2016, however is also a Writer’s Bloc year. The performing arts actually gain strength and credibility in the repetition of an exercise. If it’s not "New", it’s not "News". In the West, a play runs for a week of previews, before it officially opens.As a country we are obsessed with ‘New’. Opening a new show in Bombay almost guarantees good attendance figures. By becoming a culture of only ‘new work’, there is the possibility that theatre might go the way of the city’s Western Classical music scene. Both festivals (held three weeks apart) do refresh the theatre scene at the end of each calendar year. From the venue’s perspective programming new work only makes both economic and artistic sense. Our media is similarly inclined as well. Prithvi’s annual festival, of late, has lent towards demanding newer work. Aadyam go even further: they commission the work, and help amplify it in a way that a group on their own would never be able to achieve or afford.
This year marks the fourth instalment, after incredibly successful editions in 2004, 2007 and 2011. The set and costume construction, rehearsals and designs are all put in place in the lead up to Opening Night. In today’s harsh financial climate for the arts, groups need to find alternate sources of funding to make their plays happen. We always have been. Today Bombay has two major theatre festivals dedicated to new work. Three brilliant performances of every concert, and every performance packed to the rafters by exactly the same people. What has been most interesting, however, is their ability to whet the appetite of the audience for new, home grown stories. A stupendous achievement, but one also bound by the arts managers demanding something new. The city has only a few venues and even fewer opportunities to perform. While there is this burst of new productions, often the casualty are the older productions; ones that haven’t fully exhausted their audience reach.. In 2003, of the twenty odd plays that opened in Bombay across the year, only four or five were newly written. The festival aims at staging new writing and encourages audiences and groups to work with and appreciate new texts. Over the years these venues have built up a great deal of curiosity and audience interest for these shows. Premieres often get full houses since the dedicated fan base of the group are always most keen to catch Opening Night.The arts, find themselves at odds with this obsession of the ‘new’. Opening a new play is always the most expensive part of any production. It desperately needs newer spaces to keep up with the rising number of productions being created; and to ensure that they have an extended run of shows. The guaranteed performance fee offered by the festivals, allow troupes a sense of security. The Prithvi Festival, for example, also provides rehearsal space and further dates.