KATHMANDU, June 11: The urban youth of Kathmandu have many distractions that keep them occupied. They follow random shows on TV, play intensive games online, or even spend days listening to music.
Entertainment seems to be restricted to technology in a way and young people are more interested in the visual elements of feature movies and computer graphics.
An essential part of the society and art, the theater has been excluded from youth lifestyle for quite some time. But with the excellence of theater groups like Gurukul, a new interest in theatrical productions seem to have sparked among the youth.
Many young people, students or professionals, have started acting in plays, and many attend these plays as well. And with the establishment of small theatrical production groups, many young people have found platforms to act and express themselves in theater.
Production houses like One World Theater and Studio 7 have started casting young actors, giving young aspiring actors the chance to act and hone their skills as well.
Many schools have also started their own theater groups and give young students the chance to experience theatrical acting. Schools like Rato Bangala and St. Xavier’s put on at least one play annually, which sparks up interest in theater from a very young age.
Even in terms of quality, young people seem to have a lot more to offer. Since young actors are new to the field and haven’t been exposed to the ways of the theater, they tend to bring up exciting new ideas onto the stage. And for directors wanting to experiment, new young players can help a lot.
“Young actors in my opinion enhance the production quality of a play,” says Bidesh Thapaliya, 20, a young aspiring actor who acted in Studio 7’s recent play “Metamorphoses.”
“Undoubtedly, young actors need to be trained. But young people often have crazy ideas that can be incorporated into a production artistically. Also, young artists are enthusiastic, which in my opinion, is a very important factor in a play´s success,” he adds.
The need for young people to challenge themselves also comes into play in theater acting. Young people are always looking for ways to express themselves and in some ways, better themselves in different ways.
Young actors tend to love acting in theater because of the freedom it provides and because of the character development. Acting in front of a live audience also helps young people build confidence, challenge themselves and hone their creative skills.
“I’ve always wanted to get into theater because I wanted to challenge myself,” says 23-year-old Alan Gurung, a young actor who acted in One World Theater’s recent play “Master Harold and the Boys” and who is currently acting in an upcoming play, “Ah, Wilderness!” Alan has also acted in a music video and a commercial but prefers theater above all.
“I think I love acting in a theater because of the live audience and the freedom I get to construct my own character and need to stay with my character throughout the play. It’s like challenging myself at every step during the production of a play. I need to memorize my lines, I need to be confident enough and I need to be composed enough to bring out my character,” he says.
Since young people are really interested in theater and the arts, literature could also account for their interest in theater. Young people studying literature are exposed to a lot of plays that are part of their course, and watching a play adds a completely new dimension to a read play.
Education plays a very big role in inspiring the love for theater and many directors affiliate themselves with educational institutions to help young people learn about plays and help them get inspired in the field.
For example, Senior Fulbright Fellow Deborah Merola is determined to inspire a love for theatre among young people in Nepal, and does it through teaching young Master’s level students as well as by founding a Kathmandu-based theatre group called One World Theatre.
Working with young actors also seems to be a delight because of their eagerness to learn and their love for the arts and expressions. Young people always seem to want to find ways to break out of the prison that is their body, and they always want to create.
Working with young people is a delight, says Mita Hosali, a theater producer who has been involved with many of One World Theater’s works and has also produced plays by Elum Dixit like “Othello.”
“What is truly heartening is the commitment and the pure love of performing arts, the curiosity and the willingness to learn. Young people are open to ideas; they want to soak up knowledge and want to try new ways of doing things, to learn about theatre traditions.
There is optimism and a spontaneity that is truly infectious. But there are limitations, too. People don’t always stay the course, they have to find other works to earn a living. And increasingly, they are drawn into the world of cinema and television.
This is, in and of itself, not a bad thing but the lure of making a commercial or the promise of big bucks on the silver screen is too tempting for some. And frankly, TV and cinema could do with a huge dollop of professionalization and higher standards in what is being churned out,” says Mita.
Whatever the cause, young people always seem to be interested in arts, and performing arts seems to a big part of youth culture in Kathmandu. Maybe it is because of the many new theatrical productions groups coming up or maybe it’s because of the pure love for performing that brings young people to the world of the theater.
Young people are attending and performing in many plays staged in Kathmandu, and in a way, youth seem to be one of the most important driving forces behind Nepali theater.