There seems to be a very strong similarity between a theater and a public space. A living public space is a space for people, and so is the art of theater. Both are places where people recognize, acknowledge each other and feel represented. They allow a cultural identity to be manifested by bringing it alive and transmitting it along with exchange and cohesion. Both are reflections of a collective identity, shapes, dialogues and hence, spaces that construct the city.
Vadodara, also known as the cultural capital of Gujarat, is vibrant in celebrating culture. The Gaekwads ruled the city and institutionalized the city by introducing and encouraging art, sports, etc., which enriched its culture.
Navlakhi ground is located in the heart of Baroda as a junction between the old and the new. Akota road is situated at one of the edges of the ground. It is popular with people, as they love to gather here – vehicles parked on one edge and sitting on the footpath.
The city lacks a living public space. In order to meet, chat, eat, hangout, relax and contemplate, people either go to cafes and restaurants or they drive to the outskirts. But one interesting character that has emerged due to this lack of a unifying public space is that people hangout and enliven the street edges of the city. Hence, the city requires a physical intervention to address this concern and simultaneously revive the culture of theater.
I strongly believe that, USE MAKES TRADITION.
Recently an article in a newspaper quoted ‘Till 1990′s the theatre scenario was active and vibrant in the Sanskari nagri – Vadodara, dubbed as the cultural capital of Gujarat’. Encouraged by Sayaji Gaekwad III, the erstwhile Vadodara state had encouraged and supported several theater groups and local artists. As per the old enumeration, about 16 local theater groups were active and regularly performed on contemporary topics and social issues. The local audience encouraged them with their overwhelming response. But over the past few decades, such playgroups have been on a decline either due to financial issues or lack of rehearsal spaces.
What has amused theater veterans is that the number of plays have increased due to the influx of plays from outside. These local theater enthusiasts need a place to rehearse, to experiment, to evolve and to revive this deteriorating culture of the city.
This project challenges the traditional notions of theater space by creating a space that evolves as well as transforms itself into a proscenium, arena, traverse, thrust, studio, gallery of thoughts. It intends to create a gradual transformation from an open living public space to a more formal space for discussions, rehearsal and performance, to its urban surrounding.
Vadodara city lacks such a living public space at the same time the local theater groups lack a place to rehearse, to exchange and evolve their knowledge of theater – theater not just in terms of acting but also theater of everyday life. Be it exchange of thoughts, building a narrative, observing the surrounding, discussing everyday monotony, or just for refreshing the mind. It’s the street that plays a character from an informal journey to an explicit space for theater. The objective is to provide the city a place to breathe, to interact, to exchange, to learn and cherish their culture and reflect upon it.