The idea of monodrama is nothing new in the tradition of local performing arts as most of them are performed by single actor/singer, said thespians participating in the 2nd Dhaka International Monodrama Festival, which began on Thursday at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Although monodrama as a theatrical form originated in the West, they said, it shares some fundamental characteristics with local performing art forms such as pala and kissa – including the presence of one performer, possible additional silent characters and/or choral prologue and epilogue.
The monodrama festival, organised by the Bangladesh Chapter of International Theatre Institute and the academy, was inaugurated by cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor.
The opening ceremony was also attended by International Theatre Institute’s honorary president Ramendu Majumder, the institute’s Bangladesh Chapter president Nasiruddin Yousuff and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy director general Liaquat Ali Lucky, among others.
‘In our tradition, there are pala, kissa and some other forms of performing art that bear a striking resemblance to monodrama. Moreover, in the last 50 years, monodrama has become a part of our theatre culture as we got a number of high-quality monodramas,’ said Nasiruddin Yousuff.
Perhaps as a testimony to that fact, the festival opened with a pala production titled ‘Atula Sundari’ by the traditional performer Islamuddin Palakar.
Calling monodrama a ‘special’ and ‘very effective’ form of theatre, theatre activists also demanded that a festival based on the genre be organised regularly.
‘The first monodrama festival was held in 2011 and now we have the second. We think this festival should be held bi-annually and on a bigger scale with the participation of troupes from many more countries,’ said Ramendu Majumder.
Nasiruddin Yousuff supported the demand, saying, ‘If we can organise Dhaka International Theatre Festival and Dhaka International Monodrama Festival every other year, we’re going to have a vibrant cultural calendar.’
Moreover, such international festivals would inject vibrancy into the local theatre scene, he added.
Cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor also thinks that a bi-annual international monodrama festival would enrich the cultural calendar and help local theatre scene.
‘The cultural affairs ministry would be willing to help, as always, if the festival is turned into a bi-annual one,’ said Noor.
The eight-day 2nd Dhaka International Monodrama Festival will feature a total of eleven monodramas by six local troupes and four foreign troupes from India, China and Vietnam.
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