Most people I know, when given a choice between watching a film or watching a play, will choose the film. I have tried getting friends to "convert", and have had to endure fidgets during the performance and accusing looks thereafter.
Wiser today, I have learnt a few gentle ways to break in others into the theatre experience. Sharing a few tips with you, I hope they come in useful if you too struggle to find company for play-watching as I do.
- If your friend cares for star power, pick out a play with well-known actors in it. It is much easier to convince a theatre newbie to watch Shabana Azmi’s version of Broken Images than Arundhati Raja’s.
Make sure you are aware of the contents of the play in advance and can rely on it to be to your friend’s taste.
I once made the mistake of persuading a friend who hates "abstract stuff" to watch Abhishek Majumdar‘s Lucknow ‘76. It was a decent enough show I thought, but by the time the cast began spouting Bengali my friend was tearing his hair out. He vowed never to touch another play with a barge pole again.
First impressions can be a deal-breakers. Now if only I had taken him to an Evam show the story might ended differently.
Choose a venue like the Kyra Theatre which combines dining with play-watching. Some people don’t want to go to the theatre as the whole thing of doors-shut-no-conversation is too overpowering to them. One can easily walk out of a movie one does not like, but not so comfortably quit a play.
Show them plays that do what films cannot do.
A frequent objection to theatre I hear is – when I can see better acting, superior production values and more sophisticated plots in films, why should I watch theatre?
Theatre has some attributes that films do not. Theatre is here and now. Counter the objections with plays that play up the plusses of being live. Go for Yours Truly’s The Common Man in which the audience decides the play’s dénouement. Go for And Sunshine Follows the Rain in which multiple actors enact a single part. Go for Bikhre Bimb in which a character converses with her alter-ego in a way never possible in film.
What has been your experience? Have you encouraged friends who do not watch theatre to try it out? Have you succeeded, and if so, what has been your "methodology"? Let us know through your comments.