Project Beard is now 7 months old. In these few months we successfully launched our first performance Coming Out in Pune and Mumbai. The show has completed 5 shows, generated dialogue in several spaces and was even mentioned as one of the most memorable performances of 2016 in the Pune Times.
‘Coming Out’ deals with true life experiences told through a performance moving through space. It is a theatre experience which uses multiple mediums to express, question, criticize and ideate on ‘what is, can be and is possible’ to talk about. It weaves together ensemble-theatre, art installation, music, poetry, story-telling and conversations to speak of what has come out from conversations with people from different spheres of life- the queer community, artists, theatre-makers and activists. Art installations have been guided by Ruve Narang.
Project Beard has also gone on to conducting workshops on sex, gender and sexuality in schools and develop Community Theatre as an active practice in the city. This year is going to look at more creative work through the process and collaborating with more artists, queer and mainstream, as we continue to understand what those words mean. If you’d like to support Project Beard or contribute to it, please do write into firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Coverage for Coming Out
The play not only questions existing structures but also advocates for an expansion of the inclusions of the term ‘queer’ and all that this umbrella term could mean. ‘Coming out’ finally is about breaking the silence, saying no to shame and guilt due to the desires, wants and experiences that individuals have felt and lived through. While walking through space, we welcome you to explore different identities, experiences, stories and the politics of what each of them embody.
The experience also advocates for having ‘safe spaces’ for all people to be able to come, express and experience freely and without any fear. It also looks for processes of Community Theatre and what emerges from these engagements while looking at it as processes and not just the performance as the end.
The LGBTQI movement in India faces massive socio-politico-legal hurdles. Beyond that, there is repression that various levels in Indian society around sexuality as a whole. As allies and people with various sexual identities, we at OQ acknowledge and respect the struggle. As storytellers, we feel the need to understand and share alternative narratives around sexuality. As theatremakers, we want to create performative material that an audience can relate to.
We have come together to:
- Create a performance by including individuals who identify as Queer in creating content for a performance
- Stage this performance professionally to provoke an audience’s attention and response
- Use that attention to foster conversation
- Ultimately create alternative narratives around sexuality, especially in the Indian context
Beard is our first attempt at creating such a performance.
A basic idea: Three Characters
Two women in a relationship and the man they use as a heterosexual cover (beard) in society.
- We have taken the first step and assembled a team of actors.
- We have also begun reaching out to our networks to bring in people who identify as queer. This will be done with complete discretion and a non-disclosure policy to ensure that all queer individuals involved feel safe.
- The next step is to reach out to Queer Networks and organizations & activists working intersectionally in the field of sex & sexuality, gender issues, women’s issues, LGBT issues etc.
This simple idea is converted it into a public performance through:
- Sessions on sex & sexuality
- Lectures and story-sharing
- One-on-one interviews
- Devising drama & improvisation etc
Largely, plot-points and theatrical devices come from the actors and theatremakers.
Back-stories, character-sketches, coming-out stories, notes on culture etc come from queer individuals
Historical anecdotes, statistics, socio-economic truths etc come from the organizations
A play to be staged before an audience, giving them a relatable story that stars a same-sex couple and promotes the visibility of queer women
- An immersive theatre experience, where the audience gets to explore the lives of individual characters in the story at their own leisure
- An exhibition of visual and performance art provoked by the discussions and dialogue
- Interactions & dialogues post each event
Beard is the first such performative experiment we are undertaking. Our intention is to make it a process that evolves alternative narratives through theatre-based processes. In the long-term, we want to use the intimate, experiential impact of live performance to:
- Generate empathy
- Provide a point of inclusion for queer individuals and allies
- Create an anti-point to the popular depiction of same-sex relations in Indian and Western media
- Bring conversations and stories around sexuality as a whole in to the mainstream
We also hope that in the long run, we will be able
- To kickstart performance festivals for queer individuals and allies
- Provide platforms for LGBTQI performance artists
- Mentor and support similar projects, festivals and a lot more