When The Stage Is Mine: The role of theatre on social change

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Dhaka Lit Fest 2016’s only panel discussion on theatre titled, “When The Stage Is Mine,” was held at lawn on the second day of festival, which featured theatre actors and activists who shed light on theatre’s propensity and direction. Moderated by Bonna Mirza, it featured the likes of Sara Zaker, Mita Rahman and Samina Luthfa Nitra.

Sara Zaker, renowned actor, theatre activist and member of Nagorik Natya Sampradaya, started the discussion making an evaluation the country’s theatre scene in the last three decades. She said, “Even though the audience of theatre has decreased noticeably over the period, the system has developed some talented stage directors and artists who have come up with new ideas to renovate the scene.”

Mita Rahman, a member of repertoire StageOne feels that “the limited scope and absence of room to manoeuvre within a group may lead many to form repertoire which is best as it has no creative boundaries.”

Samina Luthfa Nitra, an Oxford graduate and one of the founding members of BotTala, prescribed a way to make country’s theatre well attended globally. In her words, “To attain global attention, playwright and actors should refurbish their works with forms and elements which has appeal on international stage.”

When asked if theatre could be a tool to change society, Nitra replied, “As a tool theatre can not change society alone, it needs some other components essentially. It could be a catalyst to change.”

All the speakers agreed on the notion that the country’s troupes do not own space where a plays could be staged and this could lead the troupes to go self-censored sometimes.

Nitra revealed that most recently some troupes faced problems while staging a play at venue owned by the state. They could not act as social activist.

Mita Rahman said, “Theatre activists should have opinion on social issues if they feel it.” Sara Zaker’s opinion on the matter slightly differs from others as she believes, “A theatre activist can play enough influence within stage.”