“We also had a plan to blindfold the audience before entering the auditorium during the premier show, but later we dropped the plan. The actors regularly rehearsed at Shilapakala Academy before the premier show.”
The BBC intro plays in the background and four specialists, in their best attire, are seated at a roundtable. They are discussing important national news, live on national television, without verifying the details.
This scene, a parody of live talk shows and fake news, is from the play "Lottery." In the dark auditorium a packed audience bursts out in laughter as soon as the grasp the joke.
Renowned theatre troupe Nagarik Natya Sampradaya's unique play, "Lottery", is about the role of media and journalists in preventing fake news.
Directed by Mostafiz Shahin, the play features visually impaired actors on stage. The actors entertain the audience with their witty dialogue and remarkable acting.
"Lottery," is the brainchild of non-profit organization Prerona which works for visually challenged individuals.
The idea was brought to stage by Nagarik in association with Prerona and Mongoldeep Foundation.
In December 2019, the play premiered at a week-long theatre festival, titled "Notuner Utshab," held at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. The play was supposed to continue throughout 2020, although it has been kept on hold at present because of the ongoing pandemic.
Speaking to The Business Standard, the director Mostafiz Shahin said, "The actors are very enthusiastic and creative. 'Lottery' is the outcome of their enthusiasm and confidence. Being visually impaired was not an obstacle for them. They trusted me as a director and gave more than 100% to this production. I thank everybody involved in this project; their constant support inspired me every day."
Renowned actor-director Sara Zaker serves as the dramaturg for this play.
"Once we finalised the script, I contacted Mostafiz Shahin to direct the play. This was a huge challenge for us, to direct visually impaired actors. We also had a plan to blindfold the audience before entering the auditorium during the premier show, but later we dropped the plan.
The actors regularly rehearsed at Shilapakala Academy before the premier show."
"We were overwhelmed with the response we received at our technical show as it was a very challenging production for both Nagorik and Mongoldeep Foundation. Afterwards, we decided to showcase the play at the festival," she added.
The main cast of the play includes Bushra, Pavel, Al-Amin, Rahul, Lipi, Rupom, Sakib, Riyad, Maisha, among others.
Bushra, who has a Master's degree from the University of Dhaka never acted before in her life. She plays the role of one of the three puppets who narrate the play from a third person point of view.
"I have never acted before in my entire life, however, I have been involved with music for the last 17 years. Dalia Noushin ma'am from Prerona and a senior member of the visually impaired society asked me if I was interested in acting. Both of them insisted I sign up for this challenge."
"And the rest of the credit goes to the director, Shahin Bhai. We would be lost without his direction," she said.
Bushra also said that the actors were trained and had to attend workshops conducted by the director.
"We started rehearsing in July 2019 and were finally able to bring the play on stage in December," recalled Bushra.
Another actor Showkat, who plays the role of the kidnappers, said, "I have some of the funniest dialogues in the play. I like playing both romantic and villainous characters, thus, I love my character in 'Lottery.' "
"I am very thankful to our director for helping us to portray such characters. I could play the role of a kidnapper because of our director. I want to give him all the credit," he added.
"As we cannot see but feel everything, Mostafiz Shahin led us to understand our characters through feelings and practice."
Throughout the premier show the actors were repeatedly encouraged by the laughter and rounds of applause from the audience. The play conveys an important message to the mainstream media to be careful about spreading fake news and not to draw any conclusion without proper investigation or reporting.
The play is written by Siddique and Anup. The set design and blocking of the play are top-notch. Zunayed Yusuf designed the set while Nasirul Haque Khokon controlled the lights. Shimul Yusuf designed the music, which is amazing in its own right.
"Lottery" reminds us that we can be blind if we do not look for the truth around us and how spreading lies could create chaos in society and in our lives.
Mongoldeep Foundation and Nagorik Natya Sampradaya plan to bring this play to stage on a regular basis. In fact, the troupe planned to roll out a number of shows in March and April. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the shows are being postponed until the pandemic is over.
The actors of "Lottery" will enlighten audiences with their acting once the situation is normal. But until that happens, we have a deadly virus to defeat.