“It’s really amazing how Thespo has grown from a one-day event in 1999 to a week-long event with 5-6 major productions, 4-5 collaborative projects, 10-15 workshops, 6-7 short plays and a number of live music performances annually. 143 plays from 21 cities, registered this year. Things have definitely exploded!” says Quasar Thakore Padamsee, Co-Founder of Thespo.
I’d participated in a college competition in 1999, where a bunch of one-act plays were being showcased. Five minutes into the first play Saadia and I turned to my group and said, that’s it! We’ve already lost. The amount of talent exhibited in a one-act play by a group of amateurs from college was mind-blowing. It was better than most of the professional productions that I had seen over the past few years. My friend Christopher Samuel, and I came to the common conclusion, that good talent was being wasted at the amateur/college level. We wanted to give these people a platform to really showcase their talent. Take it to the public. Thus was born Thespo!
Tell us about your journey thus far…
We started off very small. We didn’t really know what we were getting into. Now the shows have become bigger. The kind of talent that we have seen and helped nurture is truly inspiring.
The youngsters who participate in the festival, are so full of fire. They are fearless, passionate, and a pleasure to watch.
Thespo is a festival run solely by young people – the under 25 crowd. The founders and I have a mere cursory, advisory role. In addition to being a showcase, we impart guidance and training in theatre. We have panel discussions with the artistes and talk about their production. Someone new to art can gain so much, just by listening to these talks. People come back to Thespo just for these interactions.
We have collaborated with artistes from all over the world, to showcase their art, work with our artistes, and impart training. In 2014, we put two together actor-writers from the UK, with an actor from Pune and a musician from Bombay. They went on to create a wonderful show called False 2-11.
What are the challenges you face?
Our biggest challenge has obviously been funding. That’s a given. We have been crowdsourcing our work for a while. It’s awfully difficult to get sponsorship.
One of the other challenges is managing consistency. With a transient group, especially considering how this festival is for the under-25 batch, people are always coming and going.
It’s a challenge to keep people interested in the arts. The possibility of this being a real career option, is still frowned upon by most families. And yet there’s a larger Thespo community now. Actors are making it in the Indian film industry. Our work shows! It is very gratifying to be able to share the successes of these new artists, to support them when they need it.
What would you like to #GetMore of?
We just want to get more eyeballs. We want to reach out to more people, to young artistes. We want theatre groups from cities to call us up and say, “We have ten plays for you!” We want Thespo to be a pan-Indian experience.
If you don’t know what theatre is, come spend some time with us. You may enjoy it, you may not. But come by. Let’s have fun! We have a large slogan in our office which says ‘Theatre Saves Lives’, and a lot of us truly believe in that!”