My Goad Goa
What a way to start the year! me and my team were invited to BITS Goa by their Dramatics Society for a performance of our four year running play 'Confessions'.
Now, for those who 'have' had outstation shows, I'm sure you're accustomed to a proper auditorium with a light and sound console and the comfort of atleast 20 lights for you to create 'some' atmosphere for your play. Sadly though, the BITS Goa auditorium, as gifted as it is (40 feet wide, 2000 seater) has only three giant cricket stadium type lights over the stage. Not good enough if your play is super intimate and clearly needs some division of space. Hence a decision was made to use an alternate space within the campus. The students suggested one of their lecture halls, a 250 seater with an inbuilt sound system and projector facility. A raised marble platform at the front where lecturers usually give speeches and conduct conferences. Sounded fine.
So, show's on 23rd Jan at 9pm. My team arrives in Goa on the 21st. We spend 2 days exploring Goa sightseeing, beer drinking, debauchery, super confident because apparently everything has been sorted out...... ha ha ha ha !!!
We arrive at the BITS campus on the 21st at 3pm to discover the following:-
1) There is a "giant" table (inverted commas cannot stress enough) on our platform. This "giant" table cannot be moved because it has a complex series of wires attached to it which come out of the marble floor (what??) and is attached to the table.
2) The blue cellophane we'd planned to place in front of the PARcans are too thin, so they're melting.
So after 3 minutes of silence and teeth grinding, we went into action. The table HAD to go, so you have 8 engineering students armed with screwdrivers, cutters and bad language, hacking and smashing away at the "giant" table. After an hour of loud discussions and many cut fingers, the villainous wires are severed and the table is lifted off (by 10 people) and placed aside. Problem 1 over ?? Now problem 2. My light girl brainstorms.... a ladder is brought. The tiny tubelight outlets (14 of them) above the stage are covered with blue cellophane. No burning, no smoke, and we got the night effect we needed. Problem solved ?? Well, the way we took care of problem 1 gave rise to problem 3:-
3) Because we hacked all the wires, we couldn't use the inbuilt sound system of the hall anymore. Grrrrrrr!!!!!!
Solution? One of the students was nice enough to lend us his 2.1 music system (with sub woofer). Attached it to a laptop, did a sound test and thank god !!! its loud enough !! God bless acoustics.
All ok now? NO!! As the sun sets we discover:-
4) The blue light isn't enough to light the faces of our actors. We cant use the PARcans to do it because they throw way too much light, turning a night scene to a day at the beach (when in Goa, use beach references). Problem-Problem !!!
A lantern was tried to illuminate the faces of our precious actors, but it wasn't bright enough plus after 5 minutes it began leaking kerosene. What can we use we thought ? Torches? a bonfire? Blue light from the projector ( "oh i can't see. How will i do my method acting" ??). All hope seemed lost. Then, one of the students, an angel with spectacles, suggested emergency lights. Place 4-5 of them in front of the stage, covered in blue cellophane, place 2 guys to turn them on when you need, and maybe it'll work. Hmmmmm, we thought, lets try. Thus, hostel rooms were raided, 5 emergency lights were produced. Cellophane paper was taped onto them, we placed them in front of our stage and VOILA !!! I could see my actors faces !!!
Whew !! Things got comparatively easier from here. Butter paper was placed in front of the PARcans, giving out a glazed white light which we used for the flashback sequence, giving it a dream-like look. A single bulb was hung over the stage which we used for the interrogation sequence, automatically making the space look small and intimidating, just the way we needed it. We had 2 students handling our sound and projector (we've been blessed with 'always' having new people in these departments for every show). 'One' briefing to the projector girl, 'one' briefing to the sound guy (followed by several hurried questions till the show started) and they were set. The 2 green chalkboards on the walls of the platform were covered with white chart paper. My light girl had her own small little army at her disposal, since all our lights were plugged into sockets placed in multiple locations and she couldn't be everywhere at once, she placed herself at a light switch on one side of the hall while her army was placed near all the other switches, ready to make changes at her cue. The light bulb above the stage was operated by the actors since the switch was right next to the stage, which wasn't bad actually because it was an interrogation scene. So the guy being interrogated is in the dark, and the two detectives walk in, turn on the light and say, "good evening Mr. Katurian", super cool !!! Oh, and thats exactly how the show started.
And what a show, what a show !! I guess, the thrill (if you can call it that) of putting all these things together right until 15 minutes before the show started, carried onto stage, and the student audience LOVED it. Apart from the fact that they were just thrilled to see people 'smoking' on stage (plans were made to borrow cigarettes from us in the interval), what really amazed the students was that this was their lecture hall, the one they sit in everyday, but now, they're watching a play which has an interrogation room, a dream sequence, and a prison cell, 3 distinct spaces being properly defined and staged right in front of them. They probably never thought this was possible, and how generously they rewarded us. Roars of laughter, thunderous applause, sometimes with claps but mostly by banging the desks they were sitting at. Trust me, the sound of 250 people banging on wood to applaud you...... It changes your life. How the team and me gleamed that night.
We'll never forget the students of BITS Goa, their co-operation, their hard work, their kindness, their crazy passion to just help us put up the show successfully. We hope we've opened the minds of the Dramatics Society and helped them to stop being crippled by the limitations of their auditorium, so they can explore all the options that their "giant" campus provides them to put up a show.
Sigh..... Goa, Jan 2011. Perhaps our best vacation cum show ever!!