Masquerade (theatre group)
Masquerade - the Performance Group is a Chennai based English theatre group. It is one of the few theatre groups in Chennai that survive without commercial financial sponsorship or funding from business houses or the likes, backed by public faith and smaller donorships from patrons, parents of tweens and teens who pay for training workshops. Public performances are rarely priced and income from performances are invariably through hat collections, done consciously as a tool to gauge audience appreciation of the show.
Since 2000, the group has been extensively working with youth both at schools and through private workshops. Since 2009, through its youth & teen theatre initiative, Masquerade Youth Theatre (MYT), Masquerade has been conducting Camp Neuve, an annual three week summer workshop that trains teens between ages 13 and 19 years. This leads to an eventual production featuring the workshop participants. Since 2009, through its The Bear and Beanbag Children's Theatre, the group has also been involved in presenting story performance sessions to tweens ages 7 to 11, and in conducting theatre and story telling workshops for children in conjunction with hobby centers and after-school experience centers in Chennai.
The early years
Masquerade - the Performance Group was conceived in 1993 and launched in June 1994. It debuted with its first performance of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Elektra (English translation) at Sittrarangam, a little thatched-roof performance structure inside the Island Grounds that overlooks the War Memorial, near Anna Square.
Founded on the lawns of Max Mueller Bhavan (Chennai), at the Bhavan's Khader Nawaz Khan Road erstwhile premises, the group was a result of six individuals from various walks of society ranging from ballet dancing to accountancy, costume designing to teaching and research and their common passion towards live theatre art. In a city where English theatre happened originally among a few high-in-the-social ladder aficionado of theatre art then, Masquerade, in the company of a few of its ilk aspiring amateur English theatre youth groups, strove to erase an elitist view of English theatre in Chennai.
With inspirational support from the late Herr Klaus Schindler (then Director) and Herr Franz Xaver Augustin (then Language Dept Head) at Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai, Masquerade's first theatre performance was an experimental adaptation of Austrian playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Elektra. To further foster Masqerade's theatrical vigour, under their artists' support program, Masquerade's Artistic Director was sponsored to an internship at Oldenburg Staatstheater with ITI Berlin extending an artist stipend. In its early years, during the 1990s, many of Masquerade's productions were German plays performed in English. Besides Hofmannsthal's Elektra (1994), the group added Duerrenmatt's Romulus the Great (Ides of March 1995 production); Incident at Twilight by the same author (September 1994); and a retro trip through modern and contemporary German drama featuring seminal excerpts from Wedekind's Spring Awakening, Buechner's Leonce and Lena, Brecht's Arturo Ui and Botho Strauss's plays (June 1995), Buechner's Leonce and Lena (1997), Guenther Grass's The Plebeians Rehearse Their Uprising (1998) and The Broken Jug (Kleist) to its German-based repertoire.
In the year 1998, the group also produced Bertolt Brecht's two Lehrstuecke - The Measures Taken and He Who Said Yes, He Who Said No. The group predominantly worked on the lawns of Max Mueller Bhavan for its rehearsals during this period. Although the group produced several other works of drama literature from English playwrights, such as Confusions (Alan Ayckbourn) and The Ruffian on the Stair (Joe Orton), during this period, the influence of German literature and theatre is evident in its performance style. This had more to do with its Artistic and Creative Director, Dr. S. Krishna Kumar, who spent major periods of his training and learning in Magdeburg, Berlin and Oldenburg, Germany.
Through the 1990s and the early part of the new millennium, the group had a staggering output of around 50 productions (200+ performances), story performances and performative story readings for children, a vast body of poetry readings in conjunction with the Culture Cafe - British Council, Chennai, and collaborations with virtually every local English and parallel Tamil theatre group. Masquerade's members had also exhaustively lent their hands in support to travelling domestic and international repertories in a technical as well as backstage capacity. In 2003, Masquerade hosted Curtain Raiser's Kandor (from Malta) featuring the duo of Patrick Vella and Claire Agius, who travelled to India from Edinburgh Fringe and performed in Chennai and Cochin.
At the turn of the century, the group had three very notable productions to its credit. Its 1999-2000 production of Alan Bennett's Kafka's Dick, 2000 production of David Mamet's Oleanna and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (in collaboration with the India's oldest amateur English theatre group the Madras Players, 2002) underlined the group's status of an important English theatre group of the city.
The new millennium
Later in 2004, 10 years after Masquerade's inception, when the group decided to found Chennai's first youth theatre group Landing Stage, Electra was again the debut performance.
Masquerade has currently completed 20 seasons and is close to 80+ productions. The group has branched off into supporting the growth of teen and tween theatre activity in the city, with its Masquerade Youth Theatre (2009) and the Bear & Beanbag Children's Theater (2010).
Masquerade was instrumental in setting up and promoting Natak, an inter-collegiate theatre festival. The first season of Natak was in 2000, which saw participants from various city colleges. The following year saw entries from colleges across India. Students were given the platform to design, plan and execute the entire production. Students were provided professional support by the Masquerade team in areas of light and sound design and execution, as well as with backstage support and planning. A stipend was paid to the teams to minimize the financial burden. A standard set of lights and sound equipment, paid for by Masquerade, was made available to the teams in designing their shows.
Natak gave the first platform for many of Chennai's emerging talent, several of whom were active performers on Chennai's stage as well as its famed film industry - Kollywood today. These included Abhinav Suresh (Crea-Shakthi), Nikhila Kesavan (the Madras Players), Aruna Ganeshram (Visual Respiration) and Andrea Jacob (actress). A majority of stage to screen acting talents of today's Tamil film industry have had a brush with Masquerade's theatre oeuvre at some point or other. These include Karthik Kumar (Evam), Karthik Srinivasan (TMK) (Sideways), Shankar Sundaram (the Madras Players), Paul Mathew, Yog Japee (theatre Y), Mathivanan Rajendran & Rajiv Rajaram (Stray Factory) and RJ/TV anchor Jagan.
An important feature of the group's presence is its celebration of World Theatre Day on 27 March, each year. Since 2002, the group has celebrated the special day with a performance or hosting a production for another company or curating a festival, as they did in 2010 with "ACT 1", a festival of solo performances featuring some of the city's best performers across Tamil, English and Hindi theatre.
|2014||The Tearjerker||Krishna Kumar, Dileep Rangan, Arvind Vyaas||Bi-lingual (English & Tamil)|
|2014||The Island||Athol Fugard||English||2014 World Theatre Day event|
|2013||Over the Table - an evening of monologues for actors||Several||English|
|2013||In the Kingdom of Foolish||a folk tale adaptation||Multilingual (English, Tamil & Hindi)||an MYT Production|
|2013||Mrichchakatika (The Little Clay Cart)||Bhasa||English||2013 World Theatre Day event|
|2012||A Temporary Matter||Jhumpa Lahiri||English||for The Madras Players at the MPTF 2012 Festival|
|2012||Vaternalia - short stories adapted for stage||Franz Kafka||English||at Urban Mela, Chennai|
|2012||Kafkesque - shorts from Kafka for stage||Franz Kafka||English||2012 World Theatre Day event|
|2011||The Frog Prince||English|
|2011||The Wizard of Oz||L. Frank Baum||English||A BnB production for children|
|2011||DRAMA-LOG (Edition 1) - festival of college / campus theatre||English||in association with Goethe Institut, Chennai|
|2010||Brer Rabbit Chronicles (adaptation from Enid Blyton)||a free workshop adaptation||English||an MYT Production|
|2010||Bloodlines - A Tudor Story||Krishna Kumar & Ramya Mukund||English|
|2010||Arjumand - the story of Taj||Krishna Kumar & Shakila||English|
|2010||Incestuous Bastard, a.k.a. Zeus' Lovers||Krishna Kumar & Anjana Menon||English|
|2010||The Coffin is Too Big for the Hole||Kuo Pao Kun||English|
|2010||Act 1 - A Festival of SOLO Performances||Multiple||English, Tamil & Hindi||World Theatre Day 2010 event|
|2009||Women in Black - 1 Comedy||English|
|Dystopia||adapted from The Twilight Zone||English|
|Charandas Chor||Habib Tanvir||English||an MYT Production|
|2008||The Truth||Mohan Narayanan||English|
|2007||Thus Spake Shoorpanaka, So Said Shakuni||Poile Sengupta||English||World Theatre Day weekend event|
|2006||Wood||Gautam Raja||English||as part of Gautam's Three|
|Parrots Lies||Andreas Marber||English||as part of Gautam's Three|
|Deep Freeze||Gautam Raja||English||as part of Gautam's Three|
|Pub Crawl||Gautam Raja||English||as part of Gautam's Three|
|Damini the Damager||Gautam Raja||English||as part of Gautam's Three|
|2005||A Midsummer Night's Dream||William Shakespeare||English|||
|2001-02||Twelfth Night||William Shakespeare||English|
|1999-2000||Kafka's Dick||Alan Bennett||English|
|1998||The Measures Taken & He Who Said Yes, He Who Said No||Bertolt Brecht||English|
|1997||Leonce and Lena||Georg Buechner||English|
|1995||Romulus the Great||Friedrich Duerrenmatt||English|
|1994||Incident at Twilight||Friedrich Duerrenmatt||English|
|1994||Elektra||Hugo von Hofmannsthal||English|
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