While the history of traditional performing arts in this region dates back to over 2000 years, the history of modern theatre goes back over a hundred years. In the last hundred and few years, modern theatre in Bangladesh has had an eventful journey making theatre very central to the cultural practice of the country today.
Since the beginning of modern theatre in the last half of the nineteenth century, a number of theatre halls emerged in different parts of the country which eventually became centre of theatre and cultural practices.
Among these halls are LP Mishra Institute and Durgabari Natya Mancha, Amarabati Natya Mandir in Mymensingh, Jashore B Sarkar Memorial Hall, Rangpur Town Hall, Rajbari Shafiur Rahman Hall, Khulna Natya Niketan, Cumilla Town Hall, Gaibandha Natya Sangstha, Domar Natya Samity Nilphamari, Manipuri Rajbari Natya Mandir and Malnichhara Tea Estate Natmandir in Sylhet, Thakurgaon Edward Memorial Hall, Faridpur Town Theatre, Sirajganj Bhashani Auditorium, Kushtia Parimal Theatre, Tangail Coronation Dramatic Club, Gazipur Bhawal Natmandap, Ashini Kumar Town Hall Barishal, Bogura Edward Dramatic Mancha, Pabna Banomali Institute, Lalit Mohan Mitra Natya Mancha Rajshahi and others.
To celebrate the legacy of such 35 theatre halls, that have been in operation for over a hundred years, at 26 districts in the country, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy has organised a theatre festival titled ‘Bangladesh-er Shatobarshi Natyamanche Natyautsab’.
‘These halls are connected to the history of theatre in our country. Some of these halls are still in operation and disseminating the diverse culture of the country. But sadly, most of these halls are no longer used as venues for theatre anymore and been turned into commercial spaces,’ said Liaquat Ali Lucky, director general of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Lucky earlier wrote a book titled ‘Bangladesh-er Shatabarshi Natyamancha’ introducing 33 old theatre halls, which have been active across the country for at least a hundred years as centre of theatre practices.
‘We have organised the theatre festival to attract attention of the government, cultural activists and local leaders to these halls, which, we believe, are very important in our history of theatre and culture,’ said Lucky adding that most of these halls require renovation and restoration.
From Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, we have given a proposal to the cultural affairs ministry to renovate and restore these halls and allocate them for theatre and cultural shows.
Bangladesh-er Shatobarshi Natyamanche Natyautsab’ kicked off on March 9 at Bagerhat Town Hall and is now underway at different halls. Each of the halls is having a day-long festival where regional theatre troupes are staging shows.
On the opening day of the festival at Bagerhat Town Hall, four theatre troupes- Rudra Natyadal, Panguchhi Theatre Centre, Pandhuchhi Ganonatya Dal and Bagerhat Theatre staged plays.
On March 10 and 11, Mymensigh-based theatre troupes staged plays at LP Mishra Institute, Durgabari Natya Mancha, Amarabati Natya Mandir and Mymensingh Town Hall.
The festival was held at four halls at four districts in Jashore, Rangpur, Rajbari and Khulna on March 12, while shows were held at five halls in Cumilla, Gaibandha, Nilphamari and Sylhet.
The festival will be held at Lalmonirhat MT Hossain Institute, Faridpur Town Theatre, Sirajganj Bhashani Theatre and Jhenaidah Coronation Dramatic Club today.
‘As most of the halls are not in a condition to host theatre shows, we are staging plays adjacent to the halls and shows are being held at the halls that are relatively in a good condition,’ said Abu Saleh M Abdullah, BSA cultural officer.
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