Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 4 (July-Sept 1983) p. 5.


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Traditional Indian Theatre and Experimental Western Theatre

Ayyappa Paniker

HIS PAPER tries to make a preliminary investigation of the similarities and parallelisms between the theory and practice of the traditional theatre in India and those of the experimental theatre in the West, particularly of recent times. It is not concerned with a comparative study of the dramatic literature in India and the West; its focus is on problems relating to the presentation of plays on the stage in front of an audience. For the purpose of this investigation, traditional Indian theatre is identified under three heads:

one, classical Sanskrit theatre drawing support from works such as Natya Sastra, Abhinaya Darpana, Sangita Ratnakara, etc.; two, ritual theatre covering a very wide range of castes and communities; and three, folk/tribal theatre, equally diversified and often secular in spirit By experimental Western theatre we mean here all the major innovations in European theatre with their slow beginnings in the nineteenth century, which have in general moved away from Aristotelian canons and post-Renaissance illusionism. Among these may be mentined (a) the Symbolical, Stylized Theatre of Vsevolod Meyerhold, (b) the Epic Theatre of Bertold Brecht, (c) the Theatre of Cruelty of Antonin Artaud, (d) the Theatre of Poverty ofjerzy Grotowski, and (e) the Environmental Theatre of Richard Schechner.

Traditional Indian tlieatre is basically non-illusionistic. Although works on dramaturgy use terms like avasthanukriti and lokavrittanu" karanam to define ndtya, anukriti and anukaranam are not to be taken to mean imitation or copying, but creation modelled on wh^t is found

Journal of Arts and Ideas 5


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