Although different sectors of the country have reopened to various degrees after a prolonged shutdown, theatre artists and activists are still uncertain about going back to their respective workplaces.
Looking to raise funds for struggling artists and vendors who are facing financial hardships during the pandemic, theatre group "Prachyanat" hosted an online event titled "Durey Thekeo Jurey Thaki - Ai Akale". The school and design wing of the troupe also took online classes.
During the shutdown, theatre magazine "Khepa" also organised online events featuring discussions, recitation sessions and more.
Despite the fact that different sectors of the country have reopened to various degrees after a prolonged shutdown, theatre artists and activists are still uncertain about going back to their respective workplaces.
Artists and production workers are trying to keep the community alive through online activities.
Theatre troupes all over the country have been impacted badly by the ongoing pandemic. According to Bangladesh Theatre Archives, more than 250 theatre groups exist across the country.
Most theatre troupes undertook various initiatives to stay connected with the audience and keep them engaged online.
Another group "Open Space Theatre (OST)" created a Facebook group called "A Million For Theatre", with a motto to inspire people to know more about theatre.
Thespian and cultural personality Nasiruddin Yousuff Bachchu told The Business Standard, "Theatre actors and activists don't pursue the art for money as we don't earn anything from it. We do it out of passion and from love for the art form."
"However, the money from selling tickets and other sources is used to pay the technical crew - which is their main source of income - and since everything is on hold, the independent vendors and technical crew members are facing tremendous financial hardships," he added.
For the last 30 years, "Aranyak Natyadol" has been celebrating May Day at the Central Shaheed Minar. Due to the pandemic this year, unfortunately, the prestigious theatre group had to cancel the event.
Shahin Saidur, a theatre actor and member of Prachyanat said, "Our work revolves around people and the audiences, for whom we do the shows on stage."
Many theatre groups and organisations have been organising events and online based performances through Zoom or Facebook live. However, theatre is very much an interactive performance art and it is not possible virtually."
Saidur added, "Because of the pandemic, thinking about everybody's safety including actors, technical crew, and the audience, we are not arranging any shows in order to avoid mass gatherings."
"Shilpakala Academy is still closed. Many groups have requested the academy to open the halls so that they can start staging shows by maintaining safety protocols. Otherwise, it is becoming very difficult to bear the minimum cost of operations for the groups," Saidur told the correspondent.
He further said that theatre troupes do not always rehearse at Shilpakala and due to the current situation, many groups are struggling to pay the rent of their rehearsal studios.
He also informed that many troupes are releasing old videos of dramas online.
Usually, each group tries to bring new dramas or stage the existing ones on a regular basis. For the last five to six months, Dhaka theatre scene did not see any new production.
"You won't believe it, but many theatre workers have already changed their professions," Saidur stated.
Prangonemor Theatre Team has introduced a new concept through which they can bear the expenses of the rehearsal shows. The group is selling vegetables through the Prangonemor Theatre van to raise money. They are also taking orders online.
"Theatre actors always practice on the floor and perform in open spaces, which also has health risks. We really don't know what's going to happen to the theatre scene of the country," added Shahin.
Prachynat had a few dramas under production before the pandemic such as "The Dumb Waiter", "The Zoo Story", "Faust Athoba Anya Keu", among others.
The dramas are being showcased now at a month-long theatre festival titled "Mahala Magan", which is being held at the rehearsal room of the troupe in the capital's Katabon. The festival began on September 4.