Thespo 11 - Festival Report

Basically Speaking…

Thespo 11 taught us that things not going as planned is not always bad. Sneha Nair sums up the 11th year of the Premier Youth Theatre Festival.

2 venues, 4 plays, 6 workshops, an International Seminar, a free-for-all film club, an International children’s play created especially to be staged during Thespo, daily live bands and platform performances. That sums up this year’s ‘Back-To-Basics’ festival.

Somewhere along then line we realised that explaining the above as a ‘basic’ Thespo would be rather strange. So we called it Thespo 11 – Theatre Andar Baahar. And all our gift bags were recycled bags not because we had a Zero Budget DĂ©cor and Design (ZeBuDD) plan, but because we were recycling. Mumbai Mirror called us a Potluck Festival and put up a fabulous picture of us glowing in the warmth exuded by rice lights – borrowed from one of the several angelic theatre groups that added to our ZeBuDD cause. How sweet!

The Thespo 11 budget around the time of our Orientation Meetings (in July) started out as a 7 figure sum, drastically descending – almost crashing – into 6, hovering around 5 for a while but finally coming to a screeching halt somewhere in between. Of course, the festival grew, almost unaware of our accounts department’s woes. Urban Myth, an Australian theatre group that works with young adults between the ages 18 – 25 had by now created a festival of their own within Thespo, with a non-competitive entry, a collaborative 15 minute performance with 7 Aussie and 7 Indian actors and a workshop and seminar for theatre trainers. A theatre producer from Sydeny, Nell Ranney on her trip to India, stayed to do a Stage Management workshop and a performance-oriented Light and Shadow workshop that lasted over 2 weeks. Jelena Budimir, Associate Director at Chickenshed Theatre, UK contacted us two weeks before her trip to India to ask us if we would like a workshop on Decoding Shakespeare. No points for guessing. We said, that would be lovely, thank you very much.

Keeping with our theme of theatre andar-baahar, we added a set design workshop to the list and Dhanendra Kawade of Third Bell Productions stepped forward to take the reins – becoming India’s very own representative in the workshops section of the festival as the Asian Age put it.

And there was the magazine, of course. The budget and board exams affected our writers and their fancy plans but we strived on till the brochure was 80 pages. Then we were told, it’s off you guys, too expensive. 30 hours later, we went to print, all 80 pages intact and a full colour cover page.

Thus, the saga continued. The Zero Budget band event was suddenly a music festival in its own right with 5 bands of varied genres putting up a fun, uplifting setlist. Vijaya Mehta, who was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award this year, gave us a very special thank you – a Film Club that commemorated some of her best work (Plays, Tele-films and Features) in Hindi, Marathi and English.

We may have beat the budget but what truly took the festival to its zenith were the 4 plays that competed against 86 others to reach the festival. (90 plays auditioned at the festival this year. We travelled far and wide, across the country to watch them. What a treat!)

Pune renewed our faith in quality theatre with Institute of Pavtalogy (Marathi), a laugh riot that mocks everyone from politicians to small-time thugs and Geli Ekvees Varsha (Marathi), a dark humour play from the point of view of a chagrined 21 year old. And the two English plays – Melange (Delhi), a compilation of 5 humourous short stories and Asylum (Bombay), about a man who is losing touch with the fine line between his dreams and reality with hilarious consequences added the final touches to the festival. Like Mid-Day said, we laughed in the face of a financial crisis and if we may so say, the whole fare was side-splitting.

And the perfect end to this festival that beat all odds was the Awards Night. Beginning with the tribute award to Vijaya Mehta by Anupam Kher, the evening proceeded to acknowledge and celebrate the best of youth theatre in India. Etiennee Coutinho, Juhi Babbar, Nagesh Bhosale and Sumedha Raikar-Mhatre– who had graciously agreed to be the judges this year – agreed that every play was a winner. With a never-before shared award for Outstanding Play, (Geli Ekvees Varsha and Melange), this might go down in Thespo history as a year with several landmarks.

There must be a deep message here somewhere. For now, we’d like to believe it could be the fact that a sense of humour and a bundle of enthusiasm can tide a festival through most of its troubles.

Thespo 11 Winners:-




Outstanding Female Actor in Supporting Cast

Nandita Singh


Outstanding Male Actor in Supporting Cast

Entire Male Supporting Cast

Institute of Pavtalogy

Outstanding Female Actor

Nirvana Sawhney


Outstanding Male Actor

Shreyas Shah


Outstanding Production Design

Geli Ekvees Varsha

Outstanding Director

Alok Rajwade

Geli Ekvees Varsha

Outstanding New Writing

Dharmakirti Sumant

Geli Ekvees Varsha

Sultan Padamsee Award for Outstanding Play

Tie between - Melange and Geli Ekvees Varsha