew that a smile, an applause and chocolates could so easily capture a child’s heart hahahahaha! Shanmughi
- Just like every other student in this course, or at least in the beginning we all had this amazing dream of getting on a stage with a lot of efforts put into it, with those big lights on us, speakers blasting all along the performance and especially a bunch of audiences to watch us deliver what they came in for, and to end the performance with their applauses streaming through the entire auditorium, or at least this is how I imagine it. The first time that I have ever acted in a play, The Courtroom Drama, was through an online platform for our practicals during the end of our 2nd Semester, where I couldn’t completely experience the real wave of excitement that comes through with the real-time performance which makes it a hundred times more notable because of our lack resources, where honestly things can go terrible but we all made sure and tried out best to pull it together and surely enough, we gave our best. Overall, to be honest, it was a great adventure, where we bonded with each other through some silly five-six hours of practice every day, not being able to stick with one idea and changing it a million times to perfect it. Even though we had no expectations of where this led us to as performers, we had a great time together as actors as well as friends. I guess, these are the memories of our college life that we would cherish and hold on to and maybe brag a little about how we performed a theatre play through Microsoft Teams and that I would call myself an actor, proudly, after each of our performances, be it good or bad, everything is an experience and a stepping stone to our dreams. Vignaya.
- My first theatre experience was when I’m in my 12th standard. Before that I participated but that cannot be taken into consideration. For the cultural fest that happened in school, one of my friends planned for one Theatre performance and he directed the play. He told me to join him, without any hesitation I joined them. I asked him to give me the lead role for the play. He refused to give me that role, he knows I can do that role but he didn’t give me that role. He gave that lead role to one of my other friends. I don’t know what is the reason that he refused to give me that lead role, maybe ego. And he gave me the Assistant doctor’s role. Unwillingly I took that role and tried my best. The play was about “Nippa virus’ which is a disease that affected the people in Kozhikode, Kerala one year back. Here the doctors are finding the vaccine for the disease that is the theme of this play. The problem for my character is that the character has less dialogue. Finally, I performed my character on the stage. I performed it in a better way. There is one scene that I want to show my acting skill which means I want to show my facial expressions. I did that in a realistic way and I got applause from the audience. Without dialogue I could show my character role by body moments, through emotions, and face expressions. My friends told me that I did my role perfectly. Finally, Result announced our team didn’t get first. The reason that the play is directed in a way of film. There are certain differences between Theatre and Film. So, Here in the play there are more film aspects than play. There is only a small amount of theatre elements in this play that’s why the play didn’t win. That performance was a wonderful experience for me. It teaches me a lot. Got good memories as well as bad memories, everything and mainly knows about first theatre experience. People who were involved in this performance were in different fields. They are studying different professional courses. But meanwhile they are looking for film opportunities. Sadly, we have an ego clash and now they are against me and they are on their way and I’m on my way. While the clash was going on this guy who directed the play told me about this Theatre performance that I gave you this role just for the sake of generosity. This is what is on their side. Alan John.
- I will consider my performance in the summer of 2013 to be my first show. I had performed in various bits, some important and some unimportant previously. But it was in the break between fifth and sixth grade that I did something on a professional scale. The show was an adapted version of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. Since it was to be a full length play, many episodes of prologue were added. The rehearsals had started a few days before. I was a new face at the summer camp. And I was cast to be one among the narrators. I was doing it satisfactorily I guess, because I don’t clearly remember doing it because I did something unusual. We had already finished blocking the whole play. The director was now trying to extract more from a student who was playing one of the cheats. At one point, she became fed up and randomly asked if anybody of us would do it and show him. I quickly stood up and replaced him. I don’t know what happened, but she said, “You do this role, he will do yours.” Done. I was so so happy. From a character among a crowd, I had an individual character to play. Even though I had entry only in the first fifteen minutes, it demanded prominence. I was happy to have grabbed that part for myself out of nowhere. Surya.