• Manish Bhardwaj

From Collegiate to Professional, My Theatre Graduation of Summer 2020



My First Meeting with Kaivalya Plays


It was during the beginning of my third year session - 2019, where the team took a workshop from Varoon P. Anand (Artistic Director at Kaivalya Plays) that's when I explored Kaivalya Plays’ work and values. We, as a team, were loaded with tools and practises to ensure the safety of ideas, opinions and arguments in a workspace with the possibilities to recreate our processes.

Over college's three years, I could well understand and had witnessed that a lot goes into making a theatre production come alive while running a theatre group simultaneously. Theatre is beyond the technicals, make-up & costumes, design & direction and even writing & structuring, these are things which the audience witnesses but theatre is not limited to these, it is vast, involving ins and outs of day-to-day operations.


At Kaivalya Plays, I got the exposure to a wide array of root terms and tasks of a professional theatre company like - project planning and execution; communications and grant writing; financial planning and management; reconciling databases and audience management; maintaining public relations and communicating authorities.


Chapter One: Collegiate Theatre in Delhi


In the early years of my training in theatre at college, I had been exploring performing arts from the focused approach of 'creating' with a shallow knowledge of efficient managerial operations and practises, which goes into communicating the creation to the audiences, among other logistics. Unlike the third year, when as the president, I explored 'creative management' as a core-organ in the operational body and processes of Ankur - The Theatre Society of SGTB Khalsa College. My work with an amateur theatre group for three years taught me a lot about creating theatre and later made me curious to experience and experiment professional theatre practises and processes, which I did, at Kaivalya Plays.


The Experience: Onboarding, Orientation, Weekly Sessions and Projects


Following my experiences, I enrolled myself for the one-of-its-kind initiative of "Theatre Management Fellowship" by Kaivalya Plays and got my space in the room of the programme as another fellow, among 5, shortlisted out of 70-ambitious applicants from across the country, followed by the rigorous application and interviewing process.

Cut-to, first day - I entered the zoom-room with four other unknown faces on the day of Orientation and within the course of the meeting, I found myself the 'junior' most fellow in the room.


The junior factor never came-up as a deficiency in my working dynamics with the team of 7, because of the organisational structure we're introduced to, at Kaivalya Plays. Weekly and monthly scheduled plans and processes of the company had my belt tight for the upcoming 9-weeks of learning and exploring the contemporary Indian theatre scenario from the vibrant perspective of Varoon and Gaurav (Production Manager at Kaivalya Plays).


Getting A Glimpse Of An Arts Business


I found this fellowship as an opportunity to learn and practise the founding principles of running a successful theatre company, festival, or space – such as personal branding, programming operations, marketing across platforms, financial analysis and potential planning, project management and executions, fund-raising among others. This programme has nourished my understanding and knowledge emerged after the requirement of reviving our operational methods of theatre-making practices, a challenge that pandemic has brought to every dimension of art's practises.


This has been an opportunity that would arm with the skills required to succeed in the complex globalised environment in which the economies would operate amidst the pandemic and post-pandemic world. I saw myself strengthening the base for pursuing my long-term theatre ambitions, at Kaivalya Plays.


Kaivalya Plays has a diverse set of practises to commit itself into varied projects, which were offered to the Fellows to choose from, to provide on-the-job learning while executing respective projects. I chose 'Education Vertical' to nurture my interest in Theatre in Education and explore pedagogies, modules and skill-sets to build upon a combined experience of the company and offer it to our patrons - students and teachers.


Learning Through Multiple Mediums: Talks, Workshops & Projects


'Re-evaluation' was imbibed in our processes throughout Fellowship as a founding principle in our practises which in our Weekly-team meetings (every Monday or Wednesday) to grow the existing processes and build best-practices, while acknowledging the challenges it has for the team.

We started our week with a detailed follow-up on: week's goal, day-to-day task and dependencies on each other to get the task done, from the team of 7 on our respective projects. While starting the company week with a comprehensive update on our individual planning to achieve short + long term goals and to incorporate the past-weeks' experiences of each individual member in respect to grow an effective practise and operation has inserted a practical application of work-discipline in my process to carry life-time.


Weekly Tech Sessions on Digital Tools


Tech-Sessions was a digitally-equipped series towards the exposure of knowledge in technology and multiple indispensable tools to bring into our operational practises of theatre-making and managing a theatre group, with utmost efficiency.


Gaurav Singh hosted these tech-rooms with his unique perspective and practises he has been developing from his experiences and experiments. It has broadened my horizon of applied technology in theatre practises and answered relevant questions - how can we balance this fire and ice like combination of Management and Creativity in theatre effectively? What's the relevancy of practises like - email marketing, website development, data management, payment portals and data-visibility - in any managerial body to work swiftly?


All the tech-boot-camps were loaded with brand new techniques, tools and technology to incorporate in any theatre company's processes for best practises and efficient outcomes. Knowledge management session had its own charm and power to equip theatre practitioners with the bucket of skills to handle resources and knowledge with utmost efficiency. By involving, the tools like Google Suite, Docs, Sheets and Classroom into day-to-day operations of a theatre company in a certain way can lower the burden of sustaining every data in form of information, idea or argument etc that crosses the mind across the team, throughout, making the communication process easier.


Managing Cultural Projects Independently


On-the-job learning is the most protracted branch of the Fellowship to extract from as an opportunity to execute and process our creative ideas under the supervision and consultancy of team-mates, while being responsible and accountable as project-head to the company. I got the opportunity to develop Education vertical of the company and to create opportunities and possibilities of collaborations. We have developed themes and structures of our modules for students in the separate project meetings backed with research and experiences of the members. The efforts to bring-in our unique standpoints on pedagogies and learnings to offer our patrons led us to the fruitful result of developing our own unique modules for the workshops.

  • Leadership through dance and movement session was my first virtual event as a host and curator under the Education Vertical at Kaivalya Plays. This served as an opportunity for me to learn the necessary processes involved to execute and curate events, virtually specially during the ongoing and in post Covid world, which was one thing I had expected as a major learning outcome that made me enroll for the fellowship.

  • St. Marys Teacher’s Training : We collaborated with St.Mary’s School to do an Improv for Mental Health session with and for the teachers to create a better digital learning space in virtual medium. I felt really privileged to participate and play improv games with the teachers, it made me feel like it was yesterday when I was a student seeking guidance and learning from them - cut-to the workshop - when I felt so overwhelmed to work with them as a fellow. And ofcourse a wonderful learning experience to manage such a huge room full of experienced minds coming from across the city, online.

Guest Speakers; Learning From The Best


Guest speakers' sessions have conquered a great share of my learnings and takeaways from the Fellowship. We were allowed to personally build conversations on varied topics and questions with the speaker coming-in with great knowledge and experience of the subject for the respective sessions. The perspective of all the different external-speakers among 13 (YES! THIRTEEN) coming from well-established structures of organisations and companies operating in India, since years, had the most insightful experience for me to prepare before jumping-into the Indian theatre Ecosystem.


  • Amitesh - Festival Curation and Grant Writing : Re-Emphasising on the contributions of all the thirteen sessions with the external speakers, during the fellowship, has been tremendous and highly transformative, especially the one with Amitesh Grover. His insights have transformed my perspective on relevance and contributions of curation and festivals in theatres’ history and its development. Grant proposal part of the session chat made me believe and accept that it just takes one fantastic idea to get our grant proposals strong enough for submission while committing to a certain direction of creative work involved, while applying for grants.

  • Menaka Rodriguez - Fund Raising : Funding for the production, crew, casts and spaces or festivals is the necessity to sustain theatre. During such hard times, this has already taken a shift towards a very hard side to crack. The session was a complete mind opener in a way that made us realise we never try to study and empower various subjects, like raising funds, which can stand out as strong pillars to uphold our Theatre productions and ambitions, resulting in changing the entire journey of any theatre group, team or company. A fun- filled, crazy experience it was with Menaka Rodriguez!


Looking Back At The Summer of 2020


I can never think of this opportunity before to personally know and engage with the journeys and growing visions of eminent theatre-makers, production managers, performers, archivists, financial managers, artistic directors and theatre-educators coming from well-established forums of theatre-making and curating companies & institutions.


These 30+ hours of zoom-calls sessions had my notebook filled with background anecdotes, best practises, applied methods and wide-knowledge over subjects like - personal branding, venue management and community building, production touring and curation, festival curation and grant writing, theatre practises for corporates, law and finances in theatre, archiving projects and databases, fund-raising, contracts building, copyrights and intellectual property rights.



Interested in learning more about the Theatre Management Fellowship by Kaivalya Plays? The next cohort will begin in December 2021. Learn more and sign up for updates here.

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