The fest, organised by women’s theatre group Nireeksha, will be held at the Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram between December 23 and 25.

A number of women are standing near a bus which has a banner saying women's theatre fest and a minister stands at the end with a flagFlag off of Women's Theatre Fest
Features Theatre Friday, December 23, 2022 - 14:51

Twenty-four years ago, the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi put together a women’s theatre festival in the state. Somehow, after that event in 1998, nothing like it happened again. But after all these years, Nireeksha, a women’s theatre group based in Thiruvananthapuram, is once again putting together a theatre festival of women, with plays directed by 14 women from different parts of the country. It will be held at the Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram between December 23 and 25.

“During the pandemic, we had an online theatre festival where women could devise their own plays and perform them. We would upload the videos on our page. It was a time when a lot of women went through a period of stagnancy in the theatre field. There was hardly anywhere to perform. We had created this small space online to help women in theatre overcome that. It was then that we realised that women directors in theatre were so few, and they needed more spaces to showcase their work,” says Rajarajeswari, one of the co-founders of Nireeksha.

She and Sudhi Devayani together founded the group in 1999, to “aesthetically overcome gender in theatre” as Nireeksha is described. It had always been their dream to have a theatre festival of plays directed by women, and they have been submitting a project proposal for it for years.

Read from archive: Meet Sudhi and Rajarajeswari, pioneers who run a women’s theatre group in Kerala

“By a stroke of luck, this time, the Union Ministry of Culture sanctioned a small grant to conduct it. The amount is not much but it is still something to start with. We have included recent plays, of really young women from the school of drama as well as of established names,” Rajarajeswari says.

From Nireeksha's play Andhika

Several solo dramas are featured in the fest, including an Assamese adaptation of the Greek classic Antigone by Papari Medhi and a Kannada play called Giri Bala by Suseela Kelamana. Nireeksha’s own production Andhika – written by Rajeswari and directed by Sudhi – is also included in the fest. Jisha Abhinaya’s Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani, Reshma Rajan’s Psych, Cycle and Psych, and Surabhi’s Kaadu are some of the other notable plays in the festival.

While the plays will be held in the evenings, during the day there will be theatre workshops for women, seminars in which women from different walks of life participate, as well as poetry, music and kalari performances. There will be a theatre workshop for Rangashree, a training programme for women in Kudumbashree to create community plays. In addition, a seminar about the challenges faced by women in art and cultural fields will be held, in association with the Kerala Women’s Commission. A kalari workshop for children will also be a part of the fest.

Nireeksha is organising the fest in association with the union and state ministries of culture and various organisations that work for theatre arts and women’s empowerment.

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