As a story teller, she is fond of breaking the ‘fourth wall’, which was frequently broken in Shakespeare’s plays—actors would crack jokes to the audience, often run through the audience chasing a co-actor, make use of asides or ask them to hold a prop—to connect to the audience.
Theatre artiste Papari Medhi, an alumnus of National School of Drama (NSD), aims to bridge the gap between an active performer and passive audience with her theatrical style that has been titled as ‘Performed Conversations’.
“My audience first come to watch the play but gradually become a part of it. By essaying the role of co-performers they turn into responsive audience from silent spectators,” says Papari.
She feels that receptive audience are formed through conversations, making it easy to break the ‘fourth or the imagined wall’ that separates actors from the audience.
“Conversations help me to get myriad perspectives on an issue with exchange of ideas and opinions with the audience,” says the actor, who avers that the views of her viewers sometimes become more impactful than her scripted dialogues.
Papari’s tryst with acting began in her childhood days. She was introduced to the world of drama by her father Uddhab Medhi, who was associated with a jatra party (a drama group) of his own. A master degree holder in Sanskrit, her association with the Seaguell Theatre, an active theatre organization in Guwahati, was indeed a defining moment. However, in pursuit of her passion and to master the craft, Papari moved to Delhi in 2007 to specialize in acting from the National School of Drama.
She strives to render a ‘taste of realism’ to her audience through Performed Conversations—a non-resource based theatre practice—without employing elaborate arrangements of lights, sounds and stage.
“It’s a challenge to make the narrative impactful without bringing into play any elements that are commonly used in mainstream theatre. But at the same time it also provides me the flexibility to stage a play at any place keeping its essence intact,” says Papari, who uses theatrical elements such as poems, visuals, games to communicate with the audience.
With her acting prowess, Papari has stolen the hearts of theatre aficionados by performing in various national as well as international theatre festivals. Under Performed Conversations, a form that develops intimacy and connection between actors and audience through exchange of thoughts and ideas, two plays titled Felani and Spotlight have been performed over the past one year.
As a practitioner of experimental theatre, she is keen to experiment with the style and presentation of her plays. Papari, who acts as a catalyst to provoke conversations, says, “I love to experiment in order to involve the audience in a variety of ways. I love to add some fresh and unique elements in my works. This style of theatre is not new but a few have tried it here in Assam.”
She also teaches theatre in education and for self development in BEd colleges namely West Guwahati College of Education, Samota BEd College and Boko BEd College.
Papari who dons the director’s hat in Performed Conversations says, “Most of the subjects of my plays revolve around personal experiences. In Performed Conversations we also aim at raising pertinent issues that occur in everyday life. In my next play Namheen, I will try to highlight the time and unrecognized and undervalued labour of women in our society.”
Papari strongly believes in breaking the sharp cleavage between what is performed by the artist and perceived by the viewers, which always remains unknown after a play.
Manashree Goswami is a Guwahati based journalist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.