Yes, theatre is an addiction, it is for both; performer and the audience. I had an inexplicable idea about theatre when I entered the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) in 2005. I had no experience of theatre before; just a few performances at the school and college level. I had never seen a theater play before as you know that in the 80s and 90s there were no decent theatres in Karachi for family entertainment. I had a fear that what kind of theatre training they were offering but there were some great names of showbiz such as Mr. Zia Mohyeddin, Mr. Arshad Mahmud, Mr. Rahat Kazmi, Mr. Talat Hussain, Mr. Anjum Ayaz etc. attached with NAPA. These are the names who guarantee quality work.
My first performance was a ten minute scene from the novel named ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. It was my first shot and then I became a full time theatre addict. As you climb on the stage, you feel butterflies in your stomach and as you appear in the spotlight it all vanishes and you feel that you are on cloud nine. After the performance, you feel evanescent feelings which are unmatchable. Your adrenal level is on a higher side and you feel an immense pleasure when you hear the whistling and clapping at the end (if you have done something credible). But this pleasure is short-lived and you are urged for more and more. You want to do your best every time.
Although this glee is a tiny part of the bigger picture, addiction still causes intense craving for more. After three months, we were ready to do another performance. This cycle never ends. You happily go through all the agony and hardships of rehearsals just for the pleasure and applause in the end which is the final performance and being on the stage in front of your audience. At that time, It was a bit difficult to please the audience as the audience included the great artists of theatre but we always felt more happiness and pleasure when we got their appreciation at the end of the performance.
Near the end of my three years Diploma program in Theatre Arts, I tried direction. It is a more painstaking task than acting. In acting you have to think only about your particular character but in direction you have to think about all the characters mentioned in the script and about the actors who are doing those characters because they also have their distinctive characters (Lol). Apart from jokes, you have to take care of the whole production which includes set, lighting, costume, sound, and marketing etc. I would say that direction is an intense drug. It doesn’t let you sleep, you cannot think about anything else, you go over and over again about every scene in your head just to figure out how to fix it. It is like wanting to crawl out of your skin.
As an audience, it also as addictive as for those on stage. The magic of theatre is so mesmerizing that it pulls them again and again. From the moment the lights go dim and the audience falls silent, a sense of excitement and suspense fills the air. The thrill of witnessing a unique performance each night compels the audience to watch one more time because every night the performances are not the same. One of the attributes of theatre is the ‘suspension of disbelief’ which provides theatre goers an escape from reality; an escape from all the institutions of life.
As any other addiction, theatre ensnares its doers and audience in a web of anticipation, emotion, and shared experiences. From the magic of live performances to the suspense and creativity, theatre offers a unique and addictive escape from reality. The theatre practitioners create a unique world on stage for the theatre goers. With every show, audiences delve deeper into the realm of theatrical addiction along with actors and directors, constantly craving the next hit of exhilaration and connection. So, the next time you find yourself captivated by a theatre performance, embrace the addiction and let yourself succumb to the allure of this extraordinary art form.
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