Masquerade (theatre group)

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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.

Company history[edit]

The early years[edit]

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.

The evolution[edit]

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,[1] 2000 production of David Mamet's Oleanna[2][3] and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night[4] (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[edit]

Later in 2004, 10 years after Masquerade's inception, when the group decided to found Chennai's first youth theatre group Landing Stage, Electra[1] 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.[5] 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.

Performances are social and community-oriented.[2] Masquerade introduced "Three @ Twenty", a community theatre initiative to promote new writers, in 2006.[3]

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.

Selected productions[edit]

Year Title Author Language Notes
2014 The Tearjerker Krishna Kumar, Dileep Rangan, Arvind Vyaas Bi-lingual (English & Tamil)
2014 The Island[6] 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)[7] 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[8] Franz Kafka English at Urban Mela, Chennai
2012 Kafkesque - shorts from Kafka for stage[9] Franz Kafka English 2012 World Theatre Day event
2011 The Frog Prince English
2011 BHOPAL Rahul Verma 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[10] 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[11] adapted from The Twilight Zone English
Charandas Chor Habib Tanvir English an MYT Production
JigSaw Multiple Authors English
2008 The Truth Mohan Narayanan English
2007 Thus Spake Shoorpanaka, So Said Shakuni[12][13] Poile Sengupta English World Theatre Day weekend event
2006 Wood Gautam Raja English as part of Gautam's Three[14]
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[15][16] William Shakespeare English [17]
2001-02 Twelfth Night[4] William Shakespeare English
1999-2000 Kafka's Dick[18] Alan Bennett English
1999 Medea Euripides 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


  1. ^ a b [A Classic Beginning][1]
  2. ^ a b "Acting and delivery carry the show". The Hindu. 3 August 2001. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  3. ^ a b "Fresh talent at play". The Hindu. 21 September 2006. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  4. ^ a b Roy, Elizabeth (8 February 2002). "The Hindu - An Evening with Shakespeare". The Hindu, Metro Plus.
  5. ^ Natak Archived 2014-06-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "WORLD THEATRE DAY". The Hindu. 2014-03-28. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  7. ^ "Mrichchakatika". 2013-03-17.
  8. ^ Opportunities, Germany and India Infinite. "Book Launch with Kaalachuvadu". Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  9. ^ "Chennai - Archive of projects and events - Goethe-Institut". Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  10. ^ Opportunities, Germany and India Infinite. "DRAMA-Log - Theatre Festival". Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  11. ^ Dystopia in Chennai, retrieved 2015-12-14
  12. ^ "Interrogating mythology". The Hindu. 2007-03-31. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  13. ^ "Thus Spake Shoorpanakha, So Said Shakuni". Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  14. ^ "Masquerade". Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  15. ^ "The Hindu : Metro Plus Chennai / Theatre : The Bard, Bollywood style". Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  16. ^ "The Hindu : Metro Plus Chennai / Theatre : The Bard and Bollywood". Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  17. ^ "The Bard and Bollywood". The Hindu. 28 September 2005. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  18. ^ "The Hindu : A fundamental right reinforced". Retrieved 2015-12-14.

External links[edit]

  • Official website