Kaivalya Plays’s Theatre Management Fellowship was a one-of-its-kind training initiative focused on strategic management and creative administration in the field of theatre led by Varoon P. Anand (Artistic Director) and Gaurav Singh (Production Manager) in various capacities.
The Early Days; An Introduction
Coming from a product/graphic design background and studying and working in that field for the past 6 years I had close to no first hand experience in/with theatre but I decided to apply for the fellowship to learn more about arts management and apply the skills and learnings I gain from it in various aspects of my personal and professional life as I plan on working in the same field.
The fellowship was scheduled to take place during the lockdown period which became a great opportunity for everyone to be in different cities and corners of the country and work together as a team on a number of projects and shows.
The entire concept of meeting new people from different fields and places was a surreal experience especially during the lockdown. I got to meet a bunch of people who possess skills and knowledge of things that I had never worked with before, so it was the best time and opportunity for me to learn from all of them including all the fellows.
Fellowship Begins: Full Steam Ahead
The commencement of the fellowship happened with a ‘Fellowship Tracker’ before the actual orientation/on-boarding meeting which included a detailed schedule of a week-by-week plan of the entire duration of the fellowship and a list of on-going/new projects which the fellows could take up. This was a very helpful and interesting approach to sharing information with everyone and making sure everyone was on the same page. The Fellowship Tracker was intensely used over the period of 2.5 months for various projects and updates on the fellowship itself.
We all learnt various things on-the-job and worked with a ‘what works?’ approach which helped us to re-evaluate the decisions we took as a team on a regular basis. This made sure that everyone was fine with the kind of flow which was being used across all projects. It happened on many instances that a decision that we made initially as a team was eventually overturned by revisiting that aspect and asking ourselves ‘is this actually working?’. This gave us the freedom to explore and experiment various approaches to working towards a certain goal.
Building A Communication-First Team
Regular meetings and conversations made it easy to be on the same page and created transparency for everyone as several projects were worked on/executed simultaneously. These meetings took place twice or thrice in a week depending on the workload of the coming weeks. Apart from the team meetings, individual one-on-one meetings were also conducted for detailed conversations about various projects. All the meetings and sessions were always on google calendar so everyone knew what the day for a person looked like.
Mastering Digital Tools for Cultural Management
The week mostly ended with having internal and external learning sessions. The internal sessions were either conducted by Gaurav or Varoon. These were mostly tech-sessions where we went through various tools like Google Sheets, Google Chats, Google Classroom, Email Marketing, Social Media Management, Website Building, Promotions, Graphic Design, Payments & Ticketing and Data Management along with an endless list of other very helpful tools in detail.
Looking at these tools might feel like they are basic things which everyone knows about but when actually working with them you realise the depth and infinite ways and options of how they can be used and understanding how you can most effectively and efficiently use it to your advantage. All these tools helped me at various points during the fellowship to make my life easier in some way or the other, especially tools like Email Marketing, Graphic Design, Google Chats and Google Classroom.
Learning First-Hand with Experts
The external sessions included having practitioners from various fields and backgrounds talking and sharing their experiences with theatre. This also included them talking about best theatre practices and going in-depth with countless aspects of theatre, how to organize a festival and how to curate it, the legal aspects of theatre and looking at safety as well.
The external sessions ranged from Nasir talking about personal branding and festivals, Aakash Gupta about show touring, Atul Satya Koushik about law and finance management, Oddbird about theatre spaces, Prabhjot about an ecosystem to Spandana Bhowmick for archiving, Amitesh about grant writing, Sandbox about productions and curations, Yuki about theatre practices for communities, Vivek Rao about a theatre producer, Atul Kumar about evolution of theatre, Meneka Rodriguez about fundraising and Niranjan and Rishabh about legal contracts, licenses and IPR.
Becoming a "Theatre Manager"
During these 2.5 months I took up several projects and put my on-going learnings into practice.
The major big project or the entire vertical I worked on was ‘Improvisat