Community Media/MARAA/Projects/Theatre Jam
Theatre Jam is a completely non funded event initiated by Maraa, as an effort to engage with a variety of interests internally.
Firstly, it is an event meant for 'amateur' artistes of any description, to provide them with an enabling platform, where they can express themselves without fear or judgment, time limit, censorship or face intimidation or other stumbling blocks which struggling artistes face.
Secondly, the event is held in a public space wherein Maraa wants to make practical efforts to reclaim public places and public space, especially in a city like Bangalore, which is increasingly becoming fragmented. Once known as city of parks and gardens, our identity has now been reduced to IT city. How can we make better use of these now forgotten parks and gardens, and more over, can these spaces, in their present avatar, become inclusive of all kinds of communities, all kinds of expressions, to celebrate the true cosmopolitan diversity of Bangalore, and also at the same time celebrate the rich history and memories of the city?
Thirdly, Theatre Jam is an effort to look at how art practice can feed into what is popularly known as "development". Without adopting an van guard approach to our work, we want to investigate if the mere act of democratizing expression, and democratizing physical spaces, we can open doors of dialogue, and lead to some kind of healing, whether it is personal and individual, or whether it is towards building communities.
Started in October 2008, the event had a humble beginning in a farmhouse in Nelmangala, 20 kilometers outside Bangalore. It was clubbed together with a musical event for independent musicians from the city. As more theatre artistes and performers got to know about the event, the demand for holding the event in the city, grew steadily. Subsequently, the Jam has now moved to R. V Road in Jayanagar, one of the most beautiful avenues in the city, where 100s of old trees still shield the path from the sun. Each side of the road, has parks which are open to the public at all hours. We chose to hold the last three theatre jams on the 33rd Cross, one of the many parks on this road.
The Theatre Jam has been an unexpected surprise and to some extent a success. What started out as a mere theoretical idea/suggestion, took off from the word go. Even at the first event, with moderate publicity, we had about 4-5 performances by a variety of performers. Some known, others completely strangers, who just happened to read about this. Since then, its been a healthy track record of new performers every time, and we have to got to see some exciting new work. Many performances are still not finished, but performers have been happy to share it with a small audience any way. We have realized well and truly how frustrating and limiting it must be for performers in the city, without legitimate spaces to express.
What started out as a theatre event, has now opened out to all kinds of performances, be it poetry, dance, readings, story telling, impromptu performances, singing, folk music etc, it is all encouraged at this Jam.
What the Theatre Jam has not been able to accomplish so far has been the meshing of performers. We had hoped to see individuals from different walks of life getting inspired to work with each other, bringing out the best from them through their inter disciplinary interactions.
We had also hoped that the Theatre Jam would get local communities in each public space to come and be a part of the event, making it sustainable to some degree. For example, in R. V Road, we had hoped that the residents of Jayanagar area in Bangalore, would participate in these events, and eventually when we moved to another public space in another area, those residents would continue the Jam in their parks. Eventually, we had a vision of small Theatre Jams in each part of the city.
Lastly, we had also hoped that the event would be community managed and slowly Maraa would fade into the background as an observer, performer, participant etc. We were hoping that our role as facilitators would become redundant as more and more people felt ownership over the event and the concept.
All three haven't occurred yet, and we are okay with that, because we are currently given to believe that this is a slow process and all said and done, the Theatre Jam is only seven events old. Community Ownership takes some time as there are issues of trust, and benefits for the self, before any of these things happen. Having said that, we are quite thrilled at the vibrant response from people in this city, and are looking to consolidate this event as time progresses.
Feedback and more
All documentation of the various Jams with user comments and some pictures are available at the Theater Jam Blog