Summarizing Theatre and the Coronavirus: a video lecture by Rustom Bharucha

When I think about the pandemic, my world usually revolves around the students like me, the teachers involved in the process, and further trying to relate to my family and friends on how they are coping with the pandemic. When I was introduced to the video lectures ‘Theatre and the Coronavirus’, it was altogether a new topic, a fresh prospect. Even before viewing the videos, I had an eagerness, and excitement, about the knowledge they will offer.

After viewing the first four videos, it felt altogether new to gather so much information on the pandemic and the historical references to the theatre during epidemics. From what I gather, during the entire lockdown, since 2020, the pandemic has always been discussed as a phase of quarantine, being stuck in one’s home, and each individual’s struggle of coping with the work. The videos changed this restricted mindset, in context to what deeper meaning each element of the pandemic holds, whether in history or the present day.

Another new for me was the introduction to new literature references that were introduced. Some of them included Kantoz’s ‘Let the Artists Die’, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, etc. In order to understand the references, I had to look into them, and they felt so interesting, that I even read about them.

The wider aspects of theatre have been opened, especially the conditions of theatre during the previous epidemics like the Spanish Flu and the Plague. Usually, the theatrical context is something, not much is mentioned in our daily life conversations, and to understand it in depth was an enlightening experience.

Introduction and comparison of theatre within the Indian context and the western continents is also a wider angle one is exposed. What I think is that there are a certain set of rules and regulations that are unique to our Indian context, but the ones which are common to the entire world, are also applied differently.

Furthermore, Rustom Bharucha brings light to the present-day scenario of theatres during the coronavirus. The more we are learning about the virus, the more confusion we are getting into. Theatres have records of being closed in case of natural disasters, terror, and political riots, but they don’t have any major record of shutting down during epidemics.

One of the most engaging conversations that one can relate to as an individual, is how the population responded to the closing of the theatre during the Pandemic. The way he questions the theatre industry as to why did they accept the closure with a sense of resignation in the covid-19 pandemic. Online performances have been introduced to where new forms of theatre are being discovered.

He brings to light the survival context of the practitioners in reference to both the history and the present-day. This is the most relatable idea to me. I think surviving is all that we have been doing since the day the Pandemic was declared and everyone was quarantined. But does the meaning of survival stand the same for everyone is a bigger question? Can one survive because one has a particular skill and job?

What has been declared impossible for us is to imagine theatre opening in the coronavirus age. To be able to push the limits of the existing theatre practitioners is what can lead to the destruction of the resignation of the performers. I feel the videos provide a glimpse of the present-day, wherein one can learn about sustaining their life in the theatre.