Using Dramaturgy is an extended training and development programme that seeks to promote the practice of dramaturgy in the context of Indian theatre making.
The Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavans Bangalore and Kolkata have long been closely associated with the theatre culture in their respective cities. While acting, directing and music are skills that are often the focus and the need for dramaturgs and an interest in the profession has been much discussed in recent years, this is the first concerted attempt at a formal introduction to the concept, its principles and its application in India.
The contact with German dramaturgs via various engagements added to the curiosity around the role of the dramaturg and how it could be applied to the Indian theatre ecosystem.
Sophia Stepf (Artistic Director, Flinn Works)and Jehan Manekshaw (Head of School, Drama School Mumbai)developed Using Dramaturgy as a response to this need, and as the seed of an ongoing exploration and application of the practice of dramaturgy, in the subcontinent.
In the first phase, twenty-four theatre theatre practitioners participated in one of two 10-day residential workshops at Arts Acre in Kolkata and at Visthar in Bangalore. These workshops were held at the end of 2019; for a peek into what transpired and what was discussed and debated watch the video.
In 2020, plans for the second and third phases of this project had to be adapted to the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic. While 24 interim projects were planned (where each participant worked as a dramaturg on a production in rehearsals) there are now fewer, and some conceptual projects, for the dramaturgs-in-training to work on. Professional dramaturgs from Germany (Martine Dennewald, Sandra Umathum, Felizitas Stilleke, Max-Phillip Aschenbrenner and others) work as mentors to these individuals. Those that complete their projects and submit a report on their dramaturgical engagement will receive a small stipend from the Goethe-Institut Bangalore.
In parallel, there is an ongoing lecture series with dramaturgs and theatre makers from around the world (Jocelyn Clarke, Mwenya Kabwe, Daniel Wetzel, among others), who will share their insights and perspectives with the group. This ensures that the participants' dramaturgical skills are being honed, and enriched with global perspectives.
We invite you to view the biographies of the participants below. And we hope you will reach out to any one of them if you are interested in working with a trained dramaturg in your rehearsal room.
Sophia Stepf holds an MA in dramaturgy from the Leipzig University of Music and Theatre. She has been working as a director, dramaturg and curator for 20 years and is the artistic director of the company Flinn Works (Berlin). She has a broad experience of working in India (e.g. for Ranga Shankara, National School of Drama, Prithvi, FLAME, Theatre Professionals), often in collaboration with the Goethe-Instituts in India.
Götz Leineweber holds a degree in cultural anthropology and philosophy from the University of Cologne and got a postgraduate degree in cultural journalism at the University of Arts, Berlin in 2004. Since 2004 he has been working as a dramaturg, first at Volksbühne (2004-07), Schauspiel Köln (2007-2013) and Residenztheater Munich (2013-2019). Since 2015 he has taught 'Theatre History and Dramaturgy' at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.
Jehan Manekshaw is the Head of School at Drama School Mumbai and co-founder of Theatre Professionals. Jehan leads pedagogy and course design for the 30 faculty and guest faculty, comprising some of the most notable names in Indian Theatre. He has co-designed and developed bespoke drama-in-education programmes for schools, has co-designed workshops and training in pedagogical methods for Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan in India and has taught as guest faculty at universities and performing arts institutions across the country and abroad. He holds an MFA in Theatre Direction from Birkbeck College, University of London and a BA in Theatre and International Relations from Wesleyan University, CT, USA.
Amba is an actor-director based out of Delhi. With a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Acting from LAMDA, she has performed in and directed plays in India and abroad. Her recent directorial ventures include Futureproof by Linda Radley (2017), The Infant by Oliver Lansley (2013) and Agamemnon by Steven Berkoff (2012).
As an actor, she has performed in her own plays as well as in several Shakespeare plays such as As You Like It (Delhi), A Winter’s Tale (Delhi), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Crystal Shakespeare Ensemble, Wales) and is currently involved in two projects - The Raveling (Walkabout Theatre, Chicago) and Sonnets (Guild of the Goat, Delhi).
She is the founder and artistic director of Guild of the Goat, a theatre company based in Delhi.
Gautam Sarkar is a playwright, director and actor based in Kolkata. While his primary interest is in the theatre, he has also gained significant experience in camera work as both an actor and director. He has been working in the theatre since the early 90s, with plays in Delhi, Allahabad, Bangalore and Kolkata. His most recent credits include Yasmina Reza’s Art, (which he also directed), Don - Takey Bhalo Lagey (directed by Sujan Mukhopadhyay) and Sodanonder Songsar (directed by Srinath Pal).
Additionally, he has worked in Theatre Ocean Nord and at the Summer University in Brussels and has also authored a book of Bengali poetry titled Naroke Parobaas (2019) published by Chhona Prokashani, Kolkata.
In 2010, Mr. Sarkar was awarded a Junior Research Fellowship from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India on ‘Reflection of Subaltern of Neo-liberalization Era in Modern Bengali Theatre’.
Janardan Ghosh is a Senior Research Fellow with the Dept. of Sanskrit and Philosophy, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, Belur and is faculty in the Dept. of Communication and English there. He is also core faculty for Dept. of Drama in Surendranath College, Calcutta University, Kolkata and resource person for Dramatics in MCKV School, Liluah. He was a Trainer and Performance Designer for Padatik Theatre, Kolkata.
Presently, he is a Creative Director of Culture Monks, Kolkata and Secretary & Founder Director, Organization to Give Life a Meaning, (OGLAM) Bally, Howrah. He is also the Sub Editor of the Bengali Theatre Journal, Natyameva. He often delivers as the resource person for training and grooming performers, professionals, executives, teachers and young people. He is a freelance actor (theatre and films), a filmmaker and an enthusiastic dramaturg. He is engaged in intercultural dialogues, contemporary performance art, ‘katha-koli’ renditions and spiritual explorations.
Mohsina Akhter is an independent theatre practitioner from Bangladesh. In this capacity, she acts, designs (sets, lights and costume), and directs. She also teaches as an adjunct faculty at the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Dhaka; and Department of Theatre, Jagannath University. A founder member of a professional theatre company named Spardha, Mohsina holds two MA degrees in theatre studies from the University of Dhaka and the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS, Moscow). Her second degree from GITIS is in theatre direction.
Her recent performance credits include an adaptation of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens's titled Aleya Twist (costume designer), Shahidul Zahir's Jiban O Rajnaitik Bastabata (actor, costume designer and dramaturg), a Bangla translation of Abhishek Majumdar's Rizwan (actor and assistant director), a Bangla translation of Mohan Rakesh's Ashad Ka Ek Din (costume designer), Rabindranath Tagore's Shesh Raksha (director, set designer), and a Bangla translation of Clifford Odets' Waiting for Lefty (director, set and light designer).
Navamita has been involved in theatre since 2015, with her troupe Dramatically Correct.
She has significant experience in facilitating productions and street plays to create awareness on various issues like Women’s oppression, Menstrual hygiene, Disabilities etc., many of which were in collaboration with NGOs and organisations like DITO, Nirman Foundation and Youth 4 Jobs Foundation.
Under the mentorship of writer and thespian Shuddhasatya Ghosh, she has dabbled in the art of Brechtian Theatre, bringing on stage real life incidents of rape that concerned her troupe, engaging with the audience in the auditorium in between scenes to create dialogue on the issues of systemic gendered oppression. She has also worked with troupes like The Red Curtain and Bibhaban-The Experimental theatre troupe.
In 2018 and 2019, she had visited Yangon, Myanmar, to conduct a month-long, workshop-based theatre course for the students of The Pre-Collegiate Program of Yangon, which ended in public productions by the students.
A graduate of Theatre Technique and Direction from the National School of Drama, Nikita started her journey in theatre at her summer school, the Hamilton School of Arts in Edinburgh. She is extremely passionate about Gender Politics, Identity Construct, Green Living and Mindfulness and works around these themes in her art too. She believes in the power of Immersive experiences and looks at her audience as active participants, rather than passive spectators. When she is not curating experiences, she spends her time in the mountains, working on zero plastic projects in schools and practicing sonic healing techniques. She is a student of the Baul tradition and Tibetan Sound Healing practices. She is currently preparing for her MPhil in Performance Studies from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.
Padma is a Mumbai-based actor, director, writer and trainer. She has her own theatre production company, Red Earth Stories, and directed and acted in its first production, Yasmina Reza’s The Unexpected Man. Her latest film, Aani Mani, written and directed by Fahim Khan, and which she acts in, opened at the Jio Mami Film Festival in October 2019. She has also directed Given, by Shivam Sharma, which deals with male child abuse, for the Writer's Bloc festival organised by Rage Productions Mumbai and the Royal Court Theatre UK. In London, she wrote, directed and produced a theatre-burlesque-clubbing show, Black Snow. She has also written and performed her solo play, Motipori: the Magic of Me. She has also written the screenplay for and acted in the film Parindey, produced by Lok Sabha Television and shot in the women's prison in Tihar Jail.
Padma has a Master’s degree in Acting from East 15 Acting School UK. She is a founder/co-convener of the Drama School, Mumbai. A former business journalist, she is also a trained singer and dancer.
Radhika Chopra is a trained actress and writer with a B.A. in Theatre and Gender & Sexuality Studies from Sarah Lawrence College, New York. As part of her undergraduate training she has also studied at The British American Drama Academy - a theatre conservatory situated in London.
She currently lives in Bombay where she runs a theatre company called Tricycle Productions under which she has co-devised an adaptation of Ismat Chughtai’s Lihaaf for the stage which opened at Prithvi Theatre in 2016 as part of Thespo18.
Her repertoire includes acting collaborations with theatre companies across Bombay such as The Company Theatre, Patchworks Ensemble, AkVarious etc. She has also worked on short films and TVCs for Airtel, Society Tea, Fbb etc.
Further, she teaches Theatre and Culture Studies at Whistling Woods International, Mumbai and at various non-profit and education spaces across Kolkata. She is currently co-writing her first feature film.
Shakir Tasnim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Performing Arts, Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi. He started his career in theatre from SRC, New Delhi and later obtained his Master’s degree in Theatre Arts from University of Mumbai in the year 2005. He did his M. Phil on “Impact of Epic Theatre on Urdu Drama” from JNU, New Delhi in 2012. In 2018, he was awarded the scholarship to attend Odin Week Festival (under Eugenio Barba & Roberta Carreri) organized by Odin Teatret, Holstebro, Denmark in 2018.
He has acted and directed plays like Madhyam Vyayog, Ashadh Ka Ek Din, Panchhi Aise Aate Hain, Enemy of the People, Rise and Fall of City of Mahogany, Ankahi Shuruaat, Court Martial, Waiting for Godot, Saari Raat, Doosra Adhyay among others and has worked with eminent theatre practitioners such as Waman Kendre, Devendra Raj Ankur, Anamika Haksar, Hema Singh and Mushtaq Kak.
Sigma is a theatre maker from Raipur, Chhattisgarh who works primarily in Hindi, English and Chhattisgarhi. Daughter of eminent theatre personalities Anita-Vibhash Upadhyay, Sigma is an alumnus of Madhya Pradesh School of Drama, Bhopal.
Her key credits include Arsenic and old lace, Yayati, A Woman Alone, Baatein, Hamu ta Manasa re, Harsingar, Seven Steps around the Fire, Mricchkatikam among others. She has worked closely with directors Sanjay Upadhyay, Vibhash Upadhyay, R'jesh Bali, Mahesh Dattani, Alok Chaterjee, Alakh Nandan, Kanhaiya Lal Kaithwas and Devendra Raj Ankur, to name a few.
She is a learner and voracious reader who hates cooking.
Sukriti is a theatre director based out of New Delhi. With a Master’s Degree in Performance Studies from Ambedkar University, she has directed over a dozen productions, including Enter At Your Own Risk - A play in a few scenes showing sanity and insanity performed by the actors as inmates of the National Paagalkhaana – By Order of Toba Tek Singh a play based on Sa’adat Hasan Manto’s stories Khol Do, Sharifan,Toba Tek Singh and Thanda Gosht; Noon Chai, an adaptation of the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Agla Station Lok Kalyan Marg Hai, a devised experimental play based on Rajesh Joshi’s poetry.
In 2018, she penned her thesis ‘Performance as transformation: Exploring questions of friendship, desire and community (affinities) in women’s collegiate theatre practices in Delhi’, under the supervision of Gargi Bharadwaj and guidance of Dr. Anuradha Kapur.
She has an active interest in Theatre of the Oppressed, having worked with groups like Vikalp Kriya (a Delhi-Mumbai based organisation exploring sustainable alternatives and practicing cultural expression and action), the Centre for Community Dialogue and Change, Bangalore and with Jaya Iyer (Founder, Lunar Energy, a Delhi-based theatre, environment and cultural collective).
Yengkhom Boycha studied his post-graduation from the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics in 2015, after which he was exposed to practice-based Art teaching pedagogy at the School of Culture and Creative Expression, Ambedkar University.
On finishing his M.A Literary Arts from Ambedkar University, he attended a year's residential course in dramatic arts at the NSD, Sikkim. Inspired by the theatre and cultural groups like The Freedom Theatre, Jenin, he is venturing into forming an artist’s collective in Imphal.
He recently devised a short performance on sexual violence and impunity supported by Zuban publication.
Currently he is collaborating with Akhoka and Umbilical Theatre and simultaneously exploring with the groups, the concept and practice of 'theatre in education’ within the context of the prevailing primary and secondary schooling system in Manipur.
Akhshay Gandhi is a Theatre performer, director & writer engaged in “creating theatre” and “researching performance practices”. Founder & Artistic Director of Still Space Theatre, Bangalore. As actor, he has worked in productions as varying from realistic work to movement performances. As theatre maker, he prefers collaborative & inter-disciplinary approaches driven by extensive research & exploration to devise the performance. An alumni of Odin Teatret, Denmark & SITI Company, NYC, he has also received training in theatre at Indian Ensemble, Adishakti & Theatre Professionals and movement training with Veena Basavarajaiah. His recent work performed in multiple venues in Bangalore, Mumbai & USA, includes, Kaavad Katha, Clearing the rubble, In Place of..., Faustus’s Dream & Burn my Diaries.
Asim Siddiqui is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Azim Premji University Bangalore. In his work as a teacher, researcher and socio-cultural worker, he works towards issues of cultural and ecological justice by drawing upon various philosophical traditions from India and outside, in terms of both intellectual and embodied practices. His doctoral research and current educational experiments have been in developing an aesthetic-contemplative pedagogy for engaging with contemporary socio-political issues. Outside University, he does dramaturgy, consultancy and experiential education workshops for various art and developmental organizations. In his previous avatar, he has worked with NGOs and technology start-ups, along with getting an undergraduate degree from IIT Delhi.
Ayesha Susan Thomas is an Applied Theatre Practitioner who works primarily at the creative intersections of education, gender and sexuality.
Until June 2019, she taught IBDP/IGCSE Theatre at Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai.
She has also worked as a workshop facilitator, dramaturge (The Inspire Passion Project 2014), and director on a range of projects.
In a former life, she curated the Literature section at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival Mumbai, and performed as a Christmas Elf at an amusement park near Bradford. She has an MA in Theatre and Global Development from the University of Leeds, UK and a BA in English Literature from the University of Mumbai.
Basav is an independent researcher, writer, documentary film maker and theatre maker. He also teaches courses in theatre and film studies in Azim Premji University in Bengaluru. He is deeply interested in history, performing arts and cinema. On weekends, he conducts heritage walks and tours via his travel group titled Historywallahs.
He started as an actor in theatre and then trained in Playwriting and direction. His most recent theatre production was the Kannada adaption of Lutz Hubner’s German play “Creeps” titled “Crazy Girls Season One”. His first documentary film was on the making of the play Muktidham. He lives in Bengaluru. In his previous life, he worked in the technology world for 13 years.
Irawati is a writer of short fiction, translator and playwright. She has written plays like Gasha, Satellite City and C Sharp C Blunt. Her Marathi plays include Teech Ti Diwali, Mrugacha Paus, Vadani Kavala Gheta and Chhapa Kata which performed over 200 shows across Maharashtra. She was dramaturg on the award winning Kaumudi and co-wrote Thook and Sex, Morality and Censorship. Irawati’s translations have been published by Oxford University Press. She is part of the core faculty at The Drama School Mumbai, where she heads Research & Praxis. Her free-lance work includes research and documentation of Indian Contemporary Art. She occasionally takes on work as an illustrator.
Kalyani has extensive experience in theatre in education and has been teaching drama in the classroom for more than 17 years. She has taught in mostly in international schools and also designed Drama curriculums for several other schools as well in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi.
In recent years she has started to deliver a program Using Drama for Learning to primary and middle school teachers. The program enables regular teachers to use drama activities to teach other subjects.
She has been conducting these trainings for the past 3 years in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi.
Kalyani has also facilitated several theatre workshops with NGO’s like Sneha, Akshara, and Apnalaya working with victims of domestic violence, youth groups and children of parents infected by HIV.
Nisha Abdulla is a playwright and director based out of Bangalore. She began her artistic journey with writing shorts, as well as training and performing in Playback and Theatre of the Oppressed, followed by acting roles in both classical and devised productions. In the last few years, she has focused entirely on playwriting and direction. Her playwriting credits include Mi’raj (produced by Indian Ensemble Studio), Blue is the Color I cry (long-listed at The Hindu Playwright Award 2017), Big Pink Sky and Two Degrees (plays for young audiences). Her directorial credits include Koottu (non-verbal, for young audiences), Ashk Neele Hain Mere (performed in Hindustani), and Orchestra on the Moon (an experiment of textual and physical theatre). Nisha is also Artistic Director of Qabila, a collective that has been focused on finding a more deeply considered artistic resistance to the current climate of socio-political polarisation.
Tanvi Shah is a multi-lingual theatre maker from Bombay, India. She has worked as director, writer and adaptor, documenter of oral narratives and archivist of theatre history, dramaturg, curator of arts experiences, Indian folk dancer, and conductor of literary encounters. She has worked – as apprentice, as collaborator – with theatre organisations like CRY HAVOC Company (New York), The Woodstock Players (New York), Tamaasha and Arpana Theatres (Mumbai), Junoon Theatre (Mumbai), and Indian Ensemble (Bangalore). She was one of seven individuals trained under Indian Ensemble’s Directors’ Training Programme 2017 – ’18. She received a Trust scholarship from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – ranked in world top five for performing arts education – and graduated with a Masters in Theatre Directing (Classical and Contemporary Text) in September 2019. She was one of four directing students selected for the course. The Masters included a month-long residency at Shakespeare’s Globe, London that culminated in a mainstage directorial showcase.
She approaches theatre – a form that encompasses all her preoccupations – as an investigation into identities, histories, languages, and perspectives.
Venkatesh Prasad is an actor and director of Kannada theatre based in Bangalore. The notable plays he has directed include a Kannada adaptation of Chekov’s Cherry Orchard and Vijay Tendulkar’s Mitrachi Ghoshta, adapted to Kannada as Ondu Preetiya Kathe. In both cases, he translated the work himself, another of his skills.
In addition, he has been a part of Samudaya and Ranga Shankara for many years - directing, coordinating and acting in their various productions, tours and festivals.
He is the Artistic Director of the Bangalore Theatre Collective.
Vikrant Dhote is a performer, writer, and filmmaker. He has a B.A in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and has studied at the London International School of Performing Arts.
His performance work includes Shikhandi - The Story of the In-Betweens (nominated for Best Supporting Actor and winner of Best Ensemble at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2018); 07/07/07 (Best Ensemble at META 2016). His solo theatre show Dekho Magar Pyaar Se was developed through the Gender Bender Grant (supported by Goethe-Institut and Sandbox Collective) awarded in 2015. He was creative producer for ivo theatre's Outrageous! (Mumbai 2017, London 2018) which commissioned and curated queer-themed performance work by queer artists.
His first short film, Any Other Day (writer, co-director, actor) won the Best Emerging Director Award at KASHISH MIQFF, the APQFFA Best Short Film Award in Taiwan in November 2017, and was shortlisted for the Toto Funds the Arts Awards 2016. His second short film, Ajay (developed through The Humsafar Trust Media Fellowship) won Best Narrative Short at KASHISH MIQFF 2018, and was a finalist at the IRIS Prize (Cardiff, 2018).
Vishnu is a theatre practitioner based out of Bangalore. He has close to 10 years of experience as an Actor and Director and is currently a Playwright in training. Most of his work dabbles with themes of epistemology, philosophy of – politics, science and mathematics; and thought experiments in futurisms. His influences are from folk and classical forms of Kerala, Khayal, poetry of Kunjan Nambiar and Graphic Science fiction Novels. He works primarily in Hindi, Malayalam and English and hopes to create work in Manipravalam one day. His formal training in theatre is from Indian Ensemble’s Directors Training Program and Bhasha Centre’s Playwrighting Program.
His preoccupations include conceptualizing work that removes the rigidity of norms of performance and observations and create interactions in performance spaces, creating performances/simulation around our experience of urban spaces, equilibriums in economies and game theory. Any bio of his is incomplete without mentioning his love for Liverpool FC.