Are you heading to catch that new play, music gig or comic act in town? Be prepared that you may find yourself, watching the show, sitting on a chatai, a bean bag or simply on the floor in a factory, attic or a garage. Say hello to cool new art hubs in the country. Unconventional venues that are wowing audiences with their intimate setting and sheer uniqueness. Having minimal or no stage equipment or formal seating. Nothing like the traditional auditoriums and theatres that have existed since yore. They strengthen the belief that ‘the power of art lies in the space in which it unfolds’. Here’s a handpicked list of alternative performance spaces from across the country.

 Sitara Studio

Situated in Garage galli, Mumbai, Sitara Studio is a performance venue that functions out of a garage. A space that regularly hosts theatre, dance, art and music events. Their mezzanine level is reserved exclusively for artistes to rehearse. Currently, Sitara Studio is working on their pet project ‘Tamhini’ – a long-term initiative which will showcase hybrid and contemporary regional arts. 

Harkat Studios

A quaint bungalow that is now a multi-disciplinary boutique arts studio in the Mumbai suburbs. Founded by a collective team of artists including designer and filmmaker Karan Talwar, filmmaker Michaela Strobel, illustrator and street artist Harsh Raman and creative producer Iti Agarwal. During weekdays, Harkat Studios is a work space for artists and on weekends, it comes alive with performances. The current line-up of events here includes a farmer’s market, plays, storytelling, piano concert and a curated performance involving theatre, singing, debate and readings. The space will host its first film festival called The Harkat 16mm Film Festival. Experience sublime single take films captured on a 16mm camera, lasting for all of a minute.

Studio Tamaasha

A three bedroom house with a courtyard, Studio Tamaasha in Mumbai is the latest entrant in the list of alternative performance spaces in the country. Transformed last week into a venue for a photography presentation followed by a theatrical comic act based on an Urdu poetic satire. Started by revered theatre director Sunil Shanbag, it offers an intimate theatre space that can house 55 seats. Mumbaikars, can look forward to dramatised readings of short stories by Premchand, Manto and Chugtai among others this month onward. Shanbag’s Tamaasha Theatre is also working on a new play, specially curated for the studio.

The Conflictorium

The Conflictorium is a compelling space for art and culture in old Ahmedabad. A ‘museum of conflict’. An old Parsi haveli that is now a venue for artists and poets to display their work. Where people from all walks of life come together to start a dialogue on conflict. Poetry readings, artist workshops, book readings, artist residencies, film screenings and what have you. Created by designer and artist Avni Sethi, it is an archive of every conflict that has taken place in Gujarat whether it’s the 2002 communal riots or its separation from the Bombay Presidency in 1959.

Wandering Artist

Seven rooms, an open-air space and a living room form the culture hub at the Wandering Artist in Chennai. Started in January this year by artists Sriram Ayer and Kavery Poovanna, Wandering Artist has already hosted a number of live performances. From pottery and carpentry to music and theatre, you can learn the arts, talk about the arts and perform the arts at this lively art adda.

Our Sacred Space 

A postal sorting office in Secunderabad, has been transformed to an environmental and cultural centre. Founded by Odissi dancer Nayantara Nandkumar, the space serves as a platform for classical and folk art. Buzzing with classes in Odissi, Salsa, Bharatnatyam, Carnatic music, Ikebana, visual arts, meditation and yoga five days a week. On weekends, one can partake in classical dance shows, plays, dance dramas and talks by renowned personalities. A highlight of this space is its weekly organic farmer’s market.

TIFA Working Studios

Operating out of an institution of fine arts (TIFA – Talera Institute for Fine Arts), TIFA is situated in a 90 year old art deco hotel in Pune. Run by Trishla Talera, it has become the go-to space for artists in the city. Its unconventional setting houses rooms on two floors. Plays, art installations, music shows, open mics, film screenings, panel discussions, readings, rehearsals…you name the event and it happens at TIFA. The space also brings together young musicians and sound makers in town and hosts exclusive jam nights with them. This encouraging initiative called We’re Jammin’ is currently in its 4th edition.

The Loft Forum

The Loft Forum is yet another rubble rising from the architectural history of Pune city. Situated in a 100 year old restored building, the space functions out of an actual attic. Created and powered by architect Khushru Irani, this is that ideal cosy corner to tuck in with a book and a cuppa. A non-profit community organisation, The Loft regularly hosts talks, film screenings and live performances.

Kala Factory

An abandoned factory from the outside with a hidden theatre gem inside. So much so, that guests who arrived for a play aptly titled Karkhana , earlier this year, were left wondering if they had landed up at the wrong address. Brainchild of theatre director Nikhil Mehta, who has also directed Karkhana, Kala Factory is one more hatke performance venue that has cropped up in the capital.

LSD – Learn Something Different

According to co-founder and architect Manjari Sharma, the purpose of art and culture has shifted from engagement to entertainment. Alternate intimate platforms are the need of the hour. To ‘engage’ people in art once again. Hence, this little potter’s studio in Delhi, also functions as a performance space. Created for spiritual and healing evolution, LSD runs pottery, sculpture and art classes. It’s also serves as a stage for theatre performances, comic acts, film shows, music shows, talks and workshops.


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