(Image for Representation)
ITAHARI: Successful British playwright and theater director Edward Bond’s famous saying ‘I think there is no world without Theater’ is found aptly translated in the artistic scene of Itahari, an evolving city in East Nepal.
From poets to school-goers and from downtown homemakers to suburb kids, all are immersed in the theatricss euphoria in this transit town where roadways from east to west and south to north of eastern Nepal intersect.
However, Theater was not a household name before dynamic young Theater artist and director Sonu Jayanti threw his artistic weight behind the theatrics activism. A popular poet Manu Manjil was another heavyweight to propel this theatrics sensation in the town since a decade.
Of course, there were few scattered Theater activists in Itahari even before Sonu Jayanti gave his full-fledged time for this performance art. Shyam Bhai Gautam, Ramesh Kumar Bista, Basanta Subedi, Lekhnath Parajuli, Kalpana Chaudhari, Bhadra Thapa Magar, among others, were known Theater figures from this town.
Realizing their huge contribution and dedication, Sonu Jayanti hosted a cultural program titled ‘Tyi din’ (roughly translated as ‘those days’. Tyi din in, 2065 BS, featured catchy glimpses of theatrics performance, singing and dancing from these senior artists of the town.
‘It was our goal to display brief peek of plays, dance and songs in the past performed by our living veterans,’ explains Sonu Jayanti elaborating the cause of this unique cultural function and adds, ‘we accomplished our program beyond our expectations.’
Theater for all: from School Theater to Eco Theater
Multiple theatrics programs like ‘School Theater’, ‘Home Theater’, ‘Village Theater’ and ‘Eco Theater’ have been unveiled. School Theater accommodated school-goers to equip theatrics activities. Seventh edition of School Theater has been accomplished in 2019. Its first edition was initiated in 2066 BS.
Home Theater was for working mothers and professional women. More than 35 women have joined this category staging multiple plays, most recently about violence against women on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
Likewise, Village Theater has trained dozens of village children. Likewise, Eco Theater has mentored many dozens children on environmental concerns including climate change, global warming and deforestation through various dramas.
Expanding theatrics penetration in the town
Veteran Theater artists Abhi Subedi, Sunil Pokhrel, Ganesh Rashik among others have observed and praised the theatrics developments initiated by Kalalaya, the organization pioneered and presided by Sonu Jayanti.
Because of this expanding and encouraging theatrics activism, Theater penetration in Itahari is so deep and wide that almost every school send their children for School Theater and various social organizations like Jaycees and Women’s groups occasionally stage plays after training by Sonu Jayanti.
It has organized international theatrics function also. From 29 November to 4 of December 2019, Kalalaya organized a program titled ‘Antardesiya Sajha Rangamanch’ featuring a Theater group called ‘Krishnanagar Sinchan’ from West Bengal, India.
‘Artists are more important than Theater hall’
Despite such an appreciated public response on Theater, Sonu Jayanti does not buy the idea to erect a Theater hall for regular plays. ‘We have seen Theaters halls remaining unused.
Even the Gurukul in Biratnagar is not fully used as per its expectations’, explains Jayanti. ‘Therefore, we focus on skills not on structures. Structure will not be a problem if we have plenty of skilled Theater artists. Theater artists can survive without own Theater hall but Theater hall cannot breathe without artists.’
Jayanti, who is in Theater since 2049 BS, says three dozen young Theater artists produced by Kalalaya are strong assets to theatrics development in the town.
Poetic Theater and theatrics poetry
The important ingredient of theatrics plays in Itahari is that they accommodate poems. The play staging famous poem ‘Uni jeebanko rangle kawitaa lekhchhin’ (loosely translated as ‘She writes poetry by life’s color’) by poet Manu Manjil was widely appreciated by people and press. Most recently a poem called ‘Aama’ (mother) penned by poet Dewan Kirati was also staged on International Women’s Day’.
In this way, Kalalaya blends Theater with poetry and poetry with Theater drawing huge footfall. About blending poem and play, Sonu Jayanti says, ‘I guess Theater is an expansion of poetry and it is always enthralling to stage beautifully crafted poems’.
Unscripted and organic plays
Sonu Jayanti does not make formal script to mentor Theater enthusiasts. Instead, he guides the ideas pioneered by trainees with his imagination. ‘I don’t have a script on paper but I have imagination which I pour into our closed-door sessions, says this versatile Theater director.
‘Script is all about formality but the imagination is a kind of meditation and reality making best outcomes.’ ‘Because of this trend, we are supported by non-theatrics personalities of our town like Deepak Gautam, Rewati Dulal, UmeshSubedi, and the likes,’ he said.
‘Thinking global, playing local’
None of the plays staged by Kalalaya and its artists is of foreign origins. They stage plays made by locals and about local culture and traditions.
‘Without knowing our roots, we cannot be Theater activists and to portray this sentiment on plays, we search and stage organic dramas and organic stories,’ he explains.
We read foreign dramas and foreign trends also but stage our play in our own way and on our own stories, says Jayanti adding, ‘it is like thinking global, acting local.’