Debating the Function of Theatre in the 1970s-90s as Discussed in Little Theatre Group’s Newsletter ‘Theatre News/ Stagedoor’
Influenced by western amateur theatre companies and repertory style productions, Inder Lal Dass founded the Little Theatre Group (LTG) in Lahore in 1946 and migrated to Delhi in 1947 following the aftermath of the partition of India. Translating and adapting Anton Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’, LTG made its debut in Delhi in 1948. Aimed at reconfiguring and building debate about the Delhi theatre scene in the 1950s, LTG started publishing a news bulletin called ‘Theatre News’, later renamed as ‘Stagedoor’, edited by Dass. Dass continued publishing this significant ephemera covering Delhi theatre scene up until 2004.
The two page bulletin usually consisted of two feature articles, a chit-chat column and an advertisement. The August 1978, issue of Theatre News discussed the function of theatre and revealed various views from different strands of society – to educate, to entertain, to moralise, to further state propaganda, to name a few. Endorsing the views of Dr. Shreeram Lagoo expressed in a lecture held at Lok Manch, Mumbai, the editor further explains, “it has to be realised that whatever may be the category of plays, the impact on the spectator should be in the form of an experience undergone. The spectator must feel something happening within him – and happening intimately. Every performance seen by him should add to his sum total of experiences”.
Continuing the quest to interrogate the place and role of theatre coexisting with new mass media in the larger ecosystem, in March 1991, Vol. 1 No. 35, Dass put across an abridged version of a discussion from ‘Education Through Art’ between actor, manager, organizer, art-goer, and the critic with the title – Theatre Alive or Dead? Answering the question the playwright says, “There is this barrier between the audience and the writer and actor, so that the docker can turn around and say the theatre is a place for snobs… Another point is that of government backing. It is tragic that we live in the sort of society where, let’s face it, art is just one of “those things” somewhere in the background of human activity”.39- Debating the Function of Theatre in the 1970s-90s as Discussed in Little Theatre Group’s Newsletter ‘Theatre News: Stagedoor’
Courtesy: Anand Gupt Collection/ Alkazi Theatre Archive