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Performing for the times: a note from the editor

From theatre professionals to satirists, this issue of Lounge looks at performance, its power and reach during the pandemic

More solo plays are being performed now than four years ago, when ‘Bhanwar’ (above) was staged in Pune.
More solo plays are being performed now than four years ago, when ‘Bhanwar’ (above) was staged in Pune. (Virajas Kulkarni)

Most performers describe applause as their best recompense, but this has been a year that has kept audiences at home. Deprived of their applause, and an income, theatre troupes—not always very accommodating of the new, and a tad disdainful of technology and often even of their audiences—quickly found themselves performing on Zoom and Instagram for people who might just have been checking their phones or snacking loudly during shows. Our cover story explores the raft of changes troupes have made to stay relevant, recognising that audiences may not return even as theatres slowly reopen. Much of the theatre process is about spending time with cast and crew, rehearsing, debating, dealing with star tantrums, and finally, revelling in the curtain call. Without all the drama, what happens to the creative process? Some are visualising stories anew, others are writing plots to suit the times and a different kind of stage.

There’s another aspect of performance we explore in this issue—satire, and its power to terrify those on whom the joke is. Being able to laugh at ourselves is something we are yet to learn, and very often for satirists in India, the penalty for providing too sharp an insight or calling those in power to account is trolling, threats, cases and court hearings. The courts are where another fight to hold the state accountable is playing out—in Punjab, the families of those who disappeared during the worst of the militancy and counter-insurgency in the 1980s and 1990s are still seeking justice. A year ago, they filed a petition seeking justice, and another wait begins.

And on a lighter note, we are less than a week from Christmas. While the snobs among us may have been maturing their cakes for months, for the rest of us there’s a quick, illustrated recipe for plum cake in our pages, along with glimpses of the science of baking to avoid master-messes—and more tips for the season on our website. As our piece says, quoting author Dean Koontz, “Where there’s cake, there’s hope.” And that’s something we definitely need in a pandemic year.

Write to the Lounge editor @shalinimb

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