The Evolution of Thespo: 1999-2018
Thespo is derived from Thespis, who was a Greek poet. He was the pioneer in the art of using spoken dialogue in an age when dramatic language was made of choruses and verses. He is considered the father of modern drama and his followers have since been called Thespians.
In 1999, Thespo began with the support of India's senior most English theatre company-Theatre Group Bombay.
What began as an evening of performances has now become a youth theatre movement training, showcasing and celebrating young talent.
Thespo’s first avatar was in December 1999 was an evening of one-act plays with an awards presentation at Sophia Bhabha Auditorium. Ruia College’s ‘Saadia’ reigned supreme, in spite of stiff competition from 15 other plays. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Deryck Jeffereis.
Thespo 2000 featured four full-length plays from across Mumbai. 61 colleges and more than 15 entries led to four days of quality youth theatre. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to the late Pearl Padamsee and photographer Madhu Gadkari.
Thespo 3 (2001)
Classics from Brecht and Chekhov, adaptations from both films and novels, and some pieces of new writing composed Thespo III. For the first time Thespo expanded beyond Bombay to embrace the city of Bangalore which staged its first. Subsequently, the winning teams from Bangalore performed at Thespo III in Bombay notably winning a Thespo for Outstanding Actor. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Gerson da Cunha for his contribution as an actor.
Thespo 4 (2002)
Thespo 4 moved the venue from a proscenium to the Experimental Theatre, NCPA while the Bangalore edition continued to gain critical acclaim. We started conducting workshops for the first time. Stalwarts like Ramu Ramanathan, Shanta Gokhale, among others, provided aspiring thespians an opportunity to interact and acquire in-depth technical know-how about the theatre. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to theatre director Alyque Padamsee.
Thespo 5 (2003)
For the first time ever, Thespo made the trip to New Delhi – and invited plays from there, while plays from Mumbai traveled to participate in Thespo Bangalore. Thespo’s fifth year was a three-city and four-language 11-day extravaganza, with the Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to actor Zohra Segal.
Thespo 6 (2004)
Thespo Delhi was born as a three-day fest. Bangalore grew to six days and moved to Ranga Shankara. Thespo became a three-week festival spread over three cities. Plays were in English, Hindi, Marathi, Marwari and Kannada. All in all 26 plays (12 full length & 14 short plays) were performed. Workshops were held in design, Sanskrit theatre and many other disciplines.
Thespo 7 (2005)
In an attempt to cover allied arts, the Thespo Poster Design Competition was created to give young art directors the opportunity to design posters for theatre productions. Training was taken to a new level with ‘Work It Out’ - a series of mentoring workshops where the performing groups got to interact with a professional director and writer over two days. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented posthumously to Hosi Vasunia for his dedication to the theatre as an actor and producer. The festival was held over 12 days in Bombay and Bangalore.
Thespo 8 (2006)
Thespo spread its wings by conducting some of its pre-festival activities in cities such as Mysore, Chennai, Kolkota, Hyderabad, Delhi and Ahmedabad, in addition to its regular homes of Bombay and Bangalore. The festival featured five plays from these two cities. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Girish Karnad for playwriting.
Thespo 9 (2007)
Thespo 9 saw the initiation of Radio Plays and Documentary on Theatre. The national involvement came with a short play from Delhi and a full length play from Bangalore. The workshops included Master Puppeteer Dadi Padumjee from Delhi and Ahmedabadi director Saumya Joshi. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Partap Sharma for his contribution as a playwright and actor.
Thespo X (2008)
In 2008, Thespo X introduced a theatre photography exhibition. This was a year of firsts, with workshops by international theatre makers and the festival expanding to two-venues by premiering at the prestigious Prithvi Theatre and continuing at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA. In addition to its all India audition, Thespo for the first time auditioned a play from New York and collaborated with the IIT Kanpur cultural festival. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Sam Kerawalla.
Thespo 11 (2009)
In Thespo 11, 90 plays were auditioned from eight cities (Bombay, Bangalore, Pune, Delhi, Pilani, Shimla, Kanpur and even Kodaikanal) in five languages. Thespo collaborated with Bits-Pilani cultural festival in addition to the IIT Kanpur cultural festival. Other workshops include Seven on Seven Workshop & Making Theatre by Young People by Urban Myth Theatre of Youth, Hearts and Bones & How to run a show by Nell Ranney, Sampling Shakespeare by Jelena Budimir and Set Designing Workshop by Dhanendra Kawade. Thespo 11 features plays, workshops, platform performances, a Youth & Theatre seminar, film screenings, a theatre magazine, and music gigs from December 7 to December 13, 2009 at the Prithvi and NCPA theatres. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Vijaya Mehta.
Thespo 12 (2010)
The festival grew with a variety of events like live bands, platform performances, the publication of the festival magazine, and an impressive line-up of workshops. Workshop conductors from UK and Canada trained young theatrewallahs in devising theatre, playwriting, movement, miming and so much more! The other popular addition to the festival was the Fringe segment which featured 40 minute performances in a rehearsal room staged without the intricate technical and set requirements. We also began our crowd-funding initiative-Friends of Thespo. In the absence of any corporate support, friends, well-wishers, theatre fraternity, etc. all chipped in and became a part of the bigger family of Thespo.
Thespo 13 (2011)
This year, the festival saw the highest number of workshops-with 12 workshops out of which 10 were conducted by international facilitators. Out of 95 plays from across the country, 4 plays made it to the festival from 7 cities. The festival continued to feature Platform performances, Fringe performances and Live-Music performances. Along with the festival, a new initiative "Thespo Theatre Unit" was conceptualised. The main idea behind the initiative was to enable performances at various public spaces as curtain raisers.
Thespo 16 (2014)
Thespo 16 received 186 registrations from 3 countries, the maximum ever received! For the first time, a play from Sri Lanka performed at the festival and received critical acclaim. The workshops were conducted by some of the best theatre personalities of the country like Alyque Padamsee, Shernaz Patel, Sambhaji Bhagat, Mahesh Dattani, to name a few.
Thespo 17 (2015)
In 2015, with 170 registrations, we travelled to 11 cities and interacted with several young theatre enthusiasts. The festival saw a variety of 17 performances in 5 days, including two collaborative pieces directed by theatre makers from Australia and Italy. This year, the festival had 14 workshops (the highest ever!) on topics like Hip-Hopera, Mask making, sound for theatre and so much more. We also started the bi-monthly e-zine Thespo Ink - a platform for writers to express their views about theatre, as well as cover the budding artists of theatre.
This was the first year Thespo's crowdfunding initiative-Friends Of Thespo went online and successfully achieved the target through wishberry.
Thespo 18 (2016)
The festival feature some of the best plays from 4 different cities, collaborative performances with artists from Australia, UK and India, and an amazing line-up of workshops. The workshops brought to live a world of theatre with workshops on different acting styles, direction, movement and writing. Not only did the movement grow in terms of participation, 50 volunteers came together from 15 cities (including Colombo!) to build a kick-ass festival.
Other than the festival, 2016 saw two new initiatives aiming to train the young directors and actors. For the actor, Thespo also collaborated with The Drama School, Mumbai and began Natyakala-a series of acting workshops across the country.
Thespo 19 (2017)
Another year, another year of activities, another year of surprises. With performances from Lucknow and Ahmednagar for the first time in 19 years, the movement saw an increase in plays from smaller towns. With the highest number of performances in 13 different languages, from 2 countries, the movement had grown leaps and bounds. This year, we also collaborated with theatre makers from countries like Brazil, Greece, Scotland for the first time to curate workshops across various disciplines. Along with this we also began a new initiative-Theatre Bugs to promote community theatre watching.