In April 2018, I was invited to get on board Readings in the Shed as Creative Editor by Nikhil Katara, the curator. The plan was to curate monthly dramatic readings at different performance venues in the city. Lack of experience of the medium, time commitment, fear of making an ass of myself…there were many reasons to decline. But, the opportunity to be a part of something from its nascence tilted the scales and I latched onto it.
In this last year, Readings in the Shed has dealt with text from different part of the world in a range of forms – plays, poetry, stories, letters and more. Experienced as well as new performers have brought their art and a little of themselves to our stage. New-age, alternative and makeshift spaces and age-old institutions have opened their doors to us. We have delighted in bringing new readers into our fold and jigged in glee at our growing list of regulars. It had been an enriching journey.
In this one year, we’ve had ten chapters…and there’s a lesson learnt in each one…
~ If there is a bottle of alcohol in act one you will have a drunk actor or two by end credits. Our version of Chekhov’s gun?
~ Don’t bother with visas, literature is the permit to cross any border. So, go off the beaten track…travel the world.
~ You can be sassy AND win the Nobel Prize, case in point Polish poet, Wisława Szymborska. Read her.
~ To see the story in history, open your eyes to fresh narratives… they taught us a lesson or two about our past.
~ Wine, hors d’oeuvres and stories make for a heady evening…if you are willing to give atypical spaces a chance.
~ If you write a 100 page letter to someone, make sure you hand deliver it personally… don’t be Kafkaesque!
~ Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of an audience, especially if it adds up to less than the number of fingers on your hand. We took heart in the seats we filled, not the ones that were left bare.
~ Fact is stranger than fiction, and thus it is only right that it is the basis of most fiction.
~ If you are only in sync with the universal tale, you will likely miss the single story, and for storytellers there is no bigger crime than that.
~ Give the writer his due. It’s his blood, sweat and tears on the pages. Reading with a license is not only a question of law, it is respect for an artist whose work you admire.
As we continue onwards to year two, there is much to celebrate and look forward to…here’s to more stories, more readings and more lessons.
By Himali Kothari